From Monday October 15th to Saturday 20th the British Province met in Chapter, the first Chapter in the Congregation after Bagamoyo.
Twenty two delegates representing the works of the Province and Spiritans overseas gathered at Wistaston Hall, Crewe, the retreat centre of the Oblates of Mary immaculate (OMI). The Chapter was expertly moderated by Brian McLaughlin of the Irish Province; Marc Tyrant, the new correspondent for Britain on the General Council, came from Rome, and invited guests were Peter Laast and Marc Whelan, Provincials in Ghana and Ireland respectively.
The Province has undergone a remarkable evolution since the time of the Torre d’Aguilha General Chapter, when it was presented as an aging Province. Now, with mission appointments to the Province and with some experienced Spiritans from our African circumscriptions totaling eighteen altogether, the average age of the members of the Province has been sharply reduced. More importantly, the missionary projects in which they are energetically engaged, are making a valuable contribution to the life of the Province and to the Church in Britain. Two ‘flagship’ projects could not continue their operations without the participation of our African Spiritans. These are Revive and Just Youth : – Revive, based in the parish of St Anne and St Brigid in Manchester, offers valuable services, support and legal advice to refugees and asylum seekers, while Just Youth, based nearby in Salford, engages with young people in local Catholic schools and local children to offer faith-building programmes, Christian formation and witness. Both projects involve collaboration with lay people, volunteers and local authorities and our Lay Spiritan Associates, who also offer much support to these works. In Birmingham and London, our African Spiritans staff four parishes in areas where there is a large immigrant population and a serious shortage of priests to minister to them. Most recently, the Province, started a programme to welcome young Spiritans on their mission placement (PEP) based in the community of Leicester Road, Salford.
Care for the elderly and retired Spiritans, as always, was a serious matter dealt with and the new provincial council was mandated to ensure that, as well as making maximum use of the assets of the Province, adequate provision must be made for these Spiritans.
Small groups met to discuss and work through the difficult challenges and issues associated with the election of the new provincial and this resulted in Fr. Philip Marsh being elected for a third term of office. In the financial report, it was evident that the Province is still maintaining generous support for Cor Unum, for some needy circumscriptions through direct aid, and also, by offering some circumscriptions the chance to make mission appeals in the country, the means to generate some income for themselves. However, the provincial bursar indicated that the Province’s cash reserves would be exhausted within five to six years at the present rate in which they are being used.
Despite this sobering reminder, the Province is convinced that by continuing its mission projects and being faithful to the Spiritan charism, its future is a lot brighter and hopeful than it was a few years ago.