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1AG - Identifying priorities, remembering the deceased

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Participants at the General Chapter picked up on Friday where they left off on Thursday: identifying priorities, and thus themes of focus for the congregation in the years ahead.
Table 3The capitulars returned to their small groups. Joining them in their discussions were several invited guests of the chapter, including Silvia Bertozzi and Grace Escobia who serve on the Dehonian Family organizing committee.
In their first session chapter participants prioritized the themes identified yesterday: formation, spirituality and identity, organization of the general government, preferential option for the poor, community life, internationality and multiculturalism, a new evangelization, and mission.
“Spirituality and identity” repeatedly came up as a first priority, though some noted the need to not just focus inward, but outward to the world as well.
In the afternoon the capitulars were in a new set of small groups, mixed at random. They talked about what motivates them (and the congregation), where they find strength in living the Dehonian charism, and the steps needed to do so.
Most groups said that their motivation begins in scripture and the writings of the founder, as well as the Rule of Life. Strength is found in studying these sources of inspiration communally and individually. Based in a strong spirituality, Dehonians can be a source of welcome – to each other, and to the world –– based in and responding with mercy.
However, good intentions only go so far. It is vital that structures be put in place to keep the Dehonian spirituality alive and growing. Retreats, ongoing formation, Lectio Divina, Adoration, a commitment to the Eucharist, communitarian projects based in reconciliation, and even an international calendar that lists significant moments in the life of the congregation were identified as practical ways for SCJs to ensure that they continue individually and as a community to be based in the charism. Repeatedly, the need for scholars in Dehonian spirituality was stressed and the importance of the Dehon Study Center was cited. It has become not just a repository for works of the founder, but an active force in both initial and ongoing formation.


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Remembering those who came before us

The day ended with what has become a tradition at General Chapters: a liturgy to remember the deceased.

DSC 0498“It has become part of our General Chapters to remember those who have gone before us, who, through death, were joined with Christ,” said Fr. John van den Hengel, the main celebrant and homilist. “We remember the dead of the last six years, we join with them and ask the Lord of mercy and of love to embrace them and be their joy…
“These members have all been part of our life line, our story. Their lives built up part of our identity. They were and are part of our story. We tell our current story by retelling theirs, what they did, their dying in the midst of life, their sacrifices, their foibles and faults.”
Speaking of the slide show that would follow, Fr. John said that “You will probably, as I will, have these moments of recognition: ‘ah, yes, it is so good to be reminded of you again,’ ‘thank you for what you did,’ ‘sorry that I did not always recognize you for the gift you gave to the community,’ ‘thank you for the joy you brought,’  ‘you were a great grace to the church and to the community.’
“Allow our minds and our hearts to tell the story again, to feel it in our hearts, to shed a tear at the sadness of their loss … but always with the awareness and the faith of the power of their life in Christ.”

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