Instructions and guidelines for the Chapter - Vocationist Fathers and Brothers

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Object: Instructions and guidelines
for the Chapter
March 19, 2006

To all members of the General Chapter and to all Vocationists

Dearest Confreres,   

While the works of the Commission are still on-going in view of the Chapter which will be celebrated on July, I want to point out some elements that may facilitate its comprehension, so that this experience may constitute a true passage of the Spirit in our Institute.  
 
At the same time with the present letter, I communicate to you some practical guidelines to render more fruitful the experience of the General Chapter, and to set it free from distortions or utilitarianisms that might impoverish its fruits.  

 
The theme of the Chapter  
 
The rediscovery of the charism of venerable Fr. Justin and the appreciation of its value through numerous publications which came out especially in these past few years, has kept the compass always pointed to the founding inspiration which gives impulse to the authenticity of our life as Vocationists, and security towards new initiatives that the actuation of the charism may require.  
 
It is obvious that the vitality of our Congregation could be guaranteed only through fidelity to its charism; in a like manner, an authentic growth and a sincere renewal in its continuity are  possible only in the measure in which we make ours the awareness that "without the Charism we cannot live."  
 
This initial charism is the foundation on which rests our institute; every effort of renewal cannot be made possible other than returning to it. For the identity and definition of the charism (since only 50% of the vocationists say that they are conscious of it), allow me to remind you that:   
                         
Our charism is not the divine union: this is our ultimate goal; it is not the universal sanctification: this is only a means (or intermediary end) to reach the divine union. Our charism is the search and cultivation of vocations to priesthood and to religious life. The goal, the divine union, is common to all. The particular service which we are called to offer in order to achieve this goal, the charism, is the service of Divine Vocations.  
 
The charism of every congregation is not the ultimate goal but that which is described as specific goal, particular mission, special mission or also specific apostolate (see decree of approval of the Constitutions) of our Congregation. I do not intend here to give a lesson on the charism; I simply want to stress  and to confirm that according to our Constitutions, our charism is: “The searching out and formation of Priestly and Religious vocations, especially among the underprivileged, through its characteristic work, the VOCATIONARY" (art. 5).  If someone may still doubt of this, article 6 of the Constitution further specifies it adding "Through this charism etc… "; undoubtedly, in this (questo) refers to what immediately precedes it.  
 
And still, the article 22 of the Constitutions repeats: "According to its specific charism, it searches out, fosters, and forms vocations to the Priesthood and Consecrated Life even in the mission countries in order to benefit the newly formed Local Church". If it is not yet that clear, article 77 makes it more explicit again in this way: "Faithful to their charism as promoters of vocations to the ordained ministries and to other forms of consecrated life etc… "  There should be no doubt whatsoever about our charism!
The XIII General Chapter calls us to embrace once again our charism, trying to see its relevance in the ecclesial and cultural context in which we live, taking deliberate decisions that may be necessary for its renewed insertion in the human and ecclesial contemporary community.  
 
The general Chapter as an event of the Church
  
It is necessary to understand that a charism is not given, but entrusted; that it does not belong to a person or to a group of persons that receive it but to the Church.  The charism  is entrusted to the Congregation by the Church (see decree of approval). The Congregation must Implement it for the good of the people of God, of all persons not only for the good of the members that constitute actually the institute. We are the first beneficiaries, but not the owners of the charism.   
 
The CIVCSVA in 1983, at the request of Pope John Paul II,  published the document  Elementi essensiali dell’ insegnamento della Chiesa sulla Vita Religiosa (Essential elements of the teaching of the Church on the Religious Life) in which it synthesizes this wonderful aspect of the Chapter with this expression: "The General Chapter is a joyful, ecclesial and Easter experience that benefits greatly both to the institute and the whole Church."  
 
In complete harmony with what is stated above, with the consent of 90% of the confreres and with the blessing of the CIVCSVA, I retain important and meaningful that  lay people may also take part to the first phase of the works of the Chapter. The Congregation must learn how to listen to what the laymen may have to say to its members, with respect to their own aspirations and to what they expect from us. A phenomenon that we should not ignore, but rather we must pay particular attention to, is the fact that a big number of laypeople, in various parts of the world where we are present, currently feel the call to share not only our activities and the mission of our institute, but also its spirituality.  
 
