October 16 – 17 the councils of the United States and Canada met at Maison Dehon in Montréal for their biannual meeting. The community of Montréal had prepared a wonderful, catered meal for the first evening. From the US Province Fr. Ed Kilianski, Fr. Jack Kurps and Fr. Quang Nguyen attended; from Canada it was Fr. John van den Hengel, Fr. Richard Woodbury, Fr. Maurice Légaré and Fr. Paul Tennyson. In the report on the events of the two entities, the issue of aging and the decreasing number of people upon whom one can rely on fulfilling the ministries was mentioned. The US Province indicated that of the 86 members only 29 are in full-time ministries. The US council spoke of the need to mindfully look at future commitments. The Canadian Region undertook a ten-year plan only last year.
Dehonian Family: In North America the lay interest in the Dehonian spirituality has grown in the past few years. In the USA there are now groups in Texas, Mississippi, and Wisconsin. Some of them are employees of the Province but others are interested in this spirituality for their personal lives. Also the Canadian Region has developed a group in St. Thomas More parish in Scarborough, among the Indonesian UKI group and the Becoming Neighbours ministry. At the meeting a graph found in The Spiritual Path (Year 4, meeting 40) was distributed to clarify what type of groups we want to develop and what is their relationship to the SCJ Congregation. According to the graph developed by Fr. Virginio Bressanelli, the Dehonian Family is an independent group which derives its spirituality directly from Fr. Dehon’s charism while other groups, such as groups of employees derive their spirituality from the Congregation. The meeting expressed the hope that at some point we might be able to organize a North American meeting of lay Dehonians and of people interested in the Dehonian charism. The NORAM meetings will continue to follow the progress of this venture.
Immigration Committee: Peter McKenna, the chair of the committee, had provided a report on their activities. The Committee has been very active in the past half year. At the June assembly of the US Province, Sr. Norma Pimentel, MJ, executive director of Catholic Charities in the Rio Valley and Barbara Graham, director of Legal Services for Immigrants for Catholic Charities of Milwaukee, gave presentations. At the October assembly of the Canadian Region the committee had again been present and showed a video of Sr. Norma, who spoke of working with Latino immigrant children at the US-Mexican border. At the Canadian assembly Joe Gunn, executive director of Citizens for Public Justice, presented the Canadian immigration situation. After the Canadian Assembly, the immigration committee met with the Ottawa and Montreal communities to talk with them about their sponsorship programs of two Syrian families. The committee will continue its efforts to strengthen the membership of the committee by inviting younger members and by developing an action program for the SCJ communities in North America.
Theological Commission: John van den Hengel gave a report on the recent meeting of the theologians of the congregation in Yogyakarta in Indonesia. He also mentioned that the North American theological committee had met in September in Hales Corners to discuss its future work. The committee decided to explore further one of the key concepts of Fr. Dehon in his social writings: pure love. It was one of the core concepts to come out of the seminar in Indonesia.
Vocations: The letter of Fr. General on youth and vocations in view of the Bishop’s Synod of 2018 was discussed. It led to a presentation of the work of the vocation efforts in the United States.
North American Retreat: The evaluations of the August Mississauga retreat were presented. The retreat was highly successful as evidenced by the evaluations. The next retreat will be given in Racine, WI, from May 7 – 12, 2018. 24 participated in the Mississauga retreat. The numbers in Racine will be much higher. The retreat committee will be sending out a reminder notice in the near future to those who have signed up for the May retreat.
Communications: Mary Gorski, who had returned from Rome on Sunday, gave a report on the work of the International Communications Commission of which she is a member. There is a lot of activity in Rome around communications. A new website is in the process of being developed; some entities have begun to develop activities around the new mission and vision statement. The meeting raised the question whether on the North American level we should be developing new strategies around this issue. It was suggested that at a future meeting of NORAM this issue could be explored at greater length.
General Conference 2018: From July 14 – 28, 2018 the Region of the Philippines will be hosting the General Conference of the Congregation. Fr. Quang is the head of the organizing committee and he gave us an overview of the work that has been done to prepare for the Conference. Both the US and Canada have responded to the questionnaire that has been distributed. Fr. Quang expressed surprise at the minimal response to the questionnaire from other entities. But from the submissions the program for the conference will be developed at the next meeting of the committee in November. From North America there will be three people attending: Fr. Ed Kilianski, Fr. John van den Hengel and Fr. Quang Nguyen.
Religious response to current situation: The two councils gave some time to express their desire to find an appropriately religious response to the political and social situation in which they find themselves. How can we help respond differently to the polarization of groups and opinions that is overwhelming so much of the conversations since the migration crisis started some five years ago? What does it mean to be a servant of reconciliation today? Is there anything we religious should be doing to help alleviate the enormous political pressure caused by the 65 million people who have been displaced in various parts of the world? It would be good if in our communities we could raise this issue so that it might become integrated into our prayer, our communications and our actions.
Next meeting: the councils also reflected about the purpose, frequency and the topics of the NORAM meetings. The meetings are held twice a year, once in the USA and once in Canada. The councils recognized the usefulness of the meetings, although there are times in which the topics could be prepared with better support of documentation or further information. The meetings are excellent opportunities for interaction between the two entities and for staying in touch with the issues. But the council members often find themselves overwhelmed by their pastoral activities, their tasks as councllors, and the travel to the international meetings. It was decided to bring the Council and NORAM meetings together more often so that the travel could be consolidated. The next meeting will be in Hales Corners on April 9, 2018.