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Sessione 3
You are here:Home / Family News / NEF 2017 / Family News - 2017 June 14th / Life of the Congregation
Jun 14, 2017

Life of the Congregation

A journey of twelve years

Life of the Congregation

After two mandates as head of the Congregation Fr. Gaspar Fernandez is ready to affectionately look back on his time as Superior General... the people, the experiences and powerful moments.

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FVD
The lot marked out for me is my delight:
welcome indeed the heritage that falls to me (Ps.15.6)

Twelve years ago, just before I said “yes, I accept”, I prayed these words of Saint Michael that I always say in my morning prayer: Oh my God, you loved me so much! Who am I? …. recognising and confessing my nothingness, my helplessness and my sinfulness: “Here I am, without delay, without reserve, without return! Forward! I know your heart, you know mine, Lord. You know that I love you: that is enough. Here I am! I am all because I can do nothing, because on my own I can only spoil everything. “Not to us, Lord, not to us, but to your name give glory. “ (DS § 8)

During these twelve years I have visited each Vicariate four times as a privileged witness of what the Lord accomplishes in each religious and in the mission of each community. Through the religious of our communities, the Lord makes known his name and his face, and promotes the dignity of people through the gospel, education and health. I have also often been a helpless witness, to the resistance of some brothers to emerge from the self-referential. I have endeavoured to defend the coherence and authenticity of the consecrated life of Betharramite, often at the cost of conflict, misunderstanding and humiliation.

Every month, I devoted energy to the opening reflection of the NEF, “A Word from the Superior General”. The intention was simply to provoke in my brothers a reflection on their spiritual life in the perspective of our Betharramite charism. I know it was not a wasted energy, because I know that many communities, some of them Formation communities, were using this work at their monthly meeting. In this way, I reflected one by one, on the chapters of the Rule of Life approved in 2012, to encourage religious as well as communities to know it better and to put it into practice with passion.

Convinced that the foundation of our consecrated personal and community life is the encounter of each one of us with the person of Jesus, our Lord, who gave a new direction to our life (DCE 1), I tried to introduce in Councils of Congregation the method of narratio fidei, to give importance to the sharing of the faith, sharing on what God accomplishes in the life of each one of us. This is what really brings us together, but sometimes we are very shy to talk about it. We talk more easily of football, liturgy and even of theology, than of the mysterious presence of God among us.

This too has not been a waste of energy, for I find that some time to share faith around a text of the Gospel or a writing of St. Michael is now common in the Regional Councils. This helps us in exercising discernment in decision-making. I understand that the Councils of Vicariate and some communities have also adopted this dynamic.

During these last twelve years, the subdivision of the Congregation into Regions became consolidated. It was not easy to learn how to respect one another’s sphere of influence. It has not been easy to harmonise the role of Regional Superiors and Regional Vicars. Sometimes power struggles have occurred; at other times friendship has prevented analysis of situations with objectivity. In some cases, the Regional Vicar did not follow up on what had been decided: the Regional Superior departed (after a visit) and the contrary was done to what had been decided during the visit! Elsewhere, there was a lack of communication between the Regional Superior and a Vicar. Sometimes, the Vicar took important steps without consulting the Regional Superior. Most of these difficulties are overcome when the spheres of authority of each one are respected, and if one works by applying the law of subsidiarity in a spirit of faith and service. Regionalisation was a positive development as it overcame the isolation of the Vicariates and established greater unity in the Congregation, while respecting cultural diversity.

Greater knowledge of the Rule of Life by all, the Superiors, the Vicars and the religious, will foster dialogue and allow us to re-read our lives and ways of helping each other retrieve our identity as consecrated Betharramites.

During these twelve years, my greatest joys were: the 80 religious who made perpetual vows, the 7 formation sessions at Betharram for perpetual vows, the founding of the Ho Chi Minh City community, the work of revising the Rule of Life and the Ratio Formationis, the two meetings of Formators in 2007 and 2016, the meeting of the religious brothers in 2013 in Betharram... The work of the Betharramite Formation Service was very intense, as were the energies deployed to improve formation, despite some negative results.

Nor has the cross been lacking in my life both as a disciple and as a missionary: To witness that some brothers have lost the enthusiasm of their first love and make no effort to get out of the false way of living into which they have settled; To witness that some brothers are more attached to money, power and prestige than to the “humble and obedient Jesus Christ”; the dull disobedience of some brothers who listen only to themselves and have lost sensitivity to listen to God, brothers and superiors; the difficulty of accepting fraternal life in a community as something essential to the way of life that St Michael Garicoits wanted for us; the disappointment caused by the abandonment of religious in whom we had placed our trust and high expectations; The expulsions from the Congregation with which I had to proceed... The most painful are those brothers who are not in the truth of what they have professed to be.

And now obedience puts me in a situation of standing down, it deprives me of the security that I had acquired during these twelve years. So after a year of Ongoing Formation, the voice of the superiors will indicate to me my new mission. I am convinced that this vulnerability is the only thing that allows me to encounter new people who will in the end help me to enrich myself spiritually. I did not become a Betharramite to be superior! I have never sought to be so, and I am once again, in all simplicity, the consecrated man that I have always been, and from there I will continue to love this Congregation which the Sacred Heart conceived and formed through the intermediary of Saint Michael Garicoits.

After twelve years, my prayer is a thank you to the Lord for what I have lived and it echoes in this verse of Psalm 15: 6: "The lot marked out for me is my delight:
welcome indeed the heritage that falls to me!“.

I thank the Lord for the few things that I have done that were significant or original: it is the Lord who has accomplished it with my good dispositions. I also thank the Lord for what the Lord could not do because of my limitations and my sins. So there is nothing I can boast of! Who would have stopped me if I could have done more! I have lived the devotion that my service for the Congregation demanded, with serenity, passion and joy. For two years, fatigue has increased my load, but I have not been able to stop myself. This is also a cause for gratitude.

Gaspar Fernández Pérez scj

 

Avila (Spain), where the new Superior General granted Fr. Gaspar scj to take a sabbatical year for a course of mystical theology.


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