Interior Freedom

Today was the final discernment day where the Brothers spent the day in prayerful reflection, seeking to know where the Spirit was leading them in choosing to opt for the Indian or Zambian cluster.  The morning prayer was based on the reflection by John O’Donohue For a New Beginning which goes like this:

 

For a New Beginning

 

In out-of- the- way places of the heart,

Where your thoughts never think to wander,

This beginning has been quietly forming,

Waiting until you were ready to emerge.

 

For a long time it has watched your desire,

Feeling the emptiness growing inside you,

Noticing how you willed yourself on,

Still unable to leave what you had outgrown.

 

It watched you play with the seduction of safety

And the grey promises that sameness whispered,

Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent,

Wondered would you always live like this.

 

Then the delight, when your courage kindled,
and out you stepped onto new ground,

Your eyes young again with energy and dream,

A path of plenitude opening before you.

 

Though your destination is not yet clear

You can trust the promise of this opening;

Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning

That is at one with your life’s desire.

 

Awaken your spirit to adventure;

Hold nothing back, learn to find ease in risk;

Soon you will be home in a new rhythm

For your soul senses the world that awaits you.

 

The main focus of the discernment was on ‘Spiritual Indifference’ and each Brother was given a page on this concept together with other suggestions for their day of recollection.

The Locations of the new communities

PIC: Ruvan today shared the story of how the locations for the new communities were chosen.

The morning prayer honoured Roshan Kerketta whose birthday falls on this day. Following morning prayer, Ruvan Rebello gave a very good presentation of the four phases that were employed in eventually choosing the sites at Patharlynden, Umtyrkhang (mission communities) and Nongpoh (Hub community). The phases were:

1. Identification of the State/s in which the cluster will be established
2. Identification of a grouping of Districts within the chosen State/s in which the cluster will be established
3. Identification of the sites for the five communities
4. Identify and acquire 5 community houses (rent or build)

What was impressive in the whole process was the engagement of the local people in the areas when the communities are to be situated. It was also notable the level of consultation that took place with all the stakeholders. The mountain of documentation attested to the level of detailed planning that went into this process. This was truly an exercise in community engagement.

Governance of the new communities

PIC: Fr. Kevin Ward leading the morning mass. 

The morning began with the celebration of the Eucharist by former Brother Kevin Ward who had been invited by the Brothers to celebrate the Eucharist.  This was a moving moment for Kevin as he met the Brothers in a liturgical setting for the first time.

The morning’s work dealt with the governance of the new cluster, outlining the roles and responsibilities of each of the participants involved in Journeying Together:  the PLT, the TST, the Hub community, and the Board of Management.  This offered the Brothers the opportunity to discuss the roles of each of the participants.  The session was facilitated by Sr Aurea Dias and presented by Sunil Britto with the assistance of David Gibson and Gussy Jairaj.

Then the next session dealt with the MOU that had been drawn up between the host Province (India) and the Provinces or Districts that would send Brothers to the cluster.  Following the presentation of the MOU, there followed a lively discussion on various elements of the agreement between the two parties.

Overall, this was a valuable morning’s work, and the recommendation from the Brothers was that this presentation could have been presented earlier in the OP so as to inform the Brothers what they were committing to.

 

 

Power, leadership and community living

PIC: Steve Rocha and Social Justice Coordinators from the schools of the Province visited us.

The morning prayer was a rich compilation of material on leadership which began the second day on the theme of Leadership.  Then David opened the day’s workshop, sharing the qualities of leadership and invited the Brothers to reflect on which of the qualities they already possessed, and which ones they are challenged to develop.  Following the session on the qualities, David introduced the idea of power and leadership, identifying three types of power:  coercive, utility and legitimate power.  The interaction between the Brothers was lively and enriching, pointing to the challenge for the future leaders of the Hub and mission communities.

The final session dealt with the growth plan for leaders where the Brothers were encouraged to develop the principles of total quality:

  • Personal and Professional Development
  • Interpersonal Relations
  • Managerial Effectiveness
  • Organisational Productivity


Overall, the Brothers were challenged to assume the role of leadership whether they are a designated, an effective or a psychological leader.  Each of these leaders plays an important part in the life of a community.

