On the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the death of their founder, Blessed Jacques Alberione, the members of the Society of Saint Paul hold their 11th General Chapter in Ariccia, Italy.
By Sr. Bernadette M. Reis, fsp
From May 29 to June 19, sixty members of the Society of Saint Paul gathered in Ariccia, in the Alban Hills just outside Rome, to participate in the 11e General Chapter of the Institute founded by Blessed Jacques Alberione.
The Congregation of Priests and Brothers carries out its mission of evangelization through the means of communication in some thirty countries throughout the world. Participants come from 22 countries; the youngest is 31 years old and the oldest 78 years old.
Guiding their reflections before and during the Chapter is the theme:
“Allow yourself to be transformed by renewing your way of thinking” (Rom 12,2).
Called to be artisans of communion to prophetically announce the joy of the Gospel in the culture of communication
Opening the Chapter, the Superior General, Father Valdir José De Castro, recalled the “particular significance” of the moment when the Chapter takes place.
“This ‘eleventh’ chapter can be seen as the post-pandemic chapter, which takes place in the midst of a disturbing war conflict in Ukraine,” he said.
He also highlighted the ecclesial context of the synodal process initiated by Pope Francis, linking it to the Pauline apostolate. “The synodal journey is an exercise in communication, where dialogue has an irreplaceable role, even if it is a demanding journey.
On the way to the future
Delegates then entered a period of understanding the life and mission of institute members around the world.
They were invited by Father Valdir to enter into fraternal dialogue with each other, to ask questions, to expose problems and difficulties so that together they can discover the way to a realistic future with great hopes while keeping your feet on the ground. This phase concluded with Father Valdir’s report which also included reflections on the 4 congregations of nuns and the Association of Pauline Cooperators who are linked in a particular way to the Society of Saint Paul.
The Solemnity of Pentecost, June 5, ushered the delegates into the next phase of the Chapter. Readings proclaimed in Japanese and Vietnamese concretely expressed the international and multicultural aspects of the Saint Paul Society.
Among those who contributed to this “illuminative” phase of the Chapter was Bishop José Rodríguez Carballo, OFM. Secretary of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and Sr Nathalie Becquart, Undersecretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. She outlined the synodal journey underway in the Church which specifically addresses one of the three “cores” contained in the Instrumentum laboris guiding the chapter: “A Synodal Congregation”.
The last week of the Chapter, June 11-16, the delegates entered the final phase of the Chapter. Members were elected to form a new general government which will be tasked with implementing the action points identified during the general chapter.
The remaining apostles of the times
Superior General since 2015, Father Valdir José De Castro spoke to Vatican News about the General Chapter. He explained that the challenge they face in this chapter is how to update the way they evangelize men and women today.
He believes that the Founder, Blessed James Alberione, was above all an “apostle of his time” who “knew how to read the signs of his time”. With what is happening in the world, in the Church, in the “culture of communication”, the participants in the Chapter try to discern the signs of the times to understand what new channels they must borrow and what new languages they must use to announce the Gospel.
He then named the three “cores” guiding them.
· Their identity as communicators, people who walk in the footsteps of Saint Paul in a world where everyone is communicative;
· The formation necessary to proclaim the Gospel today with the means of communication;
· Synodality – how they have already embraced synodality and how they can improve to truly become “craftsmen of communion”.
“Part of God’s Story”
Father Angelo Paolo Asprer participates in the Chapter and represents the province of the Philippines. He told Vatican News he was happy to be “part of the story…the story of God…a dynamic grace story” transforming his congregation.
He described the General Chapter as “the highest expression of faith, of fraternity, of solidarity, of journeying together, of synodality”.
He hopes to encourage his brothers back in the Philippines to remain “rooted in the original charism” of Blessed James Alberione by realizing “our vision to proclaim Jesus Master through the most effective means of communication in the emerging culture of communication”.
The way he hopes they can move forward is with “more listening, more discernment, more brotherhood, more courage, more creativity”.