The Chapter is not therefore a private affair. It is an ecclesial event that interests the entire Christian community. Only in this perspective the chapter can be for us, Vocationists,  a privileged oppotunity to take new conscience  of our bonds with the Church, of which we are  servants by vocation, called to practice a part of its mission to the world, as one sent by Christ.  
 
 
The institute in listening attitude
  
The general Chapter is an intense moment of discernment. As a community, we are called to dispose ourselves in the attitude of listening; first of all and most especially,  to listen the  Word of God, docile to the promptings of the Holy Spirit. The same Spirit that inspired our venerable founder will keep on inspiring the heart of everyone of us and will help us in the concrete and different situations of our life.   
 
It is therefore important that the General Chapter take conscience of all that is lived in the heart of the institute, listening to the voice of  those confreres who work hard even under the heat of the sun in the traditional pastoral activities, as  in the case of those who dig new furrows in yet unknown grounds. It must pay attention to those who are dissatisfied in the same manner as paying attention to the satisfied ones. It must let itself be driven by the success of human initiatives and be instructed by its failures – on this matter,  it is good to remember that the prophets of doom, who perceive only signs of death are sufficiently numerous already - it needs then to be more constructive rather than destructive, occupied with work rather than preoccupied.  
 
It would be a grave superficiality not to take into consideration the demands of those who see themselves compelled to develop personal projects, perhaps blessed and complimented even by superiors, without ever thinking to insert them in a community project. The General Chapter therefore has the responsibility to be informed about these individual projects, to evaluate objectively their value and their authenticity.  
  

From listening to dialogue  
  
After listening, the words cannot be selfishly kept to oneself. The decisions  of the Chapter will evidently be addressed to the entire family, of which the members of the Chapter are but delegates. The words (decisions)  therefore will be effective only if translated into a way of life.  
 
Pope Paul VI wrote: "The role of the Chapters does not exhaust itself only promulgating laws, but it effectively acts also in promoting its spiritual and apostolic vitality". The fruits of this General Chapter of ours will then be transmitted to successive  generations of Vocationists not through writings of the Chapter (ordinances, observances, recommendations…). but through the very life of the institute, transformed by this stage of reflection.  
 
I hope that the General Chapter may become for all of us a moment to redefine our identity. It doesn't deal with doing scientific analysis of the  writings and history of the institute realized by experts. The identity of a community is not defined through a formula, but through concrete decisions that imply the renewed sense of vocation, the recognition of a specific mission and, in many cases, admitting the need of conversion and the commitment to realize it in everyday life.  
 
As members of the Chapter, we must be concerned not only with the quality of religious life of the actual members of our Family, but also of the quality of the Institute itself, which  has as its mission to maintain alive its charism and to transmit it to future generations, through a coherent complex of doctrine, traditions, observances and rites.  
   
The word given and receive in dialogue  
  
It should be clear to everybody that the General Chapter is not simply an affair of a group of persons elected to  this end. It is for all members of the Institute. The members of the chapter are "delegates"  who exercise their function in name of the entire Vocationist family. “The General Chapter must be a sign of the bonds of charity that embraces all the members of the institute. It represents the entire Institute when in session it acts as the supreme authority according to common law and the Constitutions" (CIC, can.631).  
 
Furthermore, it is a collegial and community action. Collegial in its operation means that the decisions taken in the Chapter are taken by the college of the legally designated participants; it is communitarian, because it is the expression of the life of the whole community that forms the institute.   
 
The Chapter, being a moment of listening, as stated above, must also be a moment of dialogue. This dialogue may take thousands of ways. We believe that taking advantage of all possible means of communication, it is appropriate to interweave this colloquium with every religious. This dialogue has started  through the answers given to questionnaires, the letter of proclamation of the Chapter, the publication of the summary of your answers, the letter of proclamation of the Chapter, this letter, the survey that will be taken shortly.    
 
I take this occasion once again to thank those who have not escaped in this exchange of ideas and at the same time,  I also express my regret for those who have refused to enter into communication with the Congregation. The study groups, the works of the commissions, the formulation of motions,  the process of sharing  with and among the confreres…form part of the dialogue.  

