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You are here:Home / Family News / NEF 2013 / Family News - 2013 December 14th / History of the Rule of Life
Dec 13, 2013

History of the Rule of Life

The last act of the history of our Rule of Life

Commission for the Rule of Life gathered in January 2011

Like all Religious Institutes our Congregation had to reflect on a new territorial organisation. The 1999 General Chapter had assembled the Provinces, Vice-Provinces and delegations in three Regions (St Michael Garicoits, Fr Auguste Etchecopar, and Blessed Miriam of Jesus Crucified) accompanied by three Coordinators who were members of the General Council.

To respond to the need for modifying the system of government of the Congregation, Fr Radaelli, Superior General, in 2003 set up a commission composed of Fathers Jacky Moura, Benat Oyhenart, Piero Felet and Gaspar Fernandez. As the commission advanced with its work, it became evident that it was the whole Rule of Life that needed to be revised so as to keep it in step with the theology of Religious Life post Vatican II and the reflexion on the charism since 1985, the year of the Conference in Betharram which took place to mark the 150th anniversary of the foundation of the Congregation.

At the 2005 General Chapter the commission presented the changes necessary for the government of the Congregation organised in Regions; this was approved by the Chapter and then by the Holy See. Furthermore the Chapter asked that this new organisation should be set up ad experimentum as from the Council of Congregation preceding the General Chapter of 2011 that is the Council of Congregation at Bangalore in 2007. Consequently on 25 October 2008 the Superior General, Father Gaspar Fernandez Perez promulgated the text of the Rule of Life of 2008 ad experimentum to function from 1st January 2009 to the General Chapter 2011.

By now the Commission had gained a new member- Father Bruno Ierullo and continued its work. It studied the weaknesses in the new system of government set in movement ad experimentum. It asked for the involvement of all the religious and all the communities in the revision of the Rule of Life. Consequently the text on which they were working was sent to all the communities. So, the community at La Colmena sent in suggestions some of which were included in the final text; the formation community at Adrogue worked on the chapter on the vows; Father Laurent Bacho made several suggestions.

The General Chapter in Bethlehem in 2011 voted for the Rule of Life corrected by the Commission, which included not only the new system of government but also all the suggestions, quotations, terminology and other corrections.

On 1 July 2011 the Rule of Life voted by the General Chapter was submitted to the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life who gave their reply on 17 September together with 23 observations. Corrections of these were presented on 18 November 2012. New further corrections were submitted to the Congregation for Religious on 15 February 2012. The Decree of final approval of the new version of the Rule of Life is dated 22 February 2012. The Congregation for Religious did not accept that Regional Vicars should be both regional councillors and major superiors.

What’s new in the 2012 Rule of Life: With its new title, the Congregation of the Sacred Heart of Jesus presents itself as a family of religious and no longer of priests only; the vocabulary of the Heart of Jesus which had gone lost in the 1969 Rule of Life is recovered (the Heart of Jesus, the Word Incarnate); the chapter headings have been altered and the text is adapted to the new theological and charismatic vocabulary; in chapter 1, the Charism of the Family of Betharram, the dimension of consecration has been added to that of spirituality, community and mission; this chapter states in article 3 that the charism of St Michael Garicoits is for the laity too. Three new chapters have been almost completely rewritten: the one on the vows, the one on our service in the Church and the one on Betharramite formation; the authority of the Superior General is set out and enhanced; the Superior General and the Regional Superiors have each their vicars, that of the Regional Superior is known as the “First Regional Vicar”; the Regional Superior has a Regional Council composed of the Regional Vicars who have a delegated authority in each vicariate. The council of Region no longer exists. The council of Congregation is maintained but has lost its power to reach decisions; finally for the General and Regional chapters participation is proportional (see articles 181 and 228).

The history of these 180 years of the existence of our Rule of Life is typified more by dynamism than by stability. In an ever changing world we are going through great changes, and our Rule of Life is more open than ever, more exposed than ever to adaptations to changing times and new spaces. May it be for the greater glory of God and for our sanctification!

Gaspar Fernández Pérez, scj

The End


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