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1AG - May 20, reviewing Fr. General's report and the congregation's finances

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The capitulars spent much of Wednesday morning in small groups reflecting on the superior general’s report (given by Fr. José Ornelas Carvalho on Tuesday). Instead of the usual practice of being split into geographic or linguistic groups, the capitulars found themselves assigned at random. Chapter organizers hoped that by doing so the delegates would have a better opportunity to hear a wide variety of voices.
 
Though it required a bit of linguistic gymnastics in some groups, with the help of their confreres, each was able to make his voice heard.
 
DSC 0026Speaking in plenary, the groups cited the themes that they thought to be most important in Fr. General’s report. The focus on internationality, spirituality, mission and formation was cited as a significant part of the out-going administration. The preparation of future leaders for formation, administration and finance was noted.
 
The emphasis on greater organization and collaboration on the continental level was cited by many.  Also, a greater awareness of lay Dehonians was appreciated
 
Where did they see the need for more attention? Vocations and communications were cited. More concern needs to be given to aging – both entities and confreres. It isn’t just a matter of caring for the congregation’s elders, but also of reorganizing structures that have depended on many of them, such as the European missionaries.
 
Concerns were expressed about accompaniment of the entities by the general administration. How can the general curia be more in touch with the local level? Responding to this Fr. Ornelas noted that for the past six years the council operated with only four members while needs at the local levels increased. Developing entities need more intervention from the general level. The next administration will need to continue to address the issue of accompaniment.
 
And while the focus on internationality was often cited as positive, it brings with it many challenges. As local communities become more international the skills needed for healthy community living are more important than ever. Preparation for internationality, and the mindset of “mission” must begin in the earliest stages of formation.


 
The general treasurer’s report
 
The afternoon was spent reviewing the finances of the congregation. Fr. Aquilino Mielgo Domínguez, general treasurer, introduced his presentation by stating that “finances are not something separate from religious life.”
 
DSC 0188Key to financial management in a religious congregation is transparency and sharing. “’Sint unum’ is not just a lovely slogan,” he said. “What use are these words if we don’t live them in all aspects of community?”
 
Fr. Aquilino cited many positive things in regards to finance. The master’s course for treasurers (bursars) helped to prepare 19 young SCJs for financial management in their entities. Also, the treasurer’s office, with the help of Aldo Ivaldi, did several on-site visits, assisting entities in refining their bookkeeping financial planning.
 
“We must continue to do this,” said Fr. Aquilino. “We must train confreres in economics so that they can be prepared not only to run major institutions, but to be able to operate a parish in an appropriate financial manner.”
 

Self-sufficiency needs to be a goal for all entities. While noting
 that this may take many years in some areas, steps can be made along the way to work toward this goal. “There are many ways to create income: building rental, farms,” he said. But he also said that there needs to be good management of such endeavors for them to succeed. Members of the community are encouraged to use professional assistance, such as accountants and financial managers. “But you must know enough to be able to have responsibility for these areas, to be able to work with these experts.”

 
Most important is something that Fr. Aquilino said that all confreres can do: “Live simply. Live a sober, responsible lifestyle. Many of our confreres do this, they make me proud. I carry their witness in my heart.”
 
DSC 0088In regards to sharing and solidarity Fr. Aquilino said that he was happy to report that over 55 million euro had been circulated through the General Aid Fund (FAG) in the past six years. The majority of entities now give toward the fund.
 
The afternoon closed with a presentation by the committee of financial experts. It was their task to review the bookkeeping and other financial concerns of the treasurer’s office and the congregation as a whole.
 
Dr. José María Gutiérrez, a member of the expert committee, said that the committee’s work was easier this year than at the past chapter. Financial reports throughout the congregation are much more standardized. However, more needs to be done. He echoed Fr. Aquilino’s call for continued financial training of confreres.
 
But his strongest suggestion to the congregation? Planning! There must be more short and long-term financial planning. “You need to PLAN for your future!” he stressed. “You can’t make decisions without viable plans to implement them, and that includes finances.”
 
As for the congregation’s financial picture, the Dehonians are not the wealthiest congregation but not the poorest either. “It is a good, stable financial picture,” said Dr. Gutiérrez. “But you need to plan and be flexible to allow it to continue to be so.”