Nature and scope of the chapter  

Our Constitutions illustrate the nature and the scope of the General Chapter in an incisive and clear way: "The Chapter has the task of protecting the spiritual heritage of the Congregation, looking after its common good, promoting its apostolic life, making its charism better known, protecting its unity,  keeping abreast of the constant renewal of aggiornamento of both structures and members… " (Const.. 128). I ask everybody to seriously consider himself in line with this article.   
 
The scope of the Chapter (it is good to bear it in mind) is not only to elect the General Government; otherwise, doing so would reduce this ecclesial and Easter experience to a simple electoral campaign. The General Chapter has also its duty to elect the new Superior General and his Councillors. This task requires preparation with prayer and discernment, considering the welfare of our religious family and the new demands of the mission which the Congregation must face.  
 
With such intention, I order that during the General Chapter, in every community and individually, the prayer for the good result of the XIII General Chapter be continued, changing only in the first paragraph, replacing the words…. but most  specially in preparation of our XIII General Chapter….with…. but most specially during our XIII General Chapter ….  
 
In every community, it is praiseworthy to celebrate the Mass of the Holy Spirit with the special intention for the election of the Superior General and his Council, invoking him to receive his light. As will be indicated at the appropriate moment, the election of the Superior General will be preceded by a vigil of Eucharistic adoration in the Chapter itself and in all of our residences. We should not renounce so easily to an authentic yet disinterested discernment. Fr. Justin in the Regole Grandi, with respect to Chapter election, wrote: "the vote, in order to be valid, must be: free, secret, certain, absolute, determined, invalid if given to oneself” (R,158). Negotiations, compromises, private arrangements, search of popularity are attitudes that must not, by all means, pollute the future of our beloved Congregation.  
 
How dry and meaningless it is to live the experience of the General Chapter in view only of an election! We would be betraying not only the goal of this pneumatic experience but also our Constitutions, ourselves and those who put their trust in us.  
 
  
 
Regarding the works of the Chapter  
 
The atmosphere of the sessions of  the Chapter will offer a schedule that allows moments of common and personal prayer, of work, of reflection, and also moments of fellowship. It will seek  to maintain a family environment, which, I hope, will be nurtured first of all by mutual listening and serious and responsible endeavours. This will be facilitated and assured through a system of simultaneous translations, without forgetting above all the constant struggles of cultural decoding necessary to each person who wants to perceive well the message of the other.   
 
The internationality will be a distinct characteristic of this chapter; conversations and prayers will be in Italian, Portuguese, English and Spanish. I beg the brothers, starting from this moment, to let themselves be open to this style and be available for any liturgical animations and moments of multi-linguistic prayer.   
 
So that a substitute can participate to the Chapter, it is necessary that the elected Delegate will write to me a letter of resignation on or before May 30, specifying the reasons that induce him to it; the validity of the reasons must be recognized as such and be accepted by the Superior General and the Council. (For the Chapter of the year 2000, I asked to be substituted because of a recent surgery of an herniated disk;  yet the General Superior  didn't accept my reason as valid). The substitute will have to be summoned then by the Superior General and not by the Delegate, who is renouncing to his duty.   
 
I call the attention  of all, trusting the maturity of everyone, to a prudent and correct use of the tools of communication, making it clear that there will be no gossips (murmuring, insinuations, plots) to be transmitted or to invent stories for the sake of earning audience and popularity  
 
I absolutely prohibit the usage of electronic instruments that record, reproduce or transmit voices and text messages (like cell phones, recorders, mic-pendrive, etc.) in places where the work of the chapter and the election will take place.  
 
An internet-point will be equipped in order to disseminate at the end of the day the official bulletin of information of the Chapter, in various languages, to be shared with the confreres in the communities. All the confreres can be in contact with the General Chapter through the following e-mail address: capitologeneralesdv@yahoo.com. This e-mail address can be used by the Chapter to communicate to confreres any  and every official information and, through this, the questions, messages, prayers, requests etc. may reach the Chapter assembly.

Since the Chapter is the most important act in the life of a Congregation, and also in view of the papal audience which we have already asked, I require that every member of the Chapter wears the black clergyman (jacket, clerical shirts, pants, socks and shoes). For the ordinary sessions of  the Chapter, we are dispensed from the use of the jacket taking in consideration the hot weather of July. Moreover, let me remind you that the three days of spiritual retreat  during the chapter do not  replace the yearly spiritual exercises of the Congregation.  
 
