The community in Rome was buzzing toward the end of November. First of all, all the major superiors of all the entities, even of the areas of Bielorus, Ukraine, Transniestre, the new settlement in Asia, were there. They were joined on December 1 by the secretaries of all the major entities for their meeting. Moreover, from December 2 to 4 the International Dehonian Theological Commission were also in town. Lots of activities, lots of buzz.
The major superiors usually meet at this time into a new administration. They get to hear what the new administration is up to in terms of plans and activities. The new administration also has an opportunity to let the superiors know some of the concerns that they have. It has a chance to meet face to face with the larger entities to discuss common concerns, personnel issues, projects. This time the entities were asked to bring with them their six-year plans. The General Administration wanted to know how the entities planned to implement some of the proposals of the General Administration as found in their “Programmatic Letter” of December 2015.
In his presentation on the first day – after two presentations by Prof. Giuliana Martirami – Fr. General made three proposals. The first proposal concerned a Dehon Volunteer Program. It was a proposal to open up opportunities for young people to share in our work in places like Venezuela, Brazil, Angola and Mozambique. The program exists in a number of countries. Fr. Heiner would like to see it grow and to find a way of coordinating it.
A second proposal was to set up a Dehonian Migration Service. This service would allow the Congregation to respond in a concrete way to the insistence of the Letter on the Feast of the Sacred Heart to take to heart the plight of migrants and refugees. He urged the members to find ways of accompanying and helping migrants, to fight for their rights and to find collaborators by joining with other religious communities. It will require a lot of coordinating work. It is a proposal that will need to be fleshed out over the next while.
A third proposal was to erect a Centre/Faculty of the Divine Heart. The form for this center was still vague. The underlying idea is to set up a concrete way where people can come together to study and promote the spirituality of the Sacred Heart, to develop forms of meditating on the Divine Heart and promote new forms of devotion.
Some discussion time was also given to give form to the motions of the 2015 General Chapter, one dealing with the internationality of our houses of formation through the exchange of students, and the other dealing with the letter that every member is asked to submit around the time of final vows to indicate his availability for mission. In that context, there was also a request for four confreres to become specialized in translation and interpretation. In general, this had to do with the desire that at least 30 % of our members would work towards some kind of graduate degree. In countries with a large presence of Islam, the Chapter of 2015 had already asked for members specialized in Islamology. In the present world context knowledge of Islam becomes more and more desirable on the part of Christians.
The General Administration also submitted a highly ambitious plan for future expansion of the Congregation. It is still a plan only on the drawing board, but it is far-reaching: in 2017 it is proposed to strengthen the presence in Uruguay, to set up an international community in Chaco, Argentina, to expand the University of the North in Madagascar, to re-inforce the presence in Albania, and to send new missionaries for the Mission of Asia (Hong Kong, Taiwan). In 2018 it is proposed to get the London project off the ground, to strengthen the Dehonian Study Center of Paris, for the Ukrainian group as well as the Bielorussia group to begin a city ministry in their respective countries; in the same year the Indian District would begin its work in the Assam, the northern mission in India; in 2019 in Brussels there would be established an international community of mainly students, in the Netherlands, there would also begin an new foundation in a city, likely Amsterdam as well as a new international community in Switzerland. In 2020, it is foreseen that there would established an international community in Seoul, Korea, and a new foundation in Mexico. In 2021 the plan showed a possible foundation in Colombia, Kenia, and East Timor. In 2022 the plan showed a possible foundation in Zimbabwe. It is not likely that all of this will happen but it is clear that the General Administration has an expansionist agenda. At the meeting the African and Asian confreres were the most keen to explore these possibilities.