The Extraordinary General Council (EGC) met in Valladolid, Spain from June 1-4, 2022. Composed of the members of the General Council and the Provincials of the Provinces, the EGC meets once a year to discuss issues related to the entire Viatorian Community. Those attending the meeting included Fr. Robert Egan, Superior General, Fr. Claudio Rios, Vicar General, Fr. Andre Crozier, General Secretary and General Councilors Br. Benoit Tremblay and Fr. Carlos Orduna. The Provincials attending included Fathers Nestor Fils-Aimé of Canada, Pierre Demierre of France, Marcelo Lamas of Chile, Jesus Arroyo of Spain and Mark Francis, representing the Province of Chicago. Father Daniel Hall was unable to attend following open heart surgery and Fr. Francis, a member of the Provincial Council, was his representative.
The meeting began with each of the Provincials reporting on the issues and happenings in each of the Provinces. This proved to be an excellent opportunity to share the events and concerns that are part of the life of the international Viatorian Community and an excellent moment to begin the work of the Extraordinary General Council.
The agenda included reporting and discussion about a number of 2018 General Chapter questions. Questions 20-21 focused on vocation ministry and the General Council reported on efforts to research the concrete efforts that have been made in recent years in vocation ministry. The process for gathering that data is underway and will be available for the General Chapter of 2024.
Questions 22,23 and 25 asked for an evaluation of the implementation of the Ratio Formationis at all levels of formation and that process is ongoing.
The members of the EGC had a long discussion about Question 35 from the 2018 General Chapter which accepted “in principle the opening of a new International Viatorian Foundation in a southern hemisphere country that is favorable to the establishment and the development of the Viatorian charism.” The discussion was very animated and comprehensive with those in the meeting agreeing to more actively pursue this question. There was a general consensus that the Congregation should investigate possible countries in Africa that might be possible locations for a Viatorian Foundation. Specific countries discussed included Benin and Togo, both of which are situated close to our present foundations in Ivory Coast and Burkina Faso. A committee of Provincials and General Councilors was formed with the specific mandate to investigate a possible place for the new foundation, determine what Province might be willing to sponsor a potential new foundation in collaboration with other Provinces and make suggestions and recommendations about how such a new endeavor might be financed through international collaboration.
The agenda of the meeting also included discussion of when and if any of the present Foundations are ready to request of the General Council recognition of Regional status. The Provincials reported that some of the Foundations are preparing to submit requests, others seem to need more time to complete the preparation. The members of the EGC wanted to encourage the various Foundations to continue their collaboration and discussion with the view to achieving Regional status. This is an important moment in the life of each Foundation and we hope to see progress in the months ahead.
A working group from the EGC has worked over the past six months on developing a module on leadership. The group included Fathers Nestor Fils-Aimé, Marcelo Lamas and Carlos Orduna and they presented the result of their work. Entitled “Leadership in the Viatorian Community,” the document is an attempt to situate governance, authority and leadership in the context of servant leadership for the Viatorian Community. The committee approached the question from the perspective of leadership training, focusing on the attitudes and means for successful leadership, especially in the emerging foundations.
The document began by reviewing the biblical roots of leadership and then examined various documents and teaching of the Church, beginning with Vatican II document Perfectae Caritatis and including various Curial and Papal documents. Our own Constitution and General Regulations were also examined, leading to a discussion of what attitudes and strategies might present as a profile of a leader in the Viatorian Community. Finally, the Committee also identifies various abuses to be avoided for authentic and evangelical leadership.
The members of the EGC discussed the proposed document fully. They expressed their thanks and gratitude to the Committee for their outstanding work and agreed that this document needed to be integrated at all levels of formation. The EGC unanimously adopted the document and hopes that the result of this work will help to identify, mentor and choose true servant leaders for the Viatorian Community.
The General Chapter of 2024 was also an item of considerable discussion at the EGC meeting. Scheduled for July 3-24, 2024, the Chapter will be held at Casa Divin Maestro in Ariccia, Italy. A major focus of the discussion centered around possible themes for the next General Chapter. Some of the themes included reflecting on Viatorians as evangelizers in the world today; another theme discussed was synodality and how we as Viatorians integrate this reality into the life of the Congregation; and Synodality-Communion and Mission in the Viatorian context. Members stressed that the theme of the next General Chapter must touch on the lived reality of life for Viatorians today. No final decisions were reached but the discussion was fruitful, and the General Council will meet in late June to continue the planning and discussion.
Another aspect of planning for the next General Chapter focused on the process and methodology for the General Chapter. Delegates from recent General Chapters had been asked for their feedback relative to the agenda, methodology and process and to reflect on their experience as delegates to a General Chapter. The reactions were very helpful and provided extensive recommendations for making the General Chapter a richer experience. The two items consistently mentioned were that agendas included far too many questions and that in preparing the final agenda for the General Chapter of 2024 it should be a priority to limit the number of questions in order to allow sufficient time for discussion, discernment and decision.
A second item mentioned by many suggested the need to dramatically change the methodology used in addressing the agenda of the Chapter. There were strong recommendations that a real process of discernment should reflect the methodology for the next Chapter—allowing sufficient time for personal reflection, communal discussion and a process to build consensus on specific agenda questions that would ultimately lead to adopting Chapter Decisions. Again, no final decisions were adopted at the EGC meeting, but everyone felt the need to attempt an implementation of some of these recommendations for the General Chapter of 2024.
Finally, Fr. Egan and the General Council presented a revised schedule for pastoral visits in the Congregation. For nearly two years, travel restrictions, health mandates and closed borders prevented any visits by the General and Councilors. The revised schedule for visits begins in September of this year with a visit to the Province of Chile. The remainder of 2022 and most of 2023 will be devoted to resuming pastoral visits, after consultation with the Provincials concerned and the local superiors in the various Foundations.
Finally, as a result of COVID and all the restrictions imposed across the world, it has been difficult to schedule the next General Assembly of the Viatorian Community. The General Council recommended to the EGC that the next General Assembly take place as soon after the General Chapter of 2024 as possible. The Extraordinary General Council agreed with this proposal.
Thanks to all the members of the Extraordinary General Council for their participation in this meeting and for their continued generous service to the Viatorian Community.