"INTERCULTURALISM WITHIN THE TRINITARIAN BROTHERHOOD: GIFT AND COMMITMENT"

FINAL DOCUMENT OF THE GENERAL CHAPTER 2013

We, the brothers of the Order of the Holy Trinity and Captives, gathered for the General Chapter during this Jubilee Year, have sought the renewal of our vocation through the Spirit which animated our Fathers Saint John de Matha and Saint John Baptist of the Conception. Sensing our communion with the whole Church and accepting the call of the Lord Jesus, urges us to a new evangelization in this Year of Faith. We feel especially called to welcome the diverse cultures of our Order as a challenge and opportunity to build our fraternal life under the sign of communion. "May they all be one so that the world may believe" (John 17:21): Jesus' prayer to the Father awakens within us the dynamism of the Holy Spirit who impels us to evangelize toward communion; a communion that encourages us to open ourselves to a mission that embraces the poor and captives and to share our life together in the "House of the Holy Trinity." The testimony of unity in diversity is a great opportunity for the evangelization of the globalized world, born from the Trinitarian mystery of God.

During this chapter we celebrated, together, the Eucharist, which is the source and summit of our way of life. We visited the tombs of our fathers, in Cordoba and Salamanca, reviving their memory within us and reaffirming our affection towards them, asking the Lord to make us worthy of being called their sons. We have dialogued with charity and in freedom, searching through our reflections for the good of the Order as a whole as well as for each of our communities and our religious, to encourage all to build and encourage a life that seeks the glory of the Holy Trinity and the redemption of captives, through our particular vocation in the Church.

Therefore, looking to join the great ideals of our vocation with the reality of our daily lives within the contexts in which we exist, while respecting the traditional autonomy of our communities and remaining open to the desire for projects which motivate and guide the entire Order, with humility and courage, we have arrived at the following conclusions and decisions, having taken into account the contributions of the brothers, dispersed to the four corners of the earth, we form one family, which bears to the world the name of the Holy Trinity and that seeks to collaborate with Christ in the redemption of captives.

1. Representation and government.

The Chapter examined the reality of our Order, concerned that all brothers be adequately represented in the government, so that no culture suffers discrimination. After a careful consideration of issues, there was a fundamental agreement that the most important element is that, above all else, we are all Trinitarians. There is government attention towards different cultures, and, if at some point it has been inadequate, it has not caused great distress. Rather, it has taught us to be open to a broader representation that embraces cultural diversity, which is, in and of itself, a gift from God.

The Chapter asks that, if possible, when electing those who exercise the ministry of government and animation, we must keep in mind the desire for cultural representation, the suitability of the religious and the availability of personnel from jurisdictions. One must avoid excesses that arise from erroneous speech, to give an absolute value to their own culture, such as cultural fragmentation or apportioning blame in the present to the errors that caused wounds in the past.

Mutual understanding, coexistence and affection, are the things that we seek. We must be very careful in our choice of words, leaving aside that which accentuates differences. In this respect, it is considered good to abandon the practice of referring to the jurisdictions using the names of nations, and instead to recover the ancient tradition of using the titles of jurisdictions which are mysteries of the Faith or names of saints.

We must be particularly attentive to the members of the new jurisdictions and communities so that these religious feel welcomed and appreciated by the entire Order. Inter-culturalism requires us to ensure that no one feels like a stranger in our communities. Thus, we must all embrace this value. We must travel further along the road that leads to mutual trust and respect, and also search for a set of initiatives and support measures that are directed towards mission and charism rather than being based solely on geographic data.

Finally, the General Chapter calls us to promote as reasonably possible the representation of all cultures in the chapters. Without disregard to other important criteria such as common and proper law, attention can be given to this aspect through particular statutes so as to provide such representation.

2. Participation in decision making.

In recent times, there seems to be a widespread feeling amongst the religious concerning the need for a plan which would guide all Trinitarians towards common objectives. The capitulars confirmed this aspiration. Certainly our common identity is expressed appropriately and we accept it by virtue of our profession. Similarly it is clear that each province and vicariate has its legitimate options, according to the concrete reality in which it exists. Rather, it comes to choices and actions that can unite us on specific objectives, creating communion in the interaction of our Order. The capitulars identified formation and mission as fields in which to address specific issues in common.

