Heeding Pope Francis’ call to be a Church that goes out and walks with the people, the Council of the Congregation (CoC), a consultative body composed of the Superior General, General Assistants, and Provincial and District Superiors, met outside of Rome for the first time in over 20 years.
Hosted by the District of Chile-Perú and Fr. José Ahumada, C.S.C., Superior, the CoC met at the Casa de Espiritualidad San José de Cluny (St. Joseph of Cluny Retreat House) in Lima, Peru, from November 12-16. Holy Cross in Peru is celebrating its 60th anniversary, as the first missionaries arrived from the United States to Cartavio in September 1963.
Those who arrived early for the meeting were treated by Fr. José on November 11 to a tour of Downtown Lima to get to know a bit of the Peruvian culture. They toured the famous Larco Museum of pre-Colombian art, enjoyed a typical Peruvian meal on the coast, visited the Cathedral, and prayed at the tombs of four Peruvian saints: St. Toribio, St. Juan Macias, St. Rose of Lima, and St. Martin de Porres.
The day ended with a beautiful cultural program at El Señor de la Esperanza Parish (Our Lord of Hope Parish) organized by Fr. Aníbal Niño, C.S.C., Pastor, in which groups from the parish and the Pastoral Institute of the Family (INFAM) presented local dances, songs, and music.
On Sunday, the CoC members attended Mass at Oscar Romero and Cristo Vencedor Chapels within Our Lord of Hope Parish before journeying to the Holy Cross Novitiate in Huaycán to pray and have lunch with the novices.
The meeting formally opened Sunday evening with Vespers and dinner at the Cluny Retreat House. Monday morning, Br. Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., Superior General, gave his “State of the Congregation” Address, and there was a time for questions and small group discussion afterward.
The major topic for the meeting was the presentation by Fr. Emmanuel Kallackaral, C.S.C., Vicar General and First Assistant, on the proposed mission in the Diocese of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea in response to the 2022 General Chapter’s recommendation to open a new Congregational mission territory. The Council of the Congregation is specifically tasked with providing the Superior General “with wider consultation in his duty to unify congregational planning, especially for new international works and foundations” (7:104).
Fr. Kallackaral’s presentation included videos as well as the formal proposal of the General Council. The energetic dialogue that followed, due to breaks for other presentations, continued until Tuesday afternoon when the CoC in a historic vote unanimously approved the mission to Papua New Guinea.
In announcing the decision to the Congregation, Br. Bednarczyk wrote: “This is a historic moment for the Congregation of Holy Cross as this will be the first new foreign mission established by the Congregation in almost 40 years. Continuing the tradition set by our Founder, our going to Papua New Guinea is in response to an expressed need of the Church, as affirmed by Cardinal Luis Tagle, Pro-Prefect of the Dicastery of Evangelization.
“Given that this year has been dedicated to the commemoration of the 150th Anniversary of our Blessed Founder’s entry into eternal life, I am sure that Father Moreau is smiling upon us as we strive to fulfill his aim of the Congregation of pursuing ‘the sanctification of others by preaching the Word of God, especially…in the foreign missions,’” he continued.
The rest of the meeting’s agenda included a mixture of workshops, discussions, and reports, including from the Congregation’s two ministerial patrimonies, St. Joseph’s Oratory and the International Shrine of Blessed Basile Moreau. Each jurisdictional superior also gave a brief update on the major issues for their upcoming chapters in 2024, and there were discussions of current events that affect the community and mission of Holy Cross around the world.
His Eminence, Pedro Ricardo Cardinal Barreto Jimeno, Archbishop of Huancayo, also joined the Council of the Congregation for a conversation on Tuesday, which covered a wide range of topics including the recent Synod on Synodality in which he participated and the pastoral challenges facing the Church in Latin America. The Cardinal also celebrated Mass and joined the CoC for lunch.
The Council was also joined on Wednesday evening by the Most Rev. Jorge Izaguirre, C.S.C., Bishop of the Prelature of Chuquibamba and former member of the General Council, for Mass and dinner. His homily included a reflection on the pastoral challenges and opportunities in Latin America.
After wrapping up its working sessions Thursday morning, the Council of the Congregation set out after lunch to El Señor de la Esperanza Parish to tour Yancana Huasy, a center dedicated to accompanying children and adults who live with physical and mental challenges, including Downs’ Syndrome, and their families. Afterward, they went to Fe y Alegría 25 School, where after visiting various classrooms, they were treated to a festival of folk dances performed by the students.
The Council of the Congregation then went to San Francisco Chapel for Mass with the parish community. The main celebrant was the Most Rev. Norberto Strottman, Bishop of the Diocese of Chosica. Following the Mass, the Holy Cross family—priests, brothers, and sisters—went to the Peyton Center for a final celebratory dinner to give thanks for a fruitful meeting and visit with the Holy Cross community in Peru.