no. 4 october - december 2003
.XV Council of Provinces - Fatima, Portugal -
September 1 - 11, 2003
MEETING PROVIDES OPPORTUNITY TO DISCUSS ISSUES IN ORDER AND CHURCH
Fatima Provides Backdrop for Prayerful Days
With the Shrine to Our Lady not far off in the background, the Priors Provincial from around the world and members of the General Council gathered in Fatima, Portugal September 1-11, 2003, to celebrate the XV Council of Provinces. The main theme of the meeting was "The Role of Authority in the Promotion of the Charism." Two other issues, the finances of the Order and the issue of sexual misconduct, were also slated for discussion.
The participants gave high marks for the accommodations, the length of the meeting, the plenary sessions, the conferences, the translators, and the liturgy. Ninety-seven percent rated the overall experience as either ‘excellent’ or ‘good.’
Beginning with a presentation of the theme by the Prior General, the meeting then gave each of the General Councilors 10 minutes to report on their regions and areas of responsibility. Each member of the Council of Provinces had received an ‘Instrumentum Laboris" which attempted to raise the various issues connected with the subject of authority as delegated to the Prior Provincials in the Constitutions. Carlos Mesters, O. Carm., General Councilor for Latin America, followed up with a conference on "The Bible and Authority," Carlo Cicconetti, O. Carm., Vice General, with "The Theology of Authority," and Quinn Conners, O. Carm. (PCM), concluded with "Human Aspects of Authority."
The Order’s accountant and the head of a recently completely study of the Domus Carmelitana in Rome were present for the portion of the meeting dedicated to the finances of the Order. Much of the conversation focused on the outstanding debts from the reconstruction projects completed on the CISA building in 2000. In the end, the Provincials agreed to loan the money to the Curia in order to internalize the current loan held by a bank. However, no set amount or percentages were discussed. The members of the Council recommended some of the points in the study of the Domus be implemented by the General Council as soon as possible.
Three Carmelites, Quinn Conners, a psychologist who works with priests and religious in the USA, Aureliano Pacciolla, who works as a psychologist with the Italian courts in the area of child abuse, and Mark Attard, a moral theologian in Rome, spoke on the various aspects of the sexual misconduct, especially as it affects the victim, their families, the perpetrator, and the Church.
The gathering also provided the opportunity for the various regions to meet for discussions. The Northern European and Mediterranean Regions held a joint meeting to discuss the possibility of collaboration in future initiatives.
On Sunday, September 7, the group traveled to Coimbra where the members celebrated mass in the former Carmelite church and toured the former Studium Generale of the Order. They also traveled to Batalha, with its two statues of Carmelite Beato Nuno Alvarez, hero of the Portuguese war for independence.
A booklet is being prepared, containing the principal documents of the Council of Provinces as well as the final message. This will be distributed by Edizioni Carmelitane.
What did you hope to achieve in Fatima?
It was a follow-up to the General Chapter of 2001 which focused on the theme "Carmel: the Journey Continues." The object was to translate our very rich documents which explain the charism of the Order into our daily lives. One of the important issues of how this is accomplished has to do with the role that authority or leadership plays in the promotion of the charism.
Last year, the on-going formation course looked at the role of the prior as leader in the community. Since a Council of Provinces involves all of the Priors Provincial, it was logical to focus on the role of the Prior Provincial in putting flesh on our documents. We were helped to reflect on this by some Carmelites who have expertise in this area.
It is very clear that all authority, in a Christian sense, must follow the example of Jesus. And we all know that he came to serve and not be served. Well, those in authority have a sacred duty to exercise that authority, given them by the brothers, to lead the province or the commissariat forward.
From what I heard, I believe that everyone present at the Council of Provinces benefited greatly from the reflection on the nature of authority and how it can best be used to promote the charism. How the major superiors lead the brothers to a greater fidelity to the vocation we each received from God was what we attempted to focus on. I would hope that this will become even clearer to everyone when the Provincials return to the provinces.
What other issues were dealt with?
The members of the General Council each reported on their particular areas of responsibility. We also looked at the finances of the Order and the very difficult issue of sexual misconduct.
What was discussed about sexual misconduct?
This part of the meeting was led by Carmelite experts in this field. Their presentations were intended to be a help to Provincials to understand this very delicate issue that is affecting the Church in many parts of the world.
Because the Order is present in places with vastly different legal requirements, we felt it best to make a strong statement on the Order level and to encourage the different provinces to develop procedures appropriate to the local situation.
With the changing face of the Order, what steps are being taken to insure that the Order has the financial resources that will be necessary?
Every Order is facing the same challenge. The provinces in Europe and the United States have very generously supported the Order’s work around the world. They still do today. But this will not continue in the future to the degree that it has in the past. We see diminishing numbers and aging communities in these provinces. The money they have to help the Order is becoming less and less. Faced with that reality when I became Prior General, we started a couple of initiatives that will hopefully, at some time in the future, make the Curia less dependent on the provinces for its work around the world. One of these initiatives is the Society of the Little Flower in the United Kingdom and Ireland which has been very successful.
The other initiative is the Domus Carmelitana. In fact, at the Council of Provinces in Fatima, the provinces agreed to lend the General Council what was required to internalize the debts and thereby reduce the interest rates we were paying to the banks. This will greatly help us reduce the interest payments we were making, repay the provinces, and begin using the income to support the work of the Curia.
How is the Domus Carmelitana working out?
It is doing well. In three years we have created a hotel which is producing a profit of more than a quarter million euro each year. We held the meeting of the Carmelite nuns and the on-going formation program for Carmelite priors at the Domus and received nothing but praise about the place. The Vatican has been sending some of the bishops on their ad limina visits to stay at the Domus.
This past summer, we had a professional study by an international firm of hotel consultants. Among their conclusions was that we are ready to go to another stage in the development of the Domus. They proposed a business plan which was accepted at the Council of Provinces and we will be busy in the next several months implementing that plan.
We have an excellent hotel in one of the best locations in the city of Rome.
What do you see as the benefit of these gatherings?
The real benefit is that the provincials can get to know each other and talk to one another, in a relaxed atmosphere, about situations they have in common. It also allows the leadership of the Order to reflect together with them on topics that affect all of us.