With respect to formation, it is agreed that the creation of the "Year of Preparation for Solemn Profession" (APPS) has been a success as a formation project of the entire Order, from which everyone is benefiting. This suggests that it is possible to combine efforts in other formative experiences, especially by having common novitiates for various jurisdictions, through permanent formation experiences, in the care of our elderly brothers and in creating means of communication that go beyond the scope of local. This also calls to mind the universal value of the Ratio Institutionis et Studiorum. There is an obligation to apply it to formation in diverse contexts, which thus requires that attention be given to the development of the programs of formation of the various jurisdictions.

Regarding general commitments in mission, the primary discussion, about which there was a sense of agreement, was related to the presence of the Order in the Arab/Muslim world and about SIT (Trinitarian International Solidarity). Various voices pointed out the need for a disposition in favor of the missions on the part of personnel and also of local government structures, specific formation for the missions, sensitivity to persecuted Christians and interfaith dialogue, and the selection of suitable and capable personnel for the most significant missions; especially for the leadership of these missions.

Of great urgency: SIT should be assumed, once and for all, on a personal and communal level, as a mission uniting all Trinitarians around the world, as Blessed Pope John Paul II asked of us in the centenary year of our Rule and Reform (1998). The Extraordinary General Chapter which was celebrated on that occasion proposed, as one of the projects of the Order, the recovery of the practice of the Tertia Pars and the operation of the "Redemption Fund"; important points in the primitive Rule and of the Reform, whose value is reaffirmed in the present time. This General Chapter stresses these points as genuine, feasible and concrete projects that should involve the entire Order.

Likewise, the Chapter calls us to abandon attitudes and ways that are provincial, closed and self-centered, and thus be increasingly open to the Trinitarian Family and also to an inter-congregational culture in view of shared mission, and seeking to give a better quality to our way of life and work. It is important to note in this regard of the special relationship that has been established with the Mercedarians.

Prison ministry, which has given identity and visibility to the Order in many countries, is emerging as a privileged work that many of our religious and communities have assumed: this has been judged positively, resulting in a call to enhance this apostolic work. Therefore, the General Secretariat for the Apostolate has been asked to create a Commission for Prison Ministry in order to accompany, encourage and form those who perform this redemptive mission.

Attention is also to be given to the new forms of slavery, created by a world where inequality, commercial exploitation, economic injustice and human trafficking prey on many of our brothers and sisters who suffer poverty and slavery, so as to renew our commitment to them. "Whoever loses the poor, is lost," is a stern warning that St. John Baptist of the Conception gives to each and every Trinitarian. This is true in each cultural context and in every age. This Chapter has heard, and it seeks and asks that our mission always be rooted in our founding charism.

Chapters, assemblies, community and inter-community meetings, which are meetings between the Brothers, as a general rule take place and are open to participation by all. However, at times they must be improved in quality, participation, regularity and quantity. We reflected explicitly upon the question of the communities that are geographically distant from other communities. We have come to the conclusion that distance requires appropriate strategies which promote communication, visits of major ministers and other leaders, as well as the sharing of information, taking into account the opportunities offered by new technology. Everyday life is fundamental, and must be built upon trust and mutual respect, which are the essential elements of a Trinitarian brotherhood.

3. The Organization of the Order in jurisdictions

Accepting the invitation of the General Chapter of 2007, and the intervention of the Minister General, who has canvassed the religious during the sexennium, several jurisdictions of the Order have reorganized themselves through merging or by transferring members to other jurisdictions. Thus, the Italian provinces have joined to create the Province of St. John de Matha. The General Vicariate of St. Joseph (Austria) has been suppressed and its religious have been integrated into the Province of St. John de Matha. The Delegation of St. John de Matha and St. Felix of Valois has been merged into the Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, and the community of South Korea has integrated into the Province of the Holy Spirit. Moreover, the Spanish provinces are considering the "path" to unification of the provinces. There are movements being made towards the restructuring of the jurisdictions in South America and there are initiatives being made between the two provinces in North America to determine where and how it is possible for them to become more collaborative. The Chapter has listened attentively to the different experiences, and the brothers have taken note of the progress made and difficulties experienced. This information can serve to illuminate similar paths in the future.

