PLENARY COUNCIL OF THE ORDER
Konstancin – Jeziorna, Poland
By John Puodziunas, OFM
Sunday, November 17, 2013
The delegates from around the world gathered at the Pallotine Retreat House in Konstancin on a cold, dreary day. “They” say that this weather is normal for Poland, for this time of year. A common question being heard is “where is the sun”? The lack of sun light has not cooled the spirits of the friars, many getting reacquainted with old friends, and others being introduced for the first time to brothers from around the world. From the welcome of the retreat center director, the welcome of our host, Rufin Maryjka (president of the North-Slavic Conference), and opening comments by Sinisia Claljic, OFM (PCO Secretray), to the meal prayer of General Minister Michael Perry, OFM, to the table conversations at supper and then during recreation, a great anticipation can be felt for the work of the next two weeks.
The English Speaking Conference is well represented in the persons of John Puodziunas, OFM (ESC President, Provincial Minister of the Assumption BVM Province), Gino Correa, OFM (ESC Delegate, Provincial Minister of Our Lady of Guadalupe Province), Francis Walter, OFM (General Definitor, Immaculate Conception Province), William Short, OFM (Secretary to the General Chapter, St Barbara Province), Russell Murray, OFM (Councilor to the Plenary Council, Holy Name Province), Caomhin O'Laoide, OFM (Province of Ireland), and of course Michael Perry, OFM (General Minister, Sacred Heart Province).
Monday, November 18, 2013
The day began with mass presided by our General Minister, Michael Perry, OFM. Using the gospel of the blind man, Michael’s reflection focused on three point: the need for a desire driven by one’s awareness of one’s needs, the value of trusting in God’s power to heal, and the realization that God’s response is more than one can expect.
The opening sessions were about the ordinary business, during which John Puodziunas was elected as one of the Moderators, and Gino Correa was elected to be the English group secretary. We also elected language group chairpersons and a council finance commission.
The General Minister presented his reflections, giving flesh to the general theme of the Plenary Council of the Order (PCO), New Wine in New Wineskins, taken from Matthew’s Gospel, Chapter 9. Another image that Michael used is taken from Antoine de Saint-Ezupery, if you want to build a ship, don’t drum up men to gather wood, divide the work and give orders. Instead, teach them to yearn for the vast and endless sea. Yes, the primary work of the PCO is about structures – the number and manner of election General Definitors, as mandated by the General Chapter of 2009 – but it is grounded in our mission of evangelization, shaped by the gift of our fraternity. It is pointless to consider new wineskins (structures) without reflecting on the new wine (our mission, our place, our vision, our future). The language groups were sent-off with two questions – one pertaining to identifying central values of our identity, and the second a reflection on how the values effect the nature and practice of authority within the structures of the Order.
The language groups – English, Italian, Spanish – spent time reflecting on Michael’s presentation and on the questions given. The English group named a number of values, including the centrality of the brother as person, called to conversion, priority of the Gospel, priority of fraternity, we are always in relationship (with God, the Church, the world, the Order, ourselves), minority, humility, dynamism (open to change, responding to globalization reality), collaboration, to name a few.
Tuesday, November 19, 2013
The day began with the presentation of the Instrumentum Laboris by Br. Jose Maria Arregui, OFM. We were reminded of the journey to this point, how the topics were discussed at the Plenary Council of Guadalajara, then presented at the General Chapter of 2009, and ultimately directed to the current PCO for a deliberative vote in preparation for the General Chapter of 2015.
The remainder of the day was dedicated to language group discussions on two sections of the instrumentum – the current realities effecting the entities of the Order and how the present structures respond to theses realties – always with the backdrop of the values enumerated earlier.
The sun made a welcomed appearance for a good part of the day.
Wednesday, November 20, 2013
The day began with the establishment of two commissions - one to prepare the spiritual elements of the final document, to which Russell Murray was named; the second to develop the final proposals for the PCO and those to go to the General Chapter Planning Committee, to which Gino Correa was named.
The language groups then spent the remainder of the day developing concrete proposals to the issues and topics raised in the first two sections of the Instumentum, those pertaining to suggested changes in the current structures of the Order including matters pertaining to the General Minister (term of office and modes of doing the primary work of animating the friars), the Provincial Minister and Custodes (term of office and structures of support), and the Conferences (purpose and function).
It was a busy and long day, in the absence of the sun.
You can find photos, videos and other updates from the Plenary Council here.