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Spiritual Renewal Session for the French-speaking Brothers

From July 31 to August 16, 2023, in Italy.

Theme: For a Consecrated Life, purified and cured of the ferments of perversity and vice. (cf. 1 Cor 5:8)

In the context of the Ongoing Formation, eighteen (18) Brothers from the Provinces of East Africa, Brazzaville and Kinshasa benefited from the contribution of resource persons who developed relevant themes to help the participants make the most of their Spiritual Renewal Session. They are: Bro. Bernard Guesdon, Archivist of the Congregation, Bro. Jean Marie Thior, Secretary General of the Congregation and Local Superior of the General House, Bro. Dionigi Taffarello, Vicar General of the Congregation, Bro. Paul Texier, in-charge of welcoming the visitors to the General House and Sr. Rose Mama Diouf of the Daughters of the Resurrection.

As a sign of hospitality, the Community of the General House organised a welcome ceremony on Monday, July 31, 2023, during which the Superior General extended a warm welcome to everyone. Afterwards, it was up to the participants to introduce themselves and briefly share their respective missions, as a way of getting to know each other well, in order to form one body and journey together. An aperitif and a simple dinner brought the evening to a close.

On Tuesday, August 01, 2023, the Session was officially opened with a beautiful prayer led by Bro. Bernard Guesdon and Bro. Louis Anthonysamy. Afterwards, Bro. Jean Marie Thior, the Local Superior of the General House, read out the practical Information about the house and the city of Rome. Then, Bro. Jean-Paul Mbengue, in-charge for the Session, in his welcoming address, invited all the Brothers taking part in the Session to make the most of the contributions of this formation for the spiritual growth of each one, for his determination and effectiveness in responding to the needs of this World where the witness of the consecrated person is eagerly expected.

He stressed on the importance that the Institute in general and the Provinces in particular place on such a session. It is a costly Formation in terms of financial resources, energy and time spent in preparing it, he emphasised. He invited the Brothers, in order to be purified and cured of the ferments of perversity and vice, to hear and allow themselves to be challenged by the repeated calls of Pope Francis to the World in general and to the Christian faithful in particular, in the ten years since he became Pope.

- The "geographical and existential peripheries";

- The Integral ecology (Laudato Si);

- The Worldliness;

- The Synodality;

- The Mercy;

- The culture of encounter (Fratelli Tutti 2020);

- The poor;

- The crisis (Health, education, environment);

- The Ideological, political and economic colonisation;

- The corruption.

After this exhortation, it was the turn of Bro. John Kallarackal, Superior General, to deliver his profound message, punctuated by six points and a poem as a conclusion.

1) Formation has to be a constant and permanent concern.

A formation whose elements of religious life have to be oriented towards the edification of the Inner Man. A formation whose fundamentals have to be based on four (4) pillars which are: The quality of spiritual life, the quality of intellectual life, the quality of community life and the quality of apostolic life. The four pillars should not be understood as sequential; they are interactive.

2) The stages undertaken by the Montfort Brothers of Saint Gabriel.

Bro. John reminded us of some of the Orientations of past General Chapters, starting with the 29th General Chapter held in 2000 and ending with the 32nd General Chapter held in 2018. He also outlined some of the articles of the Rule of Life, the source of our mission.

3) The need for ongoing, appropriate Formation

Formation is meant to help us grow in wisdom and in the art of real life. The Holy Spirit is the Formator par excellence who inspires us in the fullness of our mission.

4) Walking together in the footsteps of Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort, who said to us in a very short formula: "To God alone, through Christ Incarnate Wisdom, in the Spirit, in communion with Mary, for the reign of God".

5) The True Devotion to the Blessed Virgin.

6) The Love of Eternal Wisdom and the Wisdom of the Cross.

The whole concludes with a poem entitled: "Take Jesus with you".

After the address was delivered by Bro. John Kallarackal, we began to share three questions that had been put to us in preparation for the session. This sharing continued until the afternoon.

From 02 August to August 15, 2023, a series of lectures were given and visits were organised to some of the most significant historical sites in Rome. The themes were developed with pedagogy to the great satisfaction of the session participants who willingly decided to be the ambassadors of the content of the conferences in their respective Provinces. These themes are: "The need for a new impetus for a better knowledge of the writings and life of Montfort" by Bro. Bernard Guesdon; a) "Availability and the Mission Ad Extra" and "Today, the Mission can only be understood as a shared mission with the laity" by Bro. Jean-Marie Thior; "The need for the Communities to be places of welcome that cultivate hope, peace and joy" by Bro. Dionigi Taffarello; "Living and transmitting Marian devotion in a renewed language and daring to set out like Father de Montfort, daring and creative, abandoning ourselves to divine providence on the road to mission" by Bro. Paul Texier and "New social communication technologies, threats and opportunities? For a proper use of these technologies at the service of personal and Community life and for the mission" by Sr. Rose M. Diouf.

Each speaker, in his own style and according to the theme assigned to him, was able to re-energise the participants in the session. Drawing on human experience, theology, philosophy and the Montfortian-Gabrielite heritage, the speakers aroused great interest among the participants. They were unanimously praised for their ability to adapt to the audience and keep them on their toes.

Another rhythm of life deserves to be highlighted in the Session Programme: The visits to religious and tourist sites, under the guidance of Bro. Paul Texier, who knew how to balance the historical narratives, dates, anecdotes and also moments of silence to enable the participants in the session to appreciate. It would be impossible to draw up an exhaustive list, which is why we have chosen to mention here some places that will remain indelibly etched in our memories: The four basilicas of Rome, and those of Loreto and Assisi.

On Monday, August 14, was held the concluding ceremony of the first part of the programme, which took place in Italy, followed on Tuesday, August 15 by the Assumption Mass in St Peter's Square in thanksgiving for all the blessings received from the Lord during our stay in Rome.

From the words of the Superior General, Bro. John Kallarackal, when he sent us on a mission, we can retain three exhortations taken from general chapters:

  • Committed to the same cause and called to be evangelisers and witnesses of God's love and compassion through our various apostolates in our respective entities.

  • The experience of Paul's encounter with the Lord that Pope Francis highlighted in the general audience held on 9th October, 2019, when he said: "Saul's encounter with Jesus begins with a journey that sees Saul transformed into Paul, the instrument chosen by God to bring the name of the Lord to all nations. In passing from blindness to sight, Paul begins to see the world in an entirely new way".

  • Two points from the bold statement made during the 31st General Chapter: "We acknowledge that we, Brothers, are influenced by the dominant counter-values of our culture, which ensnare us in the dynamics of consumerism, superficiality, individualism and greed".

Montfort Brothers of Saint Gabriel, we are called to a serious process of Spiritual Renewal which will lead us, as individuals and as a community, to reduce the distance between our documents and our life, in order to live a visible, credible and prophetic spirituality. For us Brothers of Saint Gabriel, this renewal means revisiting our charism and living it with the same enthusiasm, creativity and inventiveness as Saint Louis-Marie de Montfort, Blessed Marie-Louise Trichet, Father Gabriel Deshayes, our collaborators and pioneers, while remaining faithful to the tradition handed down, but also to that adapted to the challenges of our time.

On Wednesday, August 16, 2023, we left the General House in Rome for France, where the second part of the Session will be dedicated to the footsteps of Montfort.

Frère Félix Moussopa, province de Brazzaville
Frère Arsène Bwayomo Mbo, province de Kinshasa

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