Generally, the need to consult on the base level was highlighted, in order to “purify” the collective and personal memory about past negative experiences, so as to avoid national or cultural prejudices, and to become more attuned to diversity. Those who have experienced these processes point to a number of essential aspects: preparing for unification; learning to work together; raising awareness so that all religious involved are required to actively participate in the process of decision making; addressing the need for the interaction of all involved; giving meaning to the need for unification and the joining of efforts in vocation ministry, formation, mission, and charismatic and institutional visibility. This calls for the accompaniment of the General Curia and the creation of bilateral commissions which are in similar processes. The collaboration of an outside facilitator is advised. Attention should be paid to difficulties such as the lack of familiarity amongst the religious (with special attention to those who are younger); the varying styles and options in different jurisdictions, and the diversity of language. Geographical proximity, it is found, is not the most important criteria in this regard.

This General Chapter, noting how much progress has been made in this direction, accepts the challenge to continue on this path and thus confirms it. The main question is the criteria. In this regard, it has been suggested that all efforts made to grow in communion should be directed towards the mission. This makes us take into account that unification requires the restructuring of works and communities.

Experience shows us that, to arrive at unity, it is necessary to maintain an enthusiasm for communion and for mission. New approaches are needed in the Order to arrive at a new way of living together. We are united, not by fear of decline or extinction, but by the desire to grow in communion and mission. There is need for a new "plan" in the Order, to design a new “master plan” that has as criteria the charism and mission, and, as a methodology, the sharing of goods (personal and material). All of us must aim in this direction in order to achieve it.

4. The Service of Ministers.

Welcoming the expectations expressed by the religious which were included in the Instrumentum Laboris, the General Chapter has focused its attention on two specific aspects of the service of animation and governance by our ministers: the pastoral visit and the formation of the major ministers.

Concerning the pastoral visit, we found that there are very varied experiences, from the most successful to others that are, frankly, deficient. The General Chapter confirms the decision of the Minister General to not allow the major ministers to exercise any position or office that prevents complete dedication to their pastoral ministry as required by the Order. It is requested that pastoral visits be made regularly and be of an appropriate length to provide for personal and communal dialogue. It is requested that there be a greater coordination between the major and local ministers. The major minister, for his part, should provide animation and share information. He should have knowledge of the different cultures of the religious who are visited. He should not strengthen weakness, but create confidence in the ability of the brothers in the performance of their responsibilities. The major minister should attend to the more objective aspects of the visit (especially those issues concerning the finances; if necessary, consulting the help of experts). Not only is there the possibility of the ordinary visit, but also of the extraordinary visit, when circumstances so warrant. It is necessary that the local ministers reiterate the visitor’s recommendations and verify compliance with them. The major ministers should have a special concern for those communities that are geographically distant from the others. Above all, the visit should be experienced as a time of celebration, of grace, and of conversion, in the light of the Word of God.

The formation of major ministers, it is noted, is necessary and benefits all. A program or course can be organized during the sexennium, or the Enlarged General Council meetings can be taken advantage of so as to include a session with the presence of experts in a particular area. Also, it may be possible to take advantage of opportunities presented by the Conference of Consecrated Life in each country. There is general agreement on the topic of legal issues, particularly those cases requiring specific interventions. Other topics may include: the reading and discerning the signs of the times in light of the charism of the Order; community animation; lifestyle; techniques for teamwork; spirituality; charismatic areas of our redemptive mission; psychology of interpersonal relationships; anthropology’ sociology, administration of human resources and finances; the documents of the Order in a postmodern context. The major Ministers should make every effort to participate actively in the programs that are scheduled by the local Conference of Consecrated Life. In addition, during the sexennium the Minister General and his Council should provide programs for the formation of the major ministers as expressed by the Chapter.

