Starting a new chapter

A religious order like the Divine Word Missionaries doesn’t just set a goal when founded and remains fixated on a singular mission forever. Every six years, leaders gather for almost a month at an event called a General Chapter. They address group issues, assess advancements, and strategize for what lies ahead.  

On June 16, more than 150 participants gathered at the Ad Gentes Center in Nemi, Italy, to begin the order’s 19th General Chapter. They serve as representatives for the nearly 6,000 Divine Word Missionary Priests and Brothers who work in about 80 countries around the world. They’re joined by representatives of the Holy Spirit Missionary Sisters and some lay partners. This year’s theme is, “Your Light Must Shine Before Others (Matthew 5:16): Faithful and Creative Disciples in a Wounded World.”

“The wounded world is out there in need of our help,” said Fr. Jon Patrick Kirby, SVD, the Provincial Superior of the SVD’s Western Province in the United States and a participant at the Chapter. One way to help is through ministries that focus on Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation, which he hopes will be a priority identified during the Chapter. Fr. Jon believes emphasis on these areas would help encourage more young people to consider religious life as Catholic missionaries.  

“It’s a big problem getting new candidates and part of it, I think, is because there are motivated youth who want to do something, and they look to the secular world for various activities, like medical assistance abroad, but they don’t see what a missionary order like the SVD is doing,” he said. “So, we need to match what’s happening in the secular world as far as creative responses to the needs of the people.”

Fr. Kirby, SVD

To hear more of Fr. Jon’s thoughts on the General Chapter, watch this short video interview.

Pope Francis recently appointed Divine Word Missionary Superior General, Fr. Paulus Budi Kleden, SVD as the Archbishop of Ende, Indonesia. During the General Chapter, participants will elect a new Superior General for a six-year term.

“Our participation in this entire process demonstrates our sense of belongingness to the Society, which we love and are proud of,” said Fr. Paulus. “A Society whose life and mission depends on each and every one of us.

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