13 October 2016
Greetings from Wichita where I am accompanying our Moderator General, Father Bill Nordenbrock, as he continues his visitation of the members of the Kansas City Province. For the next several weeks, Fr. Bill will visit each of our members. He began his visitation with our missionaries ministering in the Chicago area and then traveled to Iowa last weekend and the beginning of this week. Fr. Bill will be staying at Precious Blood Center during his visitation with the members serving in the Kansas City-St. Joseph area before journeying to Ohio to visit our members at Carthagena. He will complete his visitation of the province by flying to California to visit our missionaries in the Bay Area and Los Angeles in early November. We welcome Fr. Bill to the province!
During the meeting of the Major Superiors of the Missionaries of the Precious Blood in Rome September 12-17, one of our major agenda items focused on the process of reimagining our congregation in regions throughout the world. In my report to the CPPS Major Superiors and General Curia, I outlined the process members of the Kansas City Province have engaged in since January. Father Alan Hartway will have an article about this process in the November issue of The New Wine Press, but I want to briefly summarize what we have done over the last several months and update you on the meeting of the provincial councils from the Atlantic, Cincinnati, and Kansas City Provinces that took place September 26-29 in Chicago.
Since January 2016, members of the Kansas City Province have met five times in various formats and venues to participate in this process of reimagining. We are most grateful to our facilitator, Dr. Kevin McClone of Catholic Theological Union in Chicago, who was with us for two of our larger gatherings in January and August where thirty members came together to discuss aspects of our community life and ministry. The Leadership Team is also very grateful to Fathers John Wolf (chair), Al Ebach, Alan Hartway, Lac Pham, and Mark Yates who form the Future Task Force and have led us in our discernment and dialogue. The consensus of the members throughout this process is that we want to strengthen the bonds of community among us as we look to the future.
Some of the questions we have reflected upon and discussed that have taken us deeper into our dialogue have been drawn from the writings of St. Gaspar, particularly his Circular Letters where he often quotes from the Song of Songs. For example, our first conversation in dyads invited the members to consider where the best things are happening among us “in the sense of the most tender and filled with mercy.” We also reflected on our work and how we best promote our ministry and community; and what our community and ministry will look like over the next ten years.
You will recall at our Assembly in June we were invited to share about our fears concerning community and mission both now and for the future. We also reflected on where reconciliation needs to happen in our community life and how we as individuals and as a community are life-giving in the church and in the world.
Over the summer, each member of the Task Force and Provincial Council met with four members and engaged them in dialogue about what faithfulness means to them when thinking about community life and their apostolate. This led us to our three-day gathering in late August to trace what binds us together, what barriers exist that keep us from a deeper sense of relating, how do we continue the spirit of Gaspar going forward together, how is the mission of Gaspar being lived out in our province today, and what do we as a Kansas City Province offer to the worldwide Precious Blood congregation.
One of the highlights of our gathering was the sharing of stories by four members of the province of what has been the grace and the wound for them as members of the community. At the conclusion of our time together, each member was asked to write a covenant reflecting their commitment and investment in this process as we move forward into the future. I received these covenants at the offertory of our closing Eucharist together on August 24. Each member of the province unable to attend these gatherings due to age, infirmity, or previously-scheduled ministerial responsibility, received all the information we discussed and have been asked to respond and send their covenant to the provincial director.
At our meeting with the provincial councils from North America in September in Chicago, we agreed to work on a common vision. We shared our process so far with the councils from the Atlantic and Cincinnati Provinces. Each province agreed to continue to move this process forward in their own unit with a meeting scheduled for January 18, 2017 in Chicago with the provincials and Moderator General to discuss our progress. We set a date for a meeting of all the members of all three provinces September 25-29, 2017.
As we continue to deepen our conversation and strengthen our community bonds, we need to address the question of imagining a new creation in North America with the other two provinces. It is also important and necessary to include the Companions in this process of reimagining as we move forward into the future. One of the ways we hope to do this is to invite the Members and Companions to dialogue this coming year on what an “authentic living of community life in the CPPS context” means for us as a congregation. This mandate for a “substantial exploration of what specifically comprises an authentic living of community life” in the Precious Blood flows from the vision of the 2013 General Assembly.
The General Curia has developed a process for dialogue that will culminate in the Community Life Symposium that will be held in Rome July 23-28, 2017. The Kansas City Province will have three delegates appointed by leadership to attend this symposium. The delegates will bring to the symposium the results of the dialogue process that will take place in our province over the next several months. Our ultimate goal is to produce a document that will help guide the worldwide congregation “in defining authentic CPPS community life in their cultural context.”
It is essential that all members and companions are willing to work together on these important issues of community life and ministry that is steeped in the spirituality of the Precious Blood and the charism of St. Gaspar. May the spirit of our founder inspire us to imagine new possibilities and give us the courage to take the risks necessary to respond to the signs of these times.
As always, may we continue to meet in prayer across the miles as we dream together for a brand new future filled with hope.
With peace in the blood of Christ,
Fr. Joe Nassal, C.PP.S.
13 October 2016