5. Inter-congregational Culture

One of the signs of the times for Consecrated Life is the increased collaboration among institutes and religious families, so as to establish a genuine inter-congregational culture. The communion between different congregations and mission is to the benefit of the Gospel message. Therefore, the General Chapter encourages the brothers of the Order to grow in this regard. We desire an active presence of our Order in the conferences of major superiors of religious institutes; in formation programs, especially for the young religious and formators; in vocation ministry, in diocesan and religious programs; conferences that deal with legal and administrative issues; and especially in the area of mission, in every work in which the coming together enables us to better serve the poor and the captives. A special desire of our inter-congregational openness is a desire to grow in our relationships with the Trinitarian Family and with the Order of Our Lady of Mercy (Mercedarians) and other organizations with which an affinity in charism and mission exists.

6. Communications Service

The Chapter has taken seriously the concern that exists within the Order and the Trinitarian Family regarding the communication of information. It has approved a "Plan of Institutional Communication within the Order." Although most details have been left to the discretion of the General Curia, the basic outline of the proposal presented in this Chapter has been approved. In this regard, the General Council shall implement the "Plan", entrusting it to professional management, which should work directly with the Secretary General and the network of correspondents. The finances necessary should be invested in this plan so as to ensure a quality and efficient general information service, consistent with the nature of our Order.

Since the Assembly of Avila (2011) showed an interest in this subject, the Minister General has been asked to pursue this topic within COPEFAT (the Permanent Council of the Trinitarian Family) so as to involve the Trinitarian Family in this general information service.

In this area, we are asked to invest in the future, forming young religious in the field of media and communications; to make use of social networks to communicate; to economize our resources; and benefit from the knowledge and the creativity of the brothers who have experience in the mass media, especially in the area of new technologies.

One topic that has received special attention is the services of translators in the Order, especially at the level of the General Curia. There is a certain discomfort that has manifested itself openly about necessary work, delicate and difficult, and at times voluminous, cumbersome and unrewarding. It was decided that the General Curia continue being responsible for the translation service of the documents of the Order. To perform this service, a team of translators should be created after consulting the Order and the Trinitarian Family. If a difficulty is encountered in any of the languages, professional translation services outside of the Order should be contacted, preferably religious, who are familiar with the terminology that is characteristic of a religious institute.

7. Houses of Formation to assist in growing in Communion

Arising from the common agreement that there are too many houses of formation, and that by concentrating our efforts will result in a better quality of formation, we have studied the possibility of creating common novitiates for various jurisdictions. Having listened to experiences in this regard, the following needs have arisen around this issue: particular attention must be given to cultural issues; the importance of harmony between major ministers, councils and secretariats; the coordination of postulancy programs, with a common criteria; that there be a formation community in the novitiate; the imperative need to have common projects and plans and attention to the consistency of formators. After a fruitful dialogue, it is seen that the time is ripe to erect novitiates for various jurisdictions so as to unite efforts and resources; this is a prerogative of the Minister General. That is why we are being asked, during the sexennium, to address the establishment of these novitiates, after careful study and discussion of the issue with the major ministers of the Order.

With respect to international student bodies, in general, experiences of this kind have been positive. Although it was considered premature for the General Chapter to give specific directions on this matter, it is advisable to look ahead in each jurisdiction and to move forward according to the reality in which we are living; investing in and uniting our efforts and resources in the formation of our students.

8. The Promotion and Selection of Vocations

The General Chapter confirmed the validity of the document, “Some Guidelines for discernment in the Vocation Ministry of the Order of the Holy Trinity”, which was approved by the General Congregation of 2012. The General Secretariat for Formation will endeavor to maintain its outreach to the religious, the provinces and vicariates so as to continue studying, assimilating and applying the document with the view that it is for the good of the Order, pointing more to quality than quantity, when welcoming vocations.

