Final Days of the General Chapter

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Thursday, 19 September

After Wednesday’s visit to Rome for the audience of the Holy Father, the General Chapter returned to its work. The entire day was dedicated to the study of and votation on various proposals and recommendations. Some of these items came from different friars and provinces, others from the Commissions of the Order or General Council. The areas treated included adaptations and changes in the Constitutions, Formation, Liturgy, Economics and Identity/Mission.  The General Financial Directory of the Order was approved and there was a long discussion regarding the support within the Order and its missions.

Two notable decisions were made in the area of the Constitutions. On an experimental basis, the Council of the Provinces will not be held in the next sexennium and the General Congregation will be held three years after the General Chapter. In place of the Council of the Provinces, meetings in the regions and general areas of the Order are encouraged. The Chapter also decreed a post-capitular commission to study a revision of the 1995 Constitutions in order to bring them into line with new documents of the magisterium and developments in the understanding of the Order, its new missions, and changing realities.

The Theological Commission of the Chapter presented the second draft of the final message of the chapter to the Order. Father Conrad Mutizamhepo, O.Carm., on behalf of the Commission, read the report and the Moderator invited comments and suggestions. In the light of the discussion, additional changes will be made to the text which was seen as quite complete yet needing some additional brightening.

In their discussion of Formation and Identity, serious preparation of formators and the care of those in formation were considered, as well as ways of strengthening ongoing formation initiatives for all the friars. Emphasis was given to enhancing Vocation Ministry throughout the Order. The Order discussed and accepted with a great majority a decree of regarding Safe Environment Policies throughout the Order. The Chapter committed itself to careful maintenance of safeguarding in respect to minors and vulnerable adults in all of our places of ministry. Each Province, Commissariat and Delegation will prepare policies ensuring that all those to whom we minister are treated with the greatest care and respect.

 Many times, there were discussions about the quality and strength of our communities, and assuring that they will be large enough to truly provide a place for the Carmelite charism to be lived and thrive. This is essential to our mission within the Church, so that we can really be a contemplative presence in the world and partners in the new evangelization.

By 7:00 P.M. all of the proposals had been completed, thanks be to God, and the plan for the final day of the Chapter announced and discussed by the capitulars.

Friday, 20 September

The Chapter began at 9:00 A.M. after Morning Prayer. The final message of the General Chapter was presented and approved overwhelmingly by the capitulars. The message will be transmitted to all the members of the Carmelite Family and is quite inclusive of the themes and work of the Chapter, the directions and proposals discussed, and the hopes and aspiration that the Order has for moving forward with hope into the future.

Father Fernando Millán Romeral, O.Carm., Prior General, then gave a talk to the Chapter which he referred to more as a sharing than an exposition. He began by offering generous words of thanks to the Preparatory Commission, the Secretariate of the Chapter, the Moderators, Translators, Liturgists and Commissions of the Chapter. Most sincerely, he recognized the hard work of so many people – especially the staff of “Il Carmelo” in Sassone – that did so much to make the atmosphere and work pleasant, efficient and helpful. All the capitulars expressed their thanks as well.

In his sharing, Father Fernando encouraged the capitulars to return home filled with hope and ready to animate and encourage the members of their Provinces, Commissariats and Delegations, to renew community life and to give our fraternity the true priority it deserves. He repeated the three words of advice the Pope Francis spoke to him and Father Christian Körner, O.Carm., Vice-General, at the end of the audience on Wednesday. The Pope reminded the Carmelites to be people of prayer, of austerity and to avoid worldliness. Father Fernando expounded in both a humorous and direct fashion, the necessity of these values, and that we continue to work for the renewal and strengthening of our presence. He assured the capitulars that we will continue to strive for a balance between the financial strictures that we have as an Order and the opening and growth of new missions around the world which we will continue to support. He also spoke about the hard work of learning the official languages of the Order and the need for translations in our international fraternity so that the necessary information in our Order will be as accessible as possible to all the friars and members of the Carmelite Family. We need patience in dealing with this aspect of communication and Father Fernando feels that in the last six years the level, quality and tone of the Order’s communications to the family, Church and world have improved dramatically thanks to those who labor in CITOC and by other means.

After the talk of Father Fernando, the Chapter took a break. At 11:15, we gathered in the Chapter Hall with white mantles, for the closing ceremony of the reading of the Acts and signing of the Chapter Book. The Te Deum was sung, and the capitulars processed back to the chapel with the icon of Mary singing the Flos Carmeli.  The Mass of Our Lady of Mount Carmel was offered, concelebrated by the Prior General and all of the past and new members of the General Council. In his homily, Father General sincerely thanked those who had served on the General Council for all of their work and sacrifices, and to the new members of the Council for accepting the new mission to which they were called so quickly. He used the image of Mary our Mother and Model at the foot of the cross embracing with faith and love the sacrifice of her Son and her own loving sacrifice. For sure, Mary will help and accompany all of her sons and daughters in Carmel and help us to truly be of great service to the Church.

 After a festive meal, the members of the Chapter organized themselves for the return home. We are deeply grateful to the Lord for this fraternal encounter, and commend ourselves to Mary our Mother, and the Prophet Elijah our Father, and will seek to live the message of hope and salvation who is Christ in all of our communities and countries.