The General Council of the Congregation of Holy Cross will meet at the Holy Cross Generalate in Rome, Italy, from December 13-15. This will be the second meeting for new General Council convened by Fr. Robert L. Epping, C.S.C., Superior General of the Congregation, since the 2016 General Chapter, which took place July 3-23 in Rome.
Their first meeting together took place October 17-21, also at Holy Cross Generalate in Rome. The meeting was the first chance for all the new General Assistants to be together, and thus part of the time was spent getting to know one another.
“On the first day of our meetings, October 17, all six councillors and the Superior General spent the morning sharing with each other the history of our vocation, our experience and expectations after being elected or appointed to the General Council, and our hopes for the coming six years,” said Fr. Abraham Kochupurackal, C.S.C., Second General Assistant.
“For all of us it was a very humbling experience to know that the community placed such trust in us to be part of the General Administration of the Congregation," he continued. “All of us had busy ministerial lives; however, trusting in God’s Providence, and believing in the support and cooperation of our confreres we look to the future as a team with hope.”
In addition to getting to know one another, the new General Council began organizing itself for the work ahead in the next six years. This work included assembling the members of the General Administration, including the re-appointments of Fr. Gaspar Selvaraj, C.S.C., as General Steward, Fr. Carl Ebey, C.S.C., as Procurator General, Fr. Paul LeBlanc, C.S.C., as Generalate Staff, and Ms. Maria Concetta Valotta as Executive Secretary. Also, Fr. Abraham was appointed General Secretary.
Another key piece of business was appointing the memberships of the Congregational commissions and committees that will serve the General Administration, including the Finance Committee, Solidarity Commission, Vocations and Formation Commission, Consecrated Life Commission, and the International House of Formation Committee.
“I am happy to say that each religious invited has accepted his appointment, a sure sign of the willingness to reach beyond provincialism to a congregational perspective,” said Fr. Epping.
The General Council also immediately got to work on the vision and agenda spelled out by the 2016 General Chapter.
“We also began discussing how we would begin to approach the major work given to us from the Chapter, namely, to present by the end of 2017 a plan for the development of a simplified organizational structure for the Congregation, consisting of two levels of authority, the general level and a second level consisting of provinces of equal authority,” said Fr. Epping. “The plan should promote effectiveness in mission and ministry, maximise our vitality and viability, and respect the data projections of the demographic studies.
“The fulfilment of the mandate will involve the participation of the Council of the Congregation as a whole and each of the major superiors individually. It is an important and far-reaching goal the Chapter gave us,” continued Fr. Epping.
The current General Council consists of six members, including an equal number of religious brothers and religious priests.
The first two members of the General Council were elected by the 2016 General Chapter: Br. Paul Bednarczyk, C.S.C., First General Assistant and Vicar, and Fr. Abraham Kochupurackal, C.S.C., Second General Assistant.
Following the Constitutions of the Congregation of Holy Cross, Fr. Epping appointed four more General Assistants to the Council. They are: Br. James Ripon Gomes, C.S.C., Third Assistant (St. Joseph Province); Fr. Leopold Temba, C.S.C., Fourth Assistant (District of East Africa); Br. Nicholas Arthur, C.S.C., Fifth Assistant (District of West Africa); and Fr. Jerome Joseph Jose, C.S.C., Sixth Assistant (Vicariate of Tamil Nadu).
Of the six General Assistants, three of them live full time in Rome at the Holy Cross Generalate: Br. Bednarczyk, Fr. Abraham, and Br. Gomes. The remaining three General Assistants are part-time, continuing to live and minister where they were at the time of their appointment to the General Council.
“The experience of the first meeting gives every promise that the Council will work together very smoothly,” said Fr. Epping. “Each member spoke freely and with insight which helped us arrive at sound decisions and healthy consensus. For the tasks ahead for the Council, the camaraderie is a very hopeful sign.”
It is a hope shared by the other members of the General Council as they work together to continue implementing the international missionary course set by the 2016 General Chapter.
"In addition to the restructuring of the Congregation, the 2016 Chapter has given the General Council several areas of work to pursue regarding our mission and consecrated life,” said Br. Bednarczyk. “With the assistance of the various established commissions and the support of the general membership, I am confident that we will be able to maintain our vitality as a Congregation in the future, as different as it may look and feel.”
“The General Chapter has clearly given us a task to restructure our current jurisdictions and to bring about the renewal of our consecrated life to be disciples ‘with the competence to see and the courage to act' in the world,” added Fr. Abraham. “Our joyful witness, in the words of Pope Francis, will ‘attract’ new vocations so that together we may proclaim, ‘Hail, the Cross, our Only Hope.’”