Once again I remind you that the General Chapter will start on July 3 at 11:45 AM in the Vocationary of Pianura. Anyone who will not be present at the official opening of the Chapter cannot be part of it. Therefore, do not try to arrive at the last moment. The house is available on the 1st and 2nd  day of July. The chapter members will prepare themselves for the concelebrated mass in the museum. At 11:45 AM we will pause on the tomb of the Founder first in silent prayer and then in community prayer; then we will proceed in procession to the Church of the Vocationary. After the homily, the Veni Creator will be sung; the Secretary General will call by name all the members of the Chapter; and after, the Superior General will declare officially  opened the XIII General Chapter of the S.D.V. The opening liturgy, as all  liturgical celebrations, are open to all confreres and to the people of God. (There will be 3 photo taken: one at the tomb of the Founder, one in the church in liturgical vestments after the  final hymn, and  the third will be taken near the statue of Fr. Justin, in complete black clerical clergyman, in the garden of the Vocationary).  
 
After this initial liturgy, lunch and relaxation will follow. The preliminary work will begin at 4:00 pm in the Chapter Hall on the third floor of the Vocationary.  
 
The days 4, 5 and6 will be days of spiritual retreat, guided by the abbot Fr. Benedetto Maria Salvatore Chianetta, OSB of the abbey of  Cava dei Tirreni ( SA). The days 7 and 8 of July are dedicated to the study of the actuality and impact of the charism with the participation  of the other branches of our religious family; afterwards, the work of the Chapter  will proceed regularly with the presence of the members of the Chapter only. On July 11, the Eucharistic celebration will be presided by His Excellency Gennaro Pascarella, Bishop of Pozzuoli.  
 
I remind and dispose that all the members of the Chapter sleep in the Vocationary, and that every ministerial appointment outside must be entrusted to others. It is likely possible that the Sundays will be free  from works of the Chapter, but we will leave this to the decision of the Chapter assembly.  
 
Every member of the Chapter will bring a Bible, a Breviary, the Constitutions and the Directory, and the book that contains the acts of the XII General Chapter which  will serve for the study of the Guidelines of the Chapter. It is good that everyone study personally the Guidelines of the Chapter and to prepare in writing eventual proposals for changes to be discussed, This will prevent loss of time and also avoid unnecessary suggestions which may come out without prior reflection. Chasubles, albs and stoles will be provided by the house.  
 
I foresee that the Chapter will last approximately three weeks; the duration depends on the seriousness and depth of the study and analysis which will be done. For those who need to travel and book their flights, I  suggest not to make any booking prior to July 25. We don't want any precipitation or hurry in discussing and in deciding things of highest importance for our Congregation.  
 
All physical and mechanical preparations for the Chapter (notifications, invitations,  rooms, brochures of prayers, songs, reports, simultaneous translation, photocopy,  microphones, computers, telephones etc…) are entrusted to the care of the Rev. Fr. Vicar General.  
 
 


Conclusion  

The Chapter must be, first of all, a privileged expression of communion and reflection within our religious Family. The present and the future of the Congregation is in the heart of everyone of us; moreover, we feel called to participate in an active way, even though expressed in various forms and modality. If lived in this spirit, from the general Chapter itself, our beloved Congregation, to which the Lord has called us, will come out rejuvenated and reinvigorated because it will be consolidated anew on its own proper bases, on the cornerstone,  who is Christ himself.  

With the eyes gazed up on high and with firm hope to build together a better future for our Congregation, I dearly greet, embrace and I bless you all.  
 
       Fr. Ludovico M. Caputo, S.D.V.
        Superior General

 
P. S. Notes, dispositions and practical obediences  

1. The members of the Chapter, who need an invitation letter in order to have entrance visa to Italy, must get in touch as soon as possible with Fr. Alfonso Limone. In order to prepare the invitation letter, a photocopy of the first page of the passport is needed.  

2. It is advisable to book your flights to Naples; the airport of Capodichino, Naples is only fifteen minutes  away from Pianura.  

3. The confreres who come from outside Italy may comfortably arrive two or three days ahead of the opening of the Chapter. The house of Pianura will be available. However, please inform Fr. Giacomo Capraro of your arrival. The telephone of the mother house is (0039) 081 726 1856; the cell. no. of Fr. Capraro is: (0039) 347 615 7417.

