This time the members of the North American councils met at St. Thomas More parish as the Canadian Region was hosting the meeting. The first evening was an opportunity to catch up with one another after a long summer with all sorts of events in the US and Canada, not least among which was the unique presidential campaign in the US. Against that background the third loss of the Blue Jays to the Cleveland team did not merit much comment or lament.
The agenda of the meeting was quite packed. It is indicative how much the collaboration with the US Province has increased over the last years. We have realized that we need to set up an executive committee to allow for decisions to be made at these meeting touching on issues on both side of the border. To facilitate the decision-making process and to assure that there would a follow-up an executive committee consisting of the leaders of both the US and Canada and their vice-provincial or regional was set up. It indicates that these meeting are becoming more and more important for both.
After the prayer and the usual check-in we reviewed for each other what are the most important issues of the two entities since our last meeting. For the US the issues concerned the situation at SHSST and the role of the rector of the School; at the Sacred Heart Southern Missions in Mississippi there had just been a Mission Awareness Conference the previous week on the topic of Mercy and Mission (highly successful); there had been several changes of members and leadership in communities, especially in Mississippi and Chicago; Hendrik reported on his stay of already seven years in South Dakota. He also reported that he is trying to introduce adoration, and, on the whole, doing more Dehonian things in the parishes. Quang reported on the vocation events (a possibility of several candidates for the novitiate next year) and his new task as superior of Sacred Heart at Monastery Lake. Frank Presto noted the difficulty of fulfilling the demand of bishops to get their permissions for each priest who visits their diocese. Ed Killianski gave an overview of his many visits to the communities and his international travel.
On our part, the Canadians mentioned the new ministry at the pastoral unit in Montréal, the difficulties around the Séminaire du Sacré-Coeur and the appointment of a new director and Conseil there, the new superiors in the three communities, the welcoming of Syrian refugees in Ottawa, the departure from Resurrection parish in Ottawa and the new ministry of Greg Murray at Good Shepherd parish. Paul gave a lengthy report on the ten-year-plan. A lot of things happen in half a year and it is good to see how things are developing in both the US and Canada.
After the check-in a number of items received further attention.
North American Dehonian Theological Commission
We began by installing a North American continental theological commission, similar to the other continents. The topic had been raised in May but there had been no clear decision. It was felt that there was enough theological expertise in North America to install its own theological commission. Stefan Tertünte of the Centro Studi in Rome had been suggested that perhaps North America might join with either the European commission or the South American one. However, it was decided to set up our own commission. The North American commission will consist of John van den Hengel as the president (automatically becomes a member of the International Theological Commission) and three other members who will be contacted in the near future. From Canada we have asked Gustave Lulendo to become a member. The first task of the committee will be to work out the results of a questionnaire put together by the International Theological Commission to which each member of the Region and the US province will be asked to respond. The questionnaire will be sent out as soon as possible. Please, respond by November 7.
Dehon Study Center
The US Province has appointed David Schimmel as the new Director of the Dehon Study Center in Hales Corners. It was the office previously run by P.J. McGuire. The Center will have an advisory committee consisting of Jim Schroeder and John van den Hengel. A younger person will also be joining the advisory committee but no person has been approached yet. The center has received a new mandate. It was suggested that it work together with the Centro Studi Dehoniani in Rome.
The two councils heard from the experience of Jack Kurps who started an ecumenical group of future Dehonian Associates in Mississippi. They have been using the process set out by the Spiritual Path. David Schimmel, who has been appointed as director of the Dehonian Associates in the US, has taken the material of the International Committee on the Dehonian Family and reshaped it into a one-year program. Fr. Jack was highly positive about the experience.
David Schimmel, who coordinates the program in the US, will be coming to St. Thomas More on November 21 to talk with the pastoral team about initiating a group in the parish.
It was decided that we would name the lay people participating in this program as Dehonian Associates – elsewhere they are known as Lay Dehonians. Instead of the four years proposed by the International Committee, the program introducing participants to being Dehonian Associates will consist of one year. Efforts are being made to develop a second year of material for the meetings of the Dehonian Associates. These will be used by groups for their meetings after they have become Dehonian Associates. David Schimmel will create this second year from materials of the Iter Formativo of the International Committee. It is hoped that we will be able to form a group of Dehonian Associates at St. Thomas More. At some point, it is hoped that the program might also be given in Montréal. We will continue to work together with the US Province in the formation of the Associates.
As a result of the Continental conference in 2013 in Hales Corners, migration was chosen as the primary focus of social justice for both the US and Canada. A committee was appointed after the conclusion of the Continental Conference and it gave its final report at the last meeting in May. That committee recommended that a new, more permanent, committee be established to continue the excellent work.
A new committee was appointed with Peter McKenna as its chair. On the Canadian side we have asked Louis Marie Butari and Karen Mahoney to be members. Karen Mahoney is a member of Resurrection parish who has been a great help in getting the Syrian refugee family, sponsored by the Ottawa community, settled in their apartment and introduced into Canadian life. The committee will be reporting annually to the meeting of the two councils.
During the meeting Connie Sorio of KAIROS spoke to us about condition of migrant workers in both Canada and the US. Her main emphasis was the Canadian scene where more than 300,000 migrant workers are hired mainly for agricultural work. They are permitted to return only for four years. There have been major articles in the Canadian Press highlighting the living conditions and health risks that these workers suffer.
The other priority set at the Continental Conference of 2013 was youth ministry. It did not quite get off the ground in the same way as the Migration Committee. However, Aegi presented the program that the Toronto Community wishes to put in place over the next year not only at St. Thomas More and Our Lady of the Rosary but also with UKI, the Indonesian community. There had been a hope that one of the students at the Chicago community would have accepted to come for a full year to put the ministry in place at St. Thomas More parish. However, that did not materialize. Some activities have been organized and one of the students from Chicago has agreed to participate in conducting some of these activities, if possible. It is hoped that with the youth ministry we can also revitalize the vocation ministry.
Meeting of local superiors
On March 13 – 14, 2017 the US Province is organizing a meeting of new local superiors. Both in the US and in Canada a new slate of much younger superiors have been put in place. The US Province was organizing a meeting with the young and new superiors and Canada requested to participate. The meeting will be held in Hales Corners.
The North American Retreat
The team preparing and conducting the North American retreats in 2017 and 2018 have now met twice and have responded to the requests of the North American leaders. By now, the number of participants in the three sessions have been identified and a process for conducting the retreat has been worked out. There will be only one conference a day, to set the topic of the day, there will be diads, small group and large group discussions. The liturgies of the week are coordinated with the five topics of the retreat. The retreat will begin on Monday morning and will end Friday evening. Members working in parishes will need to make sure that they have replacements, if they cannot get back into their parishes on time.
The next meeting of the councils will be in Hales Corners with an evening gathering on May 14, and the meeting proper on May 15, 2017