Leadership and Journeying Together

 

The week began with a prayer on the theme of ‘leadership’ to open the two-day workshop on the same theme:  Leadership.  David Gibson invited the Brothers to identify the various roles of leadership and to discriminate between the role of the leader to achieve specific goals, and to animate a team to achieve these goals.  He based the first day’s workshop on the writings of George Kohlrieser whose book Care to Dare highlights the dual role of the leader, viz. to appreciate and support those he works with, and to maintain a vision of where the group needs to go.  In other words, David highlighted the importance of keeping an eye on the group task and the group process.

Kohlrieser identifies four types of leaders:  the courageous leader, the control freak, the pleaser and the frightened leader.  During the day, the Brothers explored these types of leaders, and discussed the way the followers respond to each type.

David encouraged the Brothers to identify how they practiced leadership during the Orientation Programme, and to find specific examples of when they found themselves in each of the quadrants.  He emphasized the importance to being in Adult when faced with each of the leadership styles instead to reacting to each style from a Child ego state. 

Journeying with the Vows

 

Last night, the movie Entertaining Angels gave some of us a glimpse into the life of Dorothy Day. This morning, our prayer centred on (today’s Gospel) the call of Matthew, and Jesus in turn joining him in that rather liminal space of ‘eating with tax collectors and sinners’. Both prepared us for our final day on refounding religious life. We focused on the essential elements of religious life, with Xavier, and re-visioning the vows, with Diarmuid.

Xavier listed twenty-five essential elements of religious life, which our new communities will reflect, in whatever form they take. It met the question, often put to us, of ‘How are we different from social works or lay volunteers?’ He chose the Desert era of religious life (300 – 600 CE), one of the earliest phases, to illustrate how these fundamental values keep re-emerging. These early hermits and communities offered a strong critique of their contemporary Church and society, and an openness to finding God in more natural surroundings.

Diarmuid outlined a rich summary of our vows as Mutual Sustainability, Mutual Collaboration and Relatedness, stressing that they were charged with deep significance for our global contemporaries, in fact, ‘good news’ for them. He took us through the shift that’s underway in our living of each vow, and then the challenges for our communities today to develop the ‘companionship of empowerment’ they embody. Both Xavier and Diarmuid use concrete examples from their own experiences as religious to illustrate how they see the Spirit moving us today.

We concluded this module with a final session with Diarmuid. We had an extended discussion, touching on each vow he had proposed, and many other issues. It clarified our options and encouraged us in the difficult job of refounding.

That night, at our weekly Social, we welcomed Steve Rocha and Damien Price, who had spent the week workshopping teachers in social justice, down in the Juvenate building, as well as Francis Hall, just back from meetings in Rome. It was great to hear their news and pick up on the energy at work in the wider Edmund Rice Network.

 

The Prophetic Alternative

 

We continued our exploration, with Xavier Manavath, of how religious orders are formed, flourish, stabilise and die (or are revitalised). The history of Christianity furnishes us with cycles of approximately 300 years, before a crisis sets in and new forms emerge. Each order, too, follows a similar cycle, with our times witnessing perhaps the most dramatic decrease in membership (27% globally, since 1960). Xavier is careful to underline the three dimensions of religious life that persist through this turmoil – our consecration (relationship with God), our mission (relations with the wider world, including the whole Earth) and our communion (relations with the wider Church).

Diarmuid O’Murchu, skyping us from his home in Ireland, led us into the role of prophecy, relying heavily on Walter Brueggemann’s scholarship and literary skill. He warned about calling oneself ‘prophetic’, but was clear prophecy involved ‘holding together criticism and energising’ of the dominant cultures. He stressed how prophets articulate alternative futures, keep alive the ministry of imagination, empower others to engage in history, and keep hope alive in the face of the numbness of the dominant culture. He then offered us the charisms of religious orders (stressing that charism, in the Second Testament, is more often a group process than an individual one) as embodying the work of prophecy.

Xavier ended the day with a set of conclusions we can draw from the cycles in religious life we are moving through. These include the importance of the ‘double movement’ in all forms of consecrated life, which we have often called contemplative and active movements, and the utter radicality of consecrated life, of which the vows are an expression. The questions we put to both speakers suggested that these inputs will shape our own discernment and communities in the months to come.