Youth and Vocation Ministry should be a priority in the life of the Order. The Chapter provides some important guidance in this regard: it is necessary to designate a host community in each jurisdiction or country where an authentic faith is lived, where fraternity and a charismatic mission strive to meet the youth of today and adapt pastoral plans to concrete reality, considering the postmodern paradigm. It is important to be aware of the motivations of those who seek to enter and of those who recruit. It is recommended that each Trinitarian community have a relationship with the vocational ministry of the local Church (diocesan and consecrated life). It is necessary to raise awareness and to work in vocation ministry in communion with the Trinitarian Family. Vocation Ministry is rooted in Christ, so prayer and penance are fundamental. Vocations must be nurtured (inviting people we encounter), supported (demonstrating that entering and living in community is not difficult!), formed and accompanied.

9. The Learning and Use of Languages

Indeed, the chapter considers that, on the issue of multiculturalism, the learning and use of languages is a crucial issue. We reaffirm the choice of Spanish and English as official languages of the Order, according to the conclusions of the chapter of Moramanga (2007). The Chapter asks that each jurisdiction create a specific plan for the learning of languages in initial formation and that it be presented to the General Secretariat for Formation for its information. Likewise, the Chapter insists that no effort be spared to open up our religious to the learning of several languages, in order to promote communication and openness to the Order's mission within multicultural contexts.

In order to learn languages there are very concrete experiences that one can have, such as living in the communities of our Order for onsite courses. We have heard of experiences and received concrete offers. The Chapter asks the General Secretariat for Formation to collect these offerings and to develop a program comprised of places, possible courses, prices and other practical information to serve as general guidelines for these programs of study. The contacts and agreements for these placements should be established between the major ministers.

10. Common Apostolic Experiences amongst Jurisdictions

This Chapter welcomes the possibility of apostolic works in which religious from various jurisdictions may work together. It aims not to create new things, but rather to take advantage of what already exists. This would be done with clear offers, a guarantee of programs and of support on the part of General Curia and/or the jurisdictions involved. This means a strong charismatic work that is open also to the Trinitarian Family with investment in preparation and with training from professionals. The General Secretariat for the Apostolate must point out - after a suitable dialogue with the major ministers – an opportunity for a charismatic work (of an enduring nature) to which our religious can be committed.

The project that has aroused significant interest is that of the presence of the Order in the Arab world, currently existing, and now secure. Thus, the Apostolic Vicar of Northern Arabia, Bishop Camillo Ballin, has sent a communication to this Chapter requesting that a stable commitment be made. The Chapter responded positively, entrusting this project to the Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

The General Curia will create a commission within the scope of the Secretariat for the Apostolate, to promote interfaith dialogue, with the objective of animating the Order about this issue (especially in houses of formation), and the creation and preparation of a group of religious who can be committed to this apostolic mission.

11. Stewardship of Goods and Personnel

In response to concerns about the growth in the sharing of goods within the Order, which have been expressed several times in recent years, especially in the two prior General Chapters, this General Chapter seeks to respond to the specific issues raised.

The “St. Michael of the Saints Fund” is recognized as a valid and concrete means to benefit those in formation by helping those less fortunate, especially when participating in the APPS program. It is requested that the Order receive information on income and expenses of the Fund, in accordance with its Statutes.

Regarding the House of Cerfroid, the General Chapter recalled that when it met 20 years ago for the General Congregation of 1993, it was solemnly declared that this house was a "common spiritual heritage, the birthplace and Motherhouse" of the Order and of the Trinitarian Family. At the same time, an expression of appreciation to the Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus was made for the efforts that have been made to assume responsibility for and to maintain the house. We have listened to the information provided, shared concerns and difficulties, and have proposed our ideas and brought forth our concerns about the future of this Trinitarian "shrine." The "Particular Statutes for Cerfroid" (cf. Appendix) prepared by and presented by the Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, were approved by the Chapter, which wished to highlight the affection of the Order for a place so unique for the Trinitarians of every time and place.

For some time there has been talk within the Order about the possibility of intra-provincial financial loans. The matter was openly discussed. This would help jurisdictions in financial need to avoid applying for bank loans and paying the corresponding interest. The Chapter expressed its support of this possibility. Jurisdictions are encouraged to grow in their sensitivity to the need for assistance. The Chapter insists that it is very important to reciprocate the trust between those providing and those receiving. Furthermore, it agrees that the General Curia supervise any agreements between provinces in this regard.