4. Those who need transportation from the airport of Naples to Pianura can contact Fr. Vincenzo Pelella; his cell. no. is: 0039 - 347 093 7138; tel. no. of the parish (0039) 081 - 7690 78, the tel. no. of the community is 081 7690 623; for transportation you may also contact Fr. Tommaso Tarsia: cell no. (0039) 338 681 9092; tel. no. of the house is (0039) 081 726 1856.  

5. For particular needs regarding lodging or food, please call Fr. Giacomo Capraro, Tel (0039) 081 726 1856.  

I ask the following confreres to be in-charge of the following offices during the Chapter, in addition to any other task which the Chapter may assign to them.
   
6. Fr. Ciro Sarnataro has been assigned  to prepare and to send information bulletin in Italian upon the approval of the secretary of the Chapter;  
Fr. Lawrence Okwuosa, for English  
Fr. Josè. Lisboa,  for Portuguese;  
Fr. Tobar,  for Spanish.  

7. Fr. Lorenzo Gomez will be Coordinator and Master of Ceremonies for all liturgical celebrations.  

8. The Reverend Masters of Novitiate  will guide the community Prayers in their respective languages:  Fr. Salvatore Musella, Fr. Ionilton Lisboa de Oliveira, Fr. Edgardo Herrera and Fr. Jonathan Eburuche.
9. Minister of the hospitality¬¬ – Fr. Giacomo Capraro, assisted by D. Nibin Palatty.  

10. Official translators to the Chapter:
Fr. Flavian: Italian-English, English-Italian;
Don Antonio do Nascimento: Italian-Portuguese, Portuguese- Italian;
Fr. Antonio da Silva: Portuguese¬-English, English- Portuguese (in case we don't find a  professional translator)  

11. In  charge of music, songs and table service: Brs. Campoverde Wilmer and Cesar Quinde.  

12. In charge of liturgical arrangements and  secretary assistants: Brs. Palatty Nibin and Vicente Moncayo.    

During the Chapter, the following members of the Chapter will be substituted by other confreres as follows. It is necessary that at least two weeks before the Chapter starts, the members of the Chapter must get in touch with the confreres, who will replace them in order to explain to them things to be done; they must also  prepare a written note of the assignments to be carried out and pertinent information on the schedules of the house and that of the church, keys and people who are available to assist them.  

13. Fr. Sante will be substituted by Fr. Massimiliano  
   Fr. Pelella will be substituted de Don Quinto Pascuzzo  
   Fr. Ciro Sarnataro by Fr. Lucius  
   Fr. Antonio Saturno by Fr. Mosca  
   Fr. Musella by Fr. Zeccone  
   Fr. Tucci by Fr. Arcieri  
   Fr. Corona and Fr. Della Corte  will be substituted by Fr. Liberti  
   Fr. Della Greca will be substituted by D. Christogonous  
   Fr. Longobardi by Don R. Saturno and Don Viscovo Pasquale  
   Fr. Fasano will be substituted by D. Gallo  
   Fr. Capraro, for the services at the cemetery,  by D. Carmine Pascuzzo  
   Fr. Maiorano, by Fr. Sannino  
   Fr. Flavian, by Fr. Antonio Serrao  
   Fr. Baiano and Fr. Capraro, for the services in the crypt, will be replaced by Don Serrao  
   Fr. Terlizzi by Fr. Losito  
   Fr. Herrera by Fr. Uguchwkwu  
   Fr. Ebureche by Fr. Okoroji

These substitutions will be made in virtue of holy obedience according to the Chapter’s ordinance and my injunction in the letter of proclamation of the Chapter; in force of the same dispositions, all the other confreres will remain available for eventual further substitutions..  

The communities that  did not yet send their personal information sheet, their e-mail address and fax no. with updated information abut the composition of the community are requested to do it as soon as possible and forward it to the Secretary General.  

Any confrere who desires to receive personally the information bulletin of the Chapter is requested to send his e-mail address to the Secretary General indicating to him his desire to receive  information  or news releases from the Chapter.

 
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St. Gerard Majella Church Paterson NJ
Our Lady of Solace Shrine Church Brooklyn NY
Parish of the Visitation New Brunswick NJ
St. Cecelia Church Iselin NJ
Mater Dei Parish Newport VT
Our Lady of Seven Dolors Church New Heaven VT
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