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02/10/2014

EUF – Chapter held at congregation's oldest community

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Delegates to the Franco-European Chapter met in Clairefontaine, Belgium


From September 28 to October 3 the Euro- Francophone Province was in Chapter. With all the communities of the province (except Cinquefontaines) represented, there were 19 members with voting rights. The EUF Province is one of the most international of the congregation’s provinces. Of its 60 members, 26 are from France, 13 from Luxembourg, nine from Poland, seven from Belgium, four of Vietnamese background, one from Spain, one from Portugal, and one from Cameroon. Of the original provinces which now constitute EUF (France and Luxembourg-Wallonia) there remain 46 members with an average age of 77. Of these 12 are younger than 70. However, with 14 younger members from other entities living and working in the province, it is still very active in a good number of places.

P1050457 2The main discussion points of the chapter came from the presentation of the State of the Province by the provincial superior,  Fr. Jean-Jacques Flammang, and the bursar, Fr. Nico Turmes. One of the more interesting items on the agenda was the establishment of a commission “In the footsteps of Fr. Dehon”. France, as the first son of the Congregation, takes seriously its mission to keep alive the heritage of Fr. Dehon.

The commission “In the footsteps of Fr. Dehon” would allow not only the EUF Province, but also the Congregation, to know the founder in the places where Léon Dehon was born and where he began his first ministry and founded the congregation in 1877. Fr. Bernard Masséra put together a travelogue for those interested in exploring the area around La Capelle and Saint-Quentin. It gives information and direction to the house of the Dehon family, and of all the places around Saint-Quentin that are connected with the founder. Also, the Center of Documentation and Information on the life and the personality of Fr. Dehon and the congregation with its “Bibliothèque dehonienne” online, probably to be based in Clairefontaine, is another important new source of information for visitors and pilgrims.

Following in the footsteps of Léon Dehon is also what a number of EUF members have done as worker priests.  Several EUF members in France have spent most of their religious and priestly life in factories with workers. Worker-priests were very popular in France in the 1950s and 60s. Now most worker priests in the congregation are retired but the desire to continue this apostolate remains. Younger members of the province are encouraged to do a practicum in this ministry. What was so integral to the life and work of Léon Dehon may find a new  outlet today.

P1050486The aging of the province’s members (71.35) raised not only the perennial question of Europe about vocations and work among youth, but even more so the care of the older members. The province has a stake in a retirement home in Mougins at which several members reside with other elderly people. The province also welcomes older members to retire in existing communities.

A significant impact on the province in the past five years is the number of Vietnamese students who have come to do their initial formation and studies in EUF. With the establishment of the District of Vietnam, the practice of sending candidates to France has ended. However, there are four Vietnamese members today and three Vietnamese candidates: a great enrichment for the province.

P1050468 2During the Chapter Fr. John van den Hengel, vicar general of the congregation, represented the general administration and made a presentation on the theme of the next general chapter. Fr. José Agostinho of the Portuguese Province, who works as a formator in the EUF Province but is also responsible for the solidarity among the provinces in the congregation, gave a presentation of his work. It became obvious that his expertise was very much welcomed by the participants in thinking through their considerable funding of projects in other entities.

The chapter was held in Clairefontaine, the oldest house of the congregation, on the border between Belgium and Luxembourg. The house goes back to the time of Père Prévot when the first project of internationality at the novitiate in Sittard, the Netherlands, needed re-thinking. The nationalisms at the time were just too great. Now a good hundred years later the house – with many additions and changes – still is a place of reflection and meditation, and houses a community that serves Belgium and Luxembourg, even France. It is a wonderful place to come together, reflect and decide the next six years of the EUF Province.


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The chapter delegates and substitutes: Theo Klein, and Antonio Tejado with the substitutes Guena and Jean Le, together with the Provincial Superior, Jean-Jacques Flammang.