Reflections on the Intercapitular Assembly of the Brothers of the Christian Schools
March 4-18, 2018
Compiled by Brother Thomas Casey
in consultation with Brothers Dennis Lee and Richard Galvin
Rome, Italy – Being welcomed to the Intercapitular Assembly as “the principal Brothers” of the Institute by the Superior General was startling and humbling. When Bob Schieler addressed us with that phrase our link to the membership of the first General Chapter in 1694 and to the Parmenie letter of 1714 came alive. The newly renovated Chapter Room quickly became sacred space as the tradition built over more than three and a third centuries became real. The photos of all who led our Institute as the Lasallian movement progressed through time surrounded us as we gathered.
The international character of our Institute was very much in evidence at the Assembly. Close to six-dozen Brothers, Visitors, Auxiliary Visitors, and Delegates from each of the 30 Districts and 3 Delegations that are involved with Lasallian ministries in 79 countries were in attendance. Together they work with 3,700 Brothers and oversee educational services that transform the lives of a million young people around the globe. Such universality makes clear the challenges involved with a worldwide organization whose members possess divergent mindsets conditioned by current and historical context. Our shared Lasallian heritage and its rootedness in the Gospel brought us together in a witness to universal brotherhood. Our gathering was truly amazing and energizing.
Presentations, reading time, opportunities for communal prayer, discussions in small groups by District, Region, language, were augmented by interventions in the full assembly as some of the structured modalities that encouraged dialog. It got a bit overwhelming at times but the expression of Christian fraternity prevailed throughout!
The participants had been charged with assessing the progress towards achieving some of the mandates of the last General Chapter at this midpoint in the journey to the next one in May 2021.
Each Secretariat and office resident at our Generalate made some type of presentation. Several items in particular captured our attention. They included the work of the Secretariat for Solidarity and Development which, while the Assembly was in session, celebrated the opening of a Lasallian secondary school in Rumbek, South Sudan. (This newest ministry in the Institute bumped DENA’s own Saint John Paul II Academy from that distinction!) That Lasallian presence in South Sudan is one of the responses to the “Beyond the Borders” initiative presented to each Region. The International Strategy Committee is analyzing the data gathered about the Institute and preparing proposals in support of sustainability especially with regard to governance and finance. Attention to the community life on the level of the local Lasallian community is also focal point across the Institute. So too, is a desire to meet disaffiliated young Catholics where they are and present to them the joy of the Gospel.
In fulfillment of the propositions of the 45th General Chapter there is work being done on a document about Lasallian Identity and another regarding Lasallian Pedagogy. Both texts are still in need of refinement and numerous suggestions were offered. Since the gathering was not a deliberative body contentious interchanges did not occur!
There is an impetus to enhance efforts to promote vocations to the consecrated life of a Brother of the Christian Schools. Attentive to the signs of the times, however, the Guide for Formation (currently in development) incorporates a desire to engage all Lasallians in learning about and experiencing the story, pedagogy, and spirituality surrounding John Baptist de La Salle and our history. The metaphor of a pilgrimage is used to accentuate the intentional and focused journey which those associated for the Lasallian mission are invited to engage in.
We found our experience encouraging. It was a blessing to have met confreres who share our passion for our life as Brothers of the Christian Schools. Each of us had an enriching experience and we realize it will take a while to grasp all that has come our way during our fortnight in Rome. We are confident, however, that the lessons we learned will impact the implementation of DENA’s Strategic Plan.
Certainly we heard echoes of our Strategic Plan in the Institute-wide emphases on Brothers Vocations, Association, Service of the Poor, and Evangelization. Indeed, we in DENA are in sync with the dynamic progress of the Lasallian movement in today’s world!