by Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S., Provincial Director
A Jesuit, a Franciscan, a Divine Word missionary and a Precious Blood missionary walked into a bar…actually, it wasn’t a bar and this isn’t the beginning of a tired joke comparing religious congregations. At the recent regional meeting of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, I was on a panel with a Jesuit, a Franciscan, and a Divine Word missionary to respond to three questions:
- What is your congregation’s charism, your unique gift to the Church?
- In your religious congregation, what gives you hope for the future?
- How has Pope Francis sparked enthusiasm within your congregation, your ministries?
We were each given five to ten minutes to offer our reflections on these three questions. None of us had anything written down—which is unusual for me since I always like to have some notes as both a security blanket and timekeeper. We learned in preaching class that if you write out your homilies, you will be less prone to wander aimlessly and at length. But taking our cue from Pope Francis who seems very comfortable talking “off the cuff,” we each shared our responses to the three questions and discovered again the diversity and richness that is religious life.
In capturing our charism, I always return to three keys words: reconciliation, renewal, and proclamation. As Missionaries of the Precious Blood, we are to be about the reconciliation of the world in the blood of Christ and the renewal of the Church through the proclamation of the Word. Reconciliation and renewal have forged our identity since St. Gaspar founded the congregation in 1815. His means of bringing about this reconciliation and renewal was through the proclamation of the Word.
As we prepare for our 200th anniversary of the birth of our Congregation and the 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Kansas City Province in 2015, our provincial assemblies the past two years have focused on these ingredients of our charism and spirituality. Two years ago Bill Huebsch guided us in reflecting on our call to renew the church by rediscovering the documents of the Second Vatican Council and how we might promote the renewal of Vatican II in our parishes and ministries.
Last year, Precious Blood Fathers Bob Schreiter and Jerry Stack reflected on the history and evolution of our spirituality and the charism of St. Gaspar and how we might apply our unique gift to the signs of these times.
The 2014 Provincial Assembly will focus on the theme of Reconciliation. As we announced previously, we are excited to have with us noted author and speaker Sister Joyce Rupp, OSM, and Precious Blood Father David Kelly, director of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago. On Tuesday, June 3, Sister Joyce will lead us in a day of reflection on our call to be a compassionate and reconciling presence in our world. Our day of prayer culminates with the Eucharist and the covenant ceremony with our companions.
On Wednesday morning, June 4, Father Dave will discuss the ministry in Chicago, focusing especially on restorative justice as a model for reconciliation. In the afternoon, we will have some updates on province ministries, including Precious Blood Center, and discuss future possibilities for developing the center as a place of reconciliation and renewal. We will also likely have a couple of other business items to discuss including a request from our missionaries in Tanzania. We will close our assembly with Eucharist and a banquet honoring our missionaries celebrating significant anniversaries of ordination and incorporation.
We are also honored to welcome our new moderator general, Precious Blood Father Bill Nordenbrock, to our assembly this year. As the first director of companions and former director of the Precious Blood Ministry of Reconciliation in Chicago, Fr. Bill is well known among us and we look forward to his first visit to the Kansas City Province since becoming moderator general last July.
We will open the 2014 Provincial Assembly at Annunciation Parish in Kearney, Missouri on Monday evening, June 2, as we remember our communion with those members and companions who form the “cloud of witnesses” and on whose prayers we rely. We will also have brief remarks from the moderator general and provincial.
As I reflected on those three questions posed at the recent CMSM regional gathering, my answer to the first question led me the second: what gives me hope in our future is how our members, companions, and volunteers embody the charism and live the spirituality of the blood of Christ. At this year’s assembly, we have an opportunity to deepen our understanding of reconciliation and celebrate our commitment to be ambassadors of the blood of Christ in our church and in our world. I look forward to seeing you there!