SUPERIOR GENERAL’S CLOSING MESSAGE-17TH COUNCIL OF THE INSTITUTE, BANGKOK, THAILAND.
17th COUNCIL OF THE INSTITUTE – BANGKOK, THAILAND
CLOSING MESSAGE – 20.01.2017
Good afternoon to you all. As we come to the end of the 20 days we have lived together as brothers, as leaders of the different entities of our Congregation, participating in the Formation Session and the 17th Council of the Institute, I feel confident to call it an “unqualified success” on more counts than one. As our Constitutions rightly put it, “The Council of the Institute has for mission to provide, through concerted action, the common good and unity of the Institute”. As we look back at the days we have lived together as members of the 17th Council of the Institute, it was evident that there was a sense of unity and charity among the 27 participants, despite the fact that we were coming from the different continents, born and brought up in different cultures, belonging to varied age groups and embracing different philosophies of life. I am sure that all the participants will be able to affirm, in one voice, that the nearly 3 weeks we have spent together as leaders of the Congregation, was truly an occasion to strengthen our bond as members of one large family, living out our fraternity and common brotherhood, and making a realistic appraisal of our life and mission. I have no hesitation in saying that everyone who witnessed our life here during these days would spontaneously acclaim, “See how they love one another”!
Words of Appreciation:
If we can call the Formation Session for the Provincial Superiors and the 17th Council of the Institute an “unqualified success”, it is thanks to the collaborative efforts of different individuals and groups. On behalf of the whole Congregation, I wish to place on record my sincere appreciation to all those who have contributed in one way or another towards the planning, preparation and the successful completion of these sessions.
In the first place, I raise my heart in thanksgiving to God for accompanying us throughout the whole process and making it possible for us all, excepting the Superiors of the entities of Belgium and Brazil, to be present without any hassles. Secondly, I wish to express my sincere thanks to each member of the Central Administration for his significant contribution towards the success of this Formation Session and the Council of the Institute. In fact, the remote preparation had begun way back in June 2016. In the same breath, I must express my sincere thanks to the Provincial Administration of the Province of Thailand, which wholeheartedly came forward to host this Council of the Institute, extending full and generous co-operation right from the beginning. Everyone was impressed by the warm welcome, rich hospitality, tasteful decorations and the attractive ambience. Though a former vote of thanks will be proposed mentioning individual names, during the Closing Ceremony, I wish to make a special mention of Bro. Surasit Sukchai, the Provincial Superior, and Bros. Phirphongs who were involved in the planning and preparation for months together, and who were like guardian angels. Whenever we needed them, they were there in all simplicity and true fraternal love.
Similarly we had our 2 interpreters, Brothers René Delorme and Roger Bosse, who carried out their tasks with an appreciable degree of professionalism. Even when some of the participants had the temptation to doze off, they were there fully alert, being effective channels of communication. Seeing all the presentations in 2 languages, you can imagine what lot of documents had to be translated into English or French. Most of the translations were done by Brothers Rene Delorme, Marcel Barreteau, Ronald Brissette, Corentin Le Bot Marcel Chapeleau, and Sebastien Ndabunganiye. I wish to say a big ThanQ to each one of them for their valuable services. We owe our special appreciation to Bro. Georges Le Vern, the Secretary General who coordinated the whole process, and did a lot of the translations by himself, both before and during the sessions. I also wish to take this opportunity, on behalf of all the participants to thank our Secretaries, Brothers Siam and Sarawut who were carrying out their works with quiet efficiency, putting into practice the difficult art of listening, without speaking, and serving with a smile always. And so were our technical experts, Bros. Sebastian Antony Samy and Michael Mathew in Rome, and Mr. Suraphol here at the center. The Office Manager, Mr. Anusorn, the office staff, Mr. Thanaphon Klindech, Ms. Monthakarn Pinthong and Ms. Tipawan Sutha, who could be disturbed at any time, and of course, the kitchen staff who were always there at our service, deserve a special mention and a hearty “Khab Kun Krab”!
It was a real blessing that the presence of Bro. Michael Thinaratana assured us of the daily Eucharistic and all that was needed for the animation of the daily prayers. The efforts made by Bros. Faustino and Amnuay to celebrate Mass in French, and the melodious singing by Brs. Sarawut and Siam, made the liturgical celebrations more lively and inspirational.
Though Fr. Jean-Claude, the Facilitator, has already left for France, I wish to place on record his singular contributions towards the remote preparation for the 32nd General Chapter. As Br. Rene remarked while inviting Fr. Jean-Claude yesterday morning, the programmatic strategy proposed by him is really interesting and novel. I could see that he had put our Chapter Preparatory Committee Members on their toes ever since his arrival. On behalf of the Congregation, I wish to say in advance a big thanks to Bros. Rene Delorme, Jean-Marie Ndour, Mariannan and Jimmy for their valuable share of contributions towards the smooth and efficient conduct of the next General Chapter. My sincere thanks and congratulations also go to all the Moderators of the 17th Council of the Institute, first of all to the 4 Assistants General, and more especially to Brs. Ambroise, Ronald Brissete, Devassy and George PJ, the elected ones. You will agree with me that they all discharged their responsibilities with a touch of professionalism! In the same breath, I wish to appreciate the good work done by the 4 Moderators and the Secretaries of the Groups, which facilitated the discussions in the groups and in the General Assemblies.