In any event, dealing with the economy and, in response to the request of some members of the Chapter, the Minister General has called for a greater transparency in the economic management of the Order, in accordance with what is required by the vow of poverty according to the sine proprio of our primitive rule, paying particular attention to certain abuses of personal money management, the materialistic spirit that haunts us and being aware of the needs and sufferings of the poor.

12. Sharing of personnel between jurisdictions

After having discussed the experiences of religious who were exchanged between different jurisdictions, the Chapter became aware of the reasons necessitating the creation of clear written agreements governing such exchanges. This is already required by n. 191 of the General Directory which outlines the legal principles. To assist the jurisdictions in developing such written agreements or contracts, the Chapter has instructed the General Council, consulting with experts in the field, to develop a "framework document" that will be of assistance for this purpose.

Moreover, the chapter raised several points that have great importance: close attention should be paid to the reception of those coming from another culture and one must have patience with the process of adaptation to the new reality. It is necessary to overcome the sense of provincialism and become open to sharing mission experiences. The agreements must expressly detail concrete and basic aspects such as finances, participation in the life of the new jurisdiction and the local community (sense of belonging and acceptance), and should outline rights and duties.

13. Other topics

a.) To establish COPEFAT (Permanent Council of the Trinitarian Family) in jurisdictions where it does not exist; to promote and enhance the work of reflection and programming of COPEFAT in the various jurisdictions where the Trinitarian Family is present in order to establish joint programs in youth ministry, the promotion of vocations, initial and ongoing formation, and also in shared ministry projects.

b.) On the basis of the criteria of evangelical and Trinitarian simplicity and out of a desire to be close to the lived reality the people, as well as considering the economic requirements involved in the conservation and maintenance of the current General Curia, a study is to be made during the next six years of possible alternatives.

c.) An international continuing education program for senior religious is to be created.
To develop this program, a commission should be created with the express purpose of creating content, outlining criteria, determining needs and expressing hopes for
such a program.

The brothers of the Chapter send cordial greetings to the Order and to the Trinitarian Family, and express the desire for a renewed enthusiasm for all Trinitarians in the following of Christ the Redeemer, following the example of our Holy Fathers John, Felix and John Baptist, with the impetus of the Martyrs of the Order (especially the Martyrs of Alcázar de San Juan, who will be beatified soon). Interpreting today's world requires us to have three "passions": a passion for the Holy Trinity; a passion for the poor, the captive and those persecuted for their faith in Christ, and a passion for community life. May the Lord our God, grant us the grace to be passionate about the building of his kingdom. Let us ask this through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin, our Mother of Good Remedy, and the glorious virgin martyr, St. Agnes.

On behalf of the Chapter, I greet you fraternally,

Brother Jose Narlaly, O.SS.T.
Minister General,

APPENDIX

SPECIAL STATUTES FOR CERFROID

Article 1.
Declaration of the General Congregation of 1993 (Acta Ordinis vol.. XII, 1993)
This General Congregation which has taken on a commemorative character of the 8th Centenary of the Inspiration of the Order, DECLARES the house of Cerfroid, a common spiritual patrimony, cradle and Mother House of the Order and of the Trinitarian Family, having as its principal objectives the formation, the spirituality and hospitality for the Order and the Trinitarian Family.

Article 2.
In terms of civil law, the property of Cerfroid is the possession of the "Province of France of the Order of the Most Holy Trinity." Canonically and financially, the property of Cerfroid belongs to the Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Article 3.
The General Council is responsible for the maintenance, the restoration and the use of the uninhabited historical patrimony and its financial organization in dialogue with the Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.

Article 4.
The General Council is the only authority to request financial support from the Provinces and/or the Trinitarian Family.

Article 5.
The Province of the Sacred Heart of Jesus, assisted by the General Council, will implement the decisions. The Province will act as a "project manager".

 
     
 
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