From 9 to 14 January 2023, the Province of Saint John XXIII was honoured by the visit of Father Eugênio Barbosa Martins SSS, the Superior General of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament. This was a time of grace for the religious of our Province, since it was a canonical visitation, during which Fr. José Antonio Rivera Ruiz SSS, the Vicar General, was also present among us. So, the canonical visit of the Superior General to the Province was structured according to the following three important moments.
1 - Spiritual Retreat on the theme “Community and Affectivity”
Fr. Eugenio began his talks by inviting to speak freely regarding sexuality in religious life, and he presented five axes to foster personal reflection: a) A perspective of faith regarding sexuality, b) Sexuality: a misrepresented topic, c) We are beings of desire and pleasure, d) Guidelines for improvement, e) Community life and chastity.
a) A perspective of faith regarding sexuality
We must assume everything beautiful about the human condition, especially sexuality. We are creatures of God. Jesus entered this sexual condition, regarding which we can find traces in his words: “This is my body”, “I have earnestly desired”. Sexuality as such is beautiful, good and not a “sin”.
b) Sexuality: a misrepresented topic
Sexuality also remains complex and misrepresented in the contemporary cultural context. We come across negative forces such as: an availability of the virtual (pornography) presented as a fictitious reality and bringing about a misconstruing of reality; the loss of the sacredness of sexuality; narcissism and individualism; erotic emphasis of human relations and plurality of genders.
c) We are beings of desire and pleasure
Sexual pleasure, sexual desire, sexual tension will be present in our lives always... until death... This tension can find immediate release: through habitual or compulsive masturbation; through seeking homosexual or heterosexual encounters; through deviations and sexual abuse. These situations will occasion asking ourselves a question: “What is not right in my life?” and to accept necessary professional help, remembering that condemnation or rejection only adds fuel to the fire.
d) Guidelines for improvement
First, it is necessary to appreciate the meaning of having a clear understanding of the commitment to chastity. Some texts from the Bible and Church documents were proposed to us to illuminate this perspective. Religious life is presented as an antidote to the excesses of society. Chastity is a proclamation of the Kingdom. To live for the Kingdom of God is the deep motivation. Next, the means and practices must be employed. As the seat of desire, I have to; accept desire (reality), be aware of my fragility, revive the motivations of being committed to chastity, and rely on prayer, while also remembering and appreciating the other joys and compensations experienced in the consecrated life and the mission (celebrations, events...) and developing friendships from outside that are shared with confreres.
e) Community life and chastity
Fraternal life is the nest where chastity is cultivated and is almost essential to it. This environment has to be lived in a conducive way to expressing feelings and affectivity, and should foster a freedom to speak in an uninhibited way about the reality of sexuality as part of our lives. Our Rule of Life and our Eucharistic spirituality propose to us this higher path of fraternity. Thus, number 28 of the Rule of Life can be a source of motivation to find in the celebration of the Eucharist wellsprings of (generative) life and joy.
Father Camilo Gagnon, sss
House of the Sisters of Charity of the Presentation of Mary (Petaluma)
2 - Provincial Assembly
At 8:45 pm on 13 January 2023, the following religious met at the Vocational House (Barrio Las Ferias, Bogotá) to begin the Provincial Assembly: Fr. Eugênio Barbosa Martins, the Superior General of the Congregation; Fr. José Antonio Rivera, a General Consultor and person responsible for Latin America; Fr. Carlos José Sierra, the Provincial Superior; Fr. Hernán Zuluaga, the Provincial Vicar; Fr. Alexander Espitia, the Treasurer and Provincial Consultor; Fr. Gustavo Chagüendo, a Provincial Consultor; Fr. Juan Echevarría, Fr. Lucinio Martin, Fr. Álvaro Vásquez, Fr. Jaime Ario Rodríguez, Fr. Fabián Velásquez, Fr. Camille Gagnon, Fr. Gregorio Urquiola, Fr. Anyel Mesa, Fr. José Alfredo Poveda, Fr. Elibien Joseph and the deacons Juan David Zapata and Wilmer Gómez.
The Superior General, Fr. Eugenio, said a few words of guidance, explaining that his presence is a sign of communion and invited us to live this occasion in the dynamics of synodality, since it is a privileged opportunity to bear witness to the presence of the Spirit in the life of the particular Province.
Then Fr. José Antonio, a General Consultor, spoke on behalf of the entire General Council, highlighting what was experienced in the retreat preached by Fr. General, based on the theme "affectivity in religious life". It was emphasised that sexuality encompasses all dimensions of life including the desire for power. There was an invitation to “dwell in the Word in life”, that is, the coherence between the verbal and the real.
Following these words of motivation, the assembly began its work by considering what the commissions in the Province have been doing: economic commission, formation commission, and future commission of the province. Its members and persons responsible were reappointed for the specific tasks of each of the commissions. During the meeting, reports were presented about the life of each local community apropos its challenges and strengths, as well as information on vocation ministry and formation and an economic report. After our assembly, some religious returned to their local communities and others went on holiday to their families.
3 - Meeting with Individual religious in their respective communities
Our St John XXIII Province comprises four communities in two countries, three in Colombia and one in Peru. Father General began meeting each individual religious in the context of the retreat and assembly, since as already mentioned not all of them returned to the community for previously scheduled activities. During the visit, the Superior General was able to go to the house of formation for philosophy and the community of Nicolas de Federman.
Province of Saint John XXIII
Notibip 89 - March 2023