Finally, I wish to place on record my appreciation to all the leaders of the entities for the realistic presentations of your entities, and for your active and dignified participation in the discussions in the Groups and in the General Assembly, always keeping “the common good and unity of the Institute” (C 185). I was happy to see the spirit of camaraderie and brotherhood prevailing throughout the sessions, treating everyone with love and respect, despite the difference of language and the attendant problems!
Time of Grace:
You will all agree with me that the time we spent together here in Bangkok, was truly a time of grace. The presence of the Cardinal Francis Xavier Kriengsak at the opening ceremony of the Formation Session on 4th January gave an ecclesial color to our sessions here. As he gently reminded us during his homily, “The personal encounter with Christ and the Evangelization through our life of witness should be our priority”.
The presence of Rev. Fr. Augustine Pittoyo SJ, on the first day of the Formation Session with his inspiring reflections on our Authenticity as Leaders for a Greater Brotherhood truly set the tone for the different presentations by the members of the Central Administration that followed. The 8 tasks of leadership that Fr. Pittoyo shared with us from the book of John W. Gardner “On Leadership”, certainly had a formative dimension for all of us who are called upon to be leaders in our entities. Let me take the liberty of repeating them here:
- Providing a Vision
- Motivating and Keeping the Fire Burning
- Achieving and Maintaining Unity
- Communication – Keeping people informed
- Symbolic Role
- Representing the Group
- Need for Ongoing Renewal
The opportunity we had on 7th January to be united with the whole Province of Thailand at the funeral services of late Bro. Suradej was again another time of grace, expressing solidarity with our Brothers who were mourning the death of their beloved brother.
As there has been a lot of reflection on the international character of our Congregation, and the need to promote greater inter-culturalilty, unity in diversity and Inter-Province collaboration, it is once again symbolic that we conclude our 17th Council of the Institute during the Unity Week, when we pray for greater unity and solidarity among the Christians.
Planning for the Future:
As we listened to the reports of the different entities we realized that we had several reasons to thank God for as a Congregation. But at the same time we became acutely aware “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”, the very things that we had painfully acknowledged during the last General Chapter (31 GC 7).
During the evaluation of our life and mission as consecrated persons, especially in the backdrop of the Message and Orientations of the 31st General Chapter and the proposals of the 16th Council of the Institute, we became more and more convinced that “we the Montfort Brothers of St. Gabriel, must face a serious process of spiritual renewal that will help us, as persons and as communities, to reduce the gap between our documents and our life, in order to live a spirituality that is visible, credible and prophetic” (31 GC 11).
As I mentioned during the Inaugural Message the two principal objectives of our 17th Council of the Institute are to make an assessment of the journey we have undertaken since our 31st General Chapter and to plan for the coming the 32nd General Chapter. Let us pray and hope that the entry door we have identified for our next General Chapter, “Fraternal Living and the Communitarian Dimension of the Montfortian Mission”, will propel us to personal conversion, make our communities true witnesses of the evangelical values, help us put into practice the elements of good governance with greater transparency and accountability at all levels, make our mission truly Montfortian in character, and help us address the different challenges we face today in our Congregation.
During our discussions and reflections, we were repeatedly reminded, “The Provincial Superior bears the main responsibility for the Province, in the service of the apostolic religious life of the Brothers” (C 135). Therefore, let us go back to our entities with renewed enthusiasm and determination to play our role as animators and administrators more effectively. There is no doubt that there will always be lots of challenges, but as Martin Luther King beautifully put it, “If you can’t fly, then run, if you can’t run, then walk, if you can’t walk then crawl; but whatever you do, you have to keep moving forward”.
Before I conclude, let me once again thank each one of you for your contribution towards the success of the Formation Session and the 17th Council of the Institute. The message you carry to the Brothers, Associates and Collaborators from this Council of the Institute should inspire everyone concerned to live a life of greater authenticity, committing themselves to the cause of participating in the Church’s mission of evangelization, witnessing and human promotion. In keeping with the theme of the Closing Prayer Service this afternoon, “You are sent forth as leaders of Montfortian Mission”. My sincere thanks in advance to Br. Thinaratana for getting the prayer service organized. As you return to your entities please convey our greetings to all the Brothers in your entities. Wish you all a very grace-filled New Year 2017, and a meaningful preparation for the 32nd General Chapter.
Br. John Kallarackal