In the 50th anniversary of the death of their Founder, Blessed James Alberione, members of the Society of Saint Paul gather for their 11th General Chapter in Ariccia, Italy.
Sixty members of the Society of Saint Paul gathered in Ariccia at the end of May to participate in the 11th General Chapter of the Institute founded by Blessed James Alberione. This Congregation of men religious operates its mission of evangelization through the means of communication in about 30 countries throughout the world. Participants come from 22 countries; the youngest is 31 and the oldest is 78.
Artisans of communion
Opening the Chapter, Superior General Father Valdir José De Castro recalled the “particular significance” of the timing in which the Chapter takes place: “This ‘eleventh’ [chapter] can be considered as the Chapter of the post-pandemic, which takes place in the midst of a worrying war conflict in Ukraine,” he said. He also highlighted the ecclesial context of the synodal process initiated by Pope Francis, connecting it with the Pauline apostolate. “The synodal journey is an exercise in communication, where dialogue has an irreplaceable role, even if it is a demanding itinerary.”
Moving toward the future
The delegates then entered into a period of coming to understand the life and mission of the members of the institute throughout the world. They were then invited by Father Valdir to enter into fraternal dialogue with one another, to ask questions, to expose problems and difficulties so that together they might discover the path forward toward a realistic future with high hopes while keeping their feet on solid ground. This phase concluded with Father Valdir’s report that also included reflections on the 4 congregations of women religious and the Association of Pauline Cooperators that are connected in a special way to the Society of Saint Paul.
The Solemnity of Pentecost, 5 June, introduced the delegates into the next phase of the chapter. Readings proclaimed in Japanese and Vietnamese concretely expressed the international and multi-cultural aspects of the Society of Saint Paul. Among the people who gave their contribution to this “illuminative” phase of the chapter was Archbishop José Rodríguez Carballo, ofm, Secretary of the Dicastery for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life and Sr Nathalie Becquart, Under-secretary of the General Secretariat of the Synod of Bishops. She expounded on the synodal journey in process in the Church which specifically addresses one of the three “nuclei” contained in the Instrumentum Laboris guiding the chapter: “A Synodal Congregation.”
The final week of the Chapter, from 11 to 16 June, the delegates entered the final phase of the chapter. Members were elected to form a new general government which will have the task of implementing points of action identified during the general chapter.
Remaining apostles of the times
Superior General since 2015, Father Valdir José De Castro spoke with Vatican News about the General Chapter. He explained that the challenge they are facing in this chapter is how to update the way they evangelize men and women today. For him, the Founder, Blessed James Alberione, was above all an “apostle of his time” who “was able to read the signs of his times”. With what is happening in the world, in the Church, in the “culture of communication”, the capitulars are trying to discern the signs of the times so as understand what new channels they need to take and what new languages they need to use to announce the Gospel.
He then named the three “nuclei” guiding them.
• Their identity as communicators, as people who follow in the footsteps of Saint Paul in a world in which everyone is a communicator;
• The formation needed to proclaim the Gospel today with the means of communication;
• Synodality — how they have already embraced synodality and how they can improve to truly become “artisans of communion”.
‘Part of God’s story’
Father Angelo Paolo Asprer, is participating in the Chapter and represents their Philippine province. He told Vatican News that he is happy to be “part of history… God’s story… a story of dynamic grace” transforming his congregation. He called the General Chapter the “highest expression of faith, of fraternity, of solidarity, of journeying together, of synodality”. He hopes to encourage his brothers back home in the Philippines to remain “grounded in the original charism” of Blessed James Alberione in realizing “our vision directed to proclaiming Jesus Master through the most efficacious means of communication in the emerging culture of communication”. The way he hopes they can move forward is with “more listening, more discernment, more fraternity, more courage, more creativity”.
By Sr Bernadette M.
Reis , fsp