The Congregation of Holy Cross officially opened its 2022 General Chapter on Thursday, June 23, at the Villa Aurelia in Rome. The Chapter’s theme, inspired by the Prophet Joel, is: The Dream Has Its Time: A Journey Together in Hope.
Fr. Robert Epping, C.S.C., Superior General presided and preached at the opening Mass. The Capitulants gathered outside the chapel for the opening prayer before processing in while singing the Veni Creator Spiritus, invoking the presence and guidance of the Holy Spirit.
After Mass the Capitulants gathered in the conference hall for the formal opening of the Chapter. Fr. Epping, C.S.C., delivered the “State of the Congregation Address” which was followed by a question and answer session. He urged the Capitulants and the whole Congregation to rise to a new day and bring the founder’s “dream” or charism to impact the contemporary world.
Following the question and answer time, the Chapter met in one plenary session dedicated to setting up its work for the coming two-plus weeks. The Chapter has divided itself into five working committees: Governance; Consecrated Life, Heritage, and Charism; Vocations and Formation; Mission and Ministries; and Stewardship The Chapter is set to close on July 8.
Although Thursday was the official opening of the General Chapter, the Capitulants had gathered on Monday, June 20, to participate in three days of prayer and reflection in preparation for the Chapter.
The first day was highlighted by Cardinal João Braz de Aviz., the Prefect of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life. He reminded the Capitulants how the Blessed Basile Moreau had “a dream” understood as the charism. The Cardinal noted that the founder and the early members lived out the “dream” according to the historical circumstances of their time. He urged the contemporary members of Holy Cross to “cultivate” the “dream” and to live it according to the present historical circumstances to embrace Pope Francis’s vision of the Church with an emphasis on fraternity, communion, dialogue, diversity, and synodality.
Following a question and answer session, Cardinal João presided and preached at the Mass for the Chapter community.
The second day of prayer and reflection included a panel of six young Holy Cross religious speaking of their experiences in the Congregation, ranging from what attracted them to Holy Cross, what they appreciate about Holy Cross, to what hopes they have for the General Chapter and the future. The panelists were: Br. James Henke, C.S.C. (United States), Fr. Luc-Frank Pierre, C.S.C. (Haiti), Fr. Joseph Owori, C.S.C. (East Africa), Br. Gomes Chandon, C.S.C. (Bangladesh), Br. Morris Achana, C.S.C. (East Africa), and Fr. Drew Clary, C.S.C. (United States).
On the same day, the Capitualants were thankful to receive the Superior General of the Jesuits, Fr. Arturo Sosa, SJ. He focused his talk on “discerning the future of religious life.” He reminded Capitulants that the call to religious life is “not about what we do” but rather it is “about who we are.” Consecrated men and women are foremost called to a relationship with Jesus. Fr. Sosa further noted that the future of religious life will partly be based on embracing “multiculturality.” He said that through multiculturality, religious orders acknowledge, welcome, embrace, and honor what is true and good in all cultures of the world.
The last day of prayer and reflection leading up to the Chapter featured a conference given by Sr. Roxanne Schares, S.S.N.D., the Superior General of the School Sisters of Notre Dame. Sr. Roxanne who was born in the United States has extensive ministerial experience both in the United States and in East Africa. She invited the Congregation to open itself to “deep listening.” In a religious congregation, she noted, such “listening” needs to be done in communion, in dialogue, and in prayer with others. She further encouraged the Capitulants to find ways of “incarnating the charism of the Congregation” and live it out in the contemporary context. She particularly focused on how the 21st century is crying out for a “prophetic voice,” and how we as religious can speak out against what is wrong and unjust in society.
As with the other days, there was time for common prayer, personal reflection, and small group discussion. There was also time dedicated to Eucharistic Adoration, which was a special devotion of Blessed Basile Moreau.
According to the Congregation's Constitutions, "The highest authority in the Congregation is vested in the General Chapter, which must discern and decide the largest issues of the common good and regulate relations between the societies and among the provinces. ... The General Chapter meets ordinarily every six years. It analyzes the state of our common life and mission, promotes and safeguards the heritage of the congregation, reviews and amends the statutes, issues decrees, recommendations, and declarations, elects the Superior General and the General Assistants, and erects, divides, or suppresses provinces" (99, 100).