opening of the General Chapter
chapter opened solemnly with the Mass of the Holy Spirit, celebrated
by Master of the Order Fr. Timothy Radcliffe, flanked by the Provincial
Fathers of Spain and Toulouse-major superiors of the oldest provinces
of the Order. The liturgy was beautiful: a good organist, good cantor
and a congregation not afraid to sing. The Master preached the homily
(cf. the "Homilies" link).
the first assembly of the chapter, Fr. Timothy extended words of
welcome, inviting all to trust in God's providence, whence the name
of the city of Providence (where we are gathered), the name given
this place by its founder, Roger Williams, after having been expelled
from the state of Massachusetts due to religious intolerance. Fr.
Timothy said that intolerance is what should remain far from this
chapter, while the liberty to express oneself should be felt in
abundance. He thanked the Province of St. Joseph and Providence
College, hosts of the chapter, and in a special way recognized the
Secretary General of the chapter, Fr. George Schommer.
the Provincial of the Province of St. Joseph gave a brief address,
followed by the President of Providence College and the prior of
the community. They all considered it an honor to be the hosts of
a general chapter and hoped that the capitulars would feel at home.
began the "formal" part of the chapter, which took a while
due to a general lack of attention: the capitulars were instructed
in the use of the electronic system for taking the floor and for
voting, and several practice votes were taken. Various matters were
taken care of: the formal naming of the General Secretary and the
assistant secretaries; the promulgation of the rules of procedure
which would govern the conducting of sessions; the appointment of
moderators (Fr. Quirico Pedregosa of the Philippines, Fr. Philippe
Cochinaux of Belgium, and Fr. Jesus A. López Legido of Spain
and a son of the Province of Holy Rosary); the appointment of the
revisers of texts, and the distribution of commissions and the schedules
for the first five days of the chapter, until the election of the
guests of the brethren to the chapter were then introduced: six
cloistered nuns, two sisters, and three laypeople, one of the latter,
a Chilean, a representative of the International Dominican Youth
Movement. They have voice and vote in the commissions and participate
in the plenary sessions. They are also present several guests of
the General Curia.
afternoon session saw a brilliant exposition by Fr. Timothy in his
relatio de statu ordinis. It was a summary of the greatest challenges
to the Order in our day: vocations, centers of study, the contemplative
life in the face of activism, a sense of community (especially the
provincial community, where in fact the life of the Order is lived
out), the need for the capitulars to make brave decisions, even
if they not be accepted, the itinerancy of the brethren, and the
obligation to become a contemporary of St. Thomas-all with a robust
confidence in the future. The chapter in Providence is a providential
few questions followed concerning the resources (of persons and
economic means) for mission, preaching through communications media,
the double significance of ecclesial movements and the Order, the
indispensable elements in a community for the accompanying of youth
and Dominican contemplation. A prolonged applause closed out Fr.
Timothy's presentation of his relatio and clarifying answers to
second part of the afternoon was dedicated to work in commissions.
It was the first opportunity to get to know one another for those
who will be working together.
were solemnly chanting the psalms of Vespers-in particular Psalm
49 and the words "he will go to join his fathers/who will never
see the light any more"-when all of a sudden the power went
off because of a powerful thunderstorm in the region. We were not
only left in the dark, but on the precipice of a catastrophe-without
computers, simultaneous interpretation, photocopiers, elevators
(and some brethren live on sixth-floor rooms!), and without knowing
what to do. (Is this the United States?) Those that were in Bologna
remember that one of the reasons the U.S. was preferred to India
as a place for the General Chapter was the basic electric and electronic
security provided by the U.S. It seems that Fr. Timothy went to
ask pardon of the Provincial of India. But in fact there were many
emergency lights and candles and flashlights. We hope tomorrow all
is back in order!