CREATIVE FIDELITY IN RELIGIOUS LIFE

PIC: Fr. Xavier Manavath, the co-presenter with Diarmuid O’Murchu

Today we continued, with Xavier Manavath and Diarmuid O’Murchu, to prepare ourselves for the new vision of religious life which is emerging – keenly aware it is only six months away for us! Both men have congratulated the Christian Brothers on taking this step towards refounding our congregation. The letter from the Oceania Leadership Team, which arrived today, about recent decisions in Rome, added to this sense of ‘creative fidelity’ at work amongst us all.

Xavier, yesterday and today, ran through a fairly staggering list of ‘what’s going wrong’ with religious life today. Whether we’re just out of novitiate (as seven of us are) or various shades of jubilarians (as a few of us are), this is a sobering wake-up call. True to his three-dimensional framework (past, present and future), he then led us in reflection on the last two thousand years of religious life and charisms at work. We could see what issues, local, global and within the Church, provoked each crisis that the Holy Spirit led us through. It’s encouraging those how certain Gospel values keep resurfacing, as the various forms of religious life come and go – or evolve.

Diarmuid, true to his own scholarship, plunged us into ‘liminality’ (or ‘marginality’ as Sandra Schneiders calls it). Diarmuid stressed that this is a phenomenon found in all cultures throughout human history, and so serves as a natural basis for what we know as religious life, in Christian contexts. He follows the anthropologist, Victor Turner, in seeing religious as ‘the primary carriers of liminality’ for the human race. But he’s quick to point out that many other groups take up this role when religious fail! Greenpeace, Doctors Without Borders (notably during the ebola crisis), and Basic Christian Communities were among the examples he gave.

Diarmuid himself claims he has taken three years to understand liminality at the heart level. For our reflection, he proposes we see it as a spiritual process whereby every human group asks some of its members to live more intensely the deepest values it holds. He notes it is not a private, individual quest, but a call from the human community. Do we find ourselves here?

Refounding Religious Life

PIC: Diarmuid O’Murchu presenting via skype.

For four days this week we are tackling the big questions of how we are to live the new vision of religious life that many of our earlier presentations raised for us in very challenging ways. We have two experts to guide us – Frs Xavier Manavath CMF and Diarmuid O’Murchu MSC. The trick is getting them into the same room! For, while Xavier has flown from Bangalore (where he runs the only institute in India dedicated to the study of religious life) to be with us in Shillong, Diarmuid is still in Ireland. This means we are having Diarmuid skyped into the lecture room every day, for an hour and half, and Xavier running the other two sessions each day. It’s good we have lots of technophiles in the group!

The two presenters are complementing each other well. Xavier spent today outlining what he (and Vita Consecrata) call ‘creative fidelity’ in refounding religious life. This requires a three-dimensional approach – learning from the past, listening to the present age, and imagining a future based on these. He is particularly aware of how easily religious become ‘entrenched’ in their own world, and fail to learn from such rich sources surrounding them.

Diarmuid, on the other hand, took us to Jesus and the mysterious process he is so committed to. We used to call this ‘the reign of God’, but Diarmuid is challenging us to think of it as ‘the companionship of empowerment’. He admits it’s a clumsy term, but can we find a better one? Our job as religious, he contends, is to be co-disciples of Jesus in serving and earthing this new reality. He gave us a quick overview of how subversive Jesus was in his parables about this companionship. They subvert the Greek traditions of the rational person and propose a transpersonal world of relationships.

Outreach Day

PIC: Arvind conversing with the elderly folk in Mercy Home

With the school holidays, at least three of the places in the local community we like to visit on our Outreach Day were not available, but we improvised and moved out anyway. Some visited on the previous Sunday (July 2), as the Missionaries of Charity run a programme for street kids on Sunday, and those of us who want to talk with the beggars find more of them on the weekends – the police are less likely to ‘move them on’.

Some of visited Mercy Home, a care centre for the elderly, and some others visited the Juvenile Remand centre, just down the road. Others made an outreach into the local forests for a clean-up, or extended extra care to one of our own Brothers who was not well.

We re-gathered in the afternoon, and shared our experiences, using some thoughtful reflection questions prepared by Sr Aurea. Today was the beginning of our new communities, and our sharing was in community groups. We also had time to evaluate and give feedback on the week of Group Therapy (last week).