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1AG - The election process begins (May 22)

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One of the primary tasks of the General Chapter is to elect the congregation’s general administration for the next six years. Fr. José Ornelas Carvalho completes his second six-year term during this chapter.
“We must enter into this process with a free and open heart,” said Fr. Ornelas. “This is a democratic process, but God is also a part of that process. We must listen to the Spirit. Jesus told us that we must read the signs of the times. We must reflect on the reality that we have at this moment in time. Listen to the voices of others; listen for the Spirit. Be free of preconceptions and be open to possibilities.”
However, before the chapter could begin that democratic process it
 had to decide how many councilors it would be electing. Unlike most religious congregations, where the size of the general council is set by its constitutions, it is the SCJs’ chapter that decides how large the council will be.

VDH on adminBefore capitulars would break into continental groups to discuss the size of the council, as well as guidelines for its function, Fr. John van den Hengel gave a presentation on the structure of the General Curia. He noted some of the challenges of the current administration, as well as suggestions for the one to consider.
As has been mentioned previously, the current council has encouraged movement toward administrative structures on the continental level. Throughout the congregation, continental collaboration has increased in vocations and formation, as well as shared ministries.
Capitulars need to reflect on their vision for the General Council. Should the members be chosen by continent, primarily serving as a liaison to the continent that they represent? Or, should their focus be on certain sectors, such as spirituality, formation and social justice?
DSC 0343In particular, Fr. John asked capitulars to reflect on the role of the vicar general. During the past term the vicar had the primary responsibility of coordinating the work of the General Curia in collaboration with the Secretary General. He set the agenda and chaired the council meetings. The original plan of the council called for the vicar to be present in Rome more so than the other councilors.
Of course, with the election of Fr. Claudio Dalla Zuanna (the original vicar) as archbishop of Beira, things changed. Fr. John assumed the vicar’s role, but still had his duties with various sectors and continents. He encourages the next administration to consider having a vicar more in line with what the past council envisioned. Freed from direct responsibilities to continents and sectors he could better direct the work of the General Curia and its collaborators, including offices and/or commissions on the general level for areas such as spirituality, formation, education, finances, communications and missions.
Talking about the General Curia in general Fr. John said that it is vital that the members of the administration to always keep in mind that they are religious first.  “We must live what we profess,” he said. “This administration put an emphasis on living in community and when we were in Rome we spent time together in prayer and fraternity.”
Before closing, Fr. John briefly commented on the issue of language. In 1997, English was chosen as a common language of communication for the congregation. There has been an effort to offer information from the general level in both Italian and English. But language continues to be a challenge. Those to be considered for general administration should have a capacity for language.


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Qualities needed?
The capitulars met in small groups to discuss the primary
 qualities needed by an individual to serve in the next administration. Reporting in plenary, similar themes were quickly heard: the ability to work as a member of a team, a good listener, a strong desire to work for the common good, an openness to change and a capacity to look toward the future. Knowing that the task of administration is demanding, the man should be physically and mentally healthy.

But most of all, a potential councilor or general superior must be well-grounded in Dehonian spirituality and values; he must have a love for the congregation.
Before the afternoon session concluded the capitulars took a straw vote (sondaggio) to bring names forward for both superior general and general council. The voting process will begin on Monday, May 25.


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