The Superior General
Pentecost Letter, 2012
Rome, May 1st 2012
Dear Brothers and Sisters of the Spiritan Family,
In a few more weeks, the Spiritan family will celebrate its 20th General Chapter at Bagamoyo, Tanzania. 2012 is also a chapter year for many of our circumscriptions. Very often, or perhaps even every day, we have to face up to difficult problems and try to solve them.
None of us have a “miracle” solution, but we all have the wonderful gift of the Holy Spirit. With one heart, with our mother Mary, let us beg Jesus, who died and rose again for our sakes, to send us his Spirit so that we will be able to see clearly the will of God and carry it out with courage and determination!
A providential double anniversary
This year, as well as the General Chapter, we are celebrating the 25th anniversary of the promulgation of our present Rule of Life and also the 25th anniversary of the setting up of the Justice and Peace service at the Generalate. The decree of approbation of the Rule is dated June 7th, 1987, the Solemnity of Pentecost. On September 8th of the same year, the Superior General, Fr. Pierre Haas, signed the introduction. The historical origins of the word “chapter” remind us that it concerned, and still concerns, a simple but essential practice of religious life: we come together, read one or several chapters of the Rule and assess how far we have been faithful to its directives, either personally or collectively. We then take the necessary steps to correct the abuses and to make us more fervent in the Spirit.
One of the passages of our Rule says clearly that we are committed to the poor and that “we count the following as constitutive parts of our mission of evangelisation: the integral liberation of people, action for justice and peace and participation in development” (SRL 14). It was to help us put this ideal into practice that the service of Justice and Peace (later to be known as “Justice and Peace and the Integrity of Creation”) was set up in the same year, 1987. We are deeply indebted to the confreres who, at the Generalate and in the circumscriptions, generously committed themselves to be “the advocates, the supporters and the defenders of the weak and the little ones against all who oppress them”. We would like to mention especially the coordinators at the level of the whole Congregation: William Headley (USA), John Skinnader (Ireland), John Kilcrann (Ireland) and Gervase Taratara (Tanzania). The place where the forthcoming General Chapter will take place (Bagamoyo) reminds us how much this concern for JPIC has inspired our spiritan family throughout its history. The present day situation is surely inviting us to redouble our zeal, our imagination and our commitment to remain creatively faithful to our essential aim, “the evangelisation of the poor” (SRL 4).
A new Spiritan commitment in South Sudan along the same lines
After a long period of reflection which began in November, 2006, the General Council has decided to agree to a request that was first made to us by the bishops of the new independent Republic of South Sudan six years ago. It is an area that has experienced war and insecurity for many years. On June 13th, 2011, we took the formal decision to open a spiritan community in the diocese of Rumbek, which would be confided to the solidarity of the Union of Circumscriptions of East Africa (UCEAF) and placed under the direct responsibility of the Superior of the Foundation of Kenya. Unfortunately, the sudden death of the local bishop made it impossible to launch the project in October 2011 as foreseen. Other difficulties arose during the search for volunteers. It is surprising that we should have so much difficulty in finding confreres for a spiritan mission which is so obviously in conformity with SRL 4 and 14. It will now only be possible to complete the first spiritan community of this new mission in October 2012. It will be an international community consisting of an Irish, a Ugandan, a Kenyan and a Tanzanian confrere. The first departures are planned for the end of May. Fr. Martin Keane, the Superior of the Foundation of Kenya, made a new visit to the diocese of Rumbek between the 16th and 23rd of March. He finished his report with these words: “Wherever we finally settle, South Sudan is a mission for Spiritans. The moment has come. The people, the priests and religious are waiting for us”. I confide this new missionary commitment to the prayers and solidarity of the whole spiritan family.
Thank you! Sorry! Please!
To finish off this 16th and final Pentecost/Christmas letter of my mandate, I would like to use the three most important expressions in all our maternal languages.
Thank you to everyone for your commitment to spiritan mission. If the contents of some of the letters and reports we received gives rise to serious doubts (“how are such things possible in our Congregation?), our visits to our brothers, sisters, communities and circumscriptions fill us with joy and feelings of deep gratitude. After the long sessions in Rome, we are sometimes very tired as we set out on visitations, but we usually come back strengthened by what we have seen and heard. A big “thank you” to all who have remained faithful to our vocation, often in very difficult circumstances. Thanks to all who have committed themselves to the service of formation of our young confreres (about 900 each year) and thus assured the future of the Congregation! Thanks to those who are ready to sacrifice their involvement in a more direct apostolate to undertake other less attractive tasks, like superiors, functionaries and other responsibilities that support our spiritan structures. And a very special thank-you to the old and sick who through their sufferings “complete” what is lacking in the passion of Christ for the good of all the Congregation and the Church.
Sorry for all our faults and imperfections. The list of what we have done badly or what we have not managed to do at all would be quite long; I will spare you such an inventory. As for myself, I greatly regret not having completed my programme of visits to the circumscriptions because of ill health. I am sure my successor will do his best to make up for my shortcomings. After bouts of sickness in August 2010 and January 2011, I came to appreciate once more the supportive work of the whole General Council. I hope my successor will have the same good fortune of experiencing the work of a united and devoted Council, as well as the collaboration of the “functionary” confreres, who, as the name indicates, keep the wheels turning of our complex organisation.
Please! After the General Chapter of Bagamoyo, another Superior, assisted by another General Council, will have the task of inspiring and steering our Congregation. May they also be able to count on your support, your missionary dynamism and, if necessary, your kind understanding!
I wish you all a holy and joyful feast of Pentecost.
Fr. Jean-Paul Hoch cssp,
CONGREGAZIONE DELLO SPIRITO SANTO
CLIVO DI CINNA, 195 – 00136 ROMA, Italia