Rome March 25, 2012
From the 5th to the 16th of September last year, the General Congregation of our Order took place in the Mount Carmel Centre (our house at Niagara Falls in Canada) as the most important meeting that takes place between one General Chapter and the next (See, Art.285 of our Constitutions). As you know, the main theme of our reflections was the identity of our Order in the present context of the Church. With this theme it was our intention to continue the process of reflection that began in recent General Chapters, as well as in the 2009 Council of Provinces that took place in San Felice del Benaco in Italy. As a title for this Congregation we chose a phrase out of the Rubrica prima , “Qualiter respondendum sit querentibus” (What answer should be given to those who ask questions about us?) in which there is clear indication of a concern about the identity and the mission of the Order.
As I have pointed out in different places, I believe that the atmosphere around the General Congregation was very positive, with a genuine desire to go on generously serving the people of God, but always with a deepening awareness of our own identity and with a creative fidelity to our charism and spirituality. In this process of reflection we were helped by a number of well-qualified people from different backgrounds. As a result of our reflections we wrote a final message that was sent to you via our online CITOC service (104/2011). This document highlights the essential points that emerged as our reflection continued and which, to some degree, mark out the main lines for our next General Chapter, which, God willing, will take place from the 2nd to the 21st of September 2013. Among them, I would like to emphasise, the call to develop the contemplative ideal of our Order (from which all our apostolates are to spring) and the insistent call that comes to us from different directions to be “witnesses of hope”, as well as the mission of the Order today (presence in new places, inculturation, formation in the emerging areas etc.)
We do not want this reflection to end with the General Congregation, but rather we would hope that on very different levels (individual, community, provincial) this reflection might continue. With that in mind, we send you this material in the form of questionnaires in which, based on the final document of the General Congregation, we invite you to reflect upon and to look deeply at the themes that appear there. This is merely a working tool that may be used in your community meetings, on days of retreat, in your provincial assemblies, etc. You do not have to send any conclusions. These are merely suggestions for all those who in union with the whole Order wish to reflect on questions that are so important for our present and our future. Use them as you see fit and according to your own discretion. Even though they are primarily intended for the friars, it is possible (and desirable) that they be used with other members and groups of the Carmelite Family who will no doubt greatly enrich our own reflection. Thus, in a humble kind of way, a family kind of way, we set out on our journey towards the next General Chapter, on which our General Council has already begun to work. There is still much time to go, but it would not be out of place to begin a serious preparation so that this can be truly a moment of grace, encounter, and growth for the whole Carmelite family.
May the Blessed Virgin Mary of Mount Carmel, the Stella Maris, guide and accompany us on this journey.
With fraternal regards and affection,
Fernando Millán Romeral, O.Carm.