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The Chapter's Chronicle

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July 10th

The opening of the General Chapter

The 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).

In 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.

Afterward 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.

Thereupon 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 new Master.

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.

The 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 moment.

A 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 questions.

The 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.

An interesting anecdote

We 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!

[Translated from Spanish] puce

 

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