By Fr. Adam MacDonald, SVD
I still remember the day I received a call from Rome last July asking if I would serve on the Preparatory Commission for our 19th SVD General Chapter. My first thought was, “Why me?” Of all the 6,000 SVD members around the globe, what could I possibly contribute when so many of my confreres are much wiser and more intelligent than me? Speaking with some of the members of my local community about the invitation, they encouraged me to see the invitation as an honor and an opportunity to contribute to helping shape the future history of our Society. With that encouragement, I said “Yes” to the invitation, and I’m so grateful that I did!
From the moment I arrived in Rome to begin the work of the Commission, I knew it was going to require a lot of time and effort, but I likewise recognized and felt what a privilege it was to serve alongside such visionary and faith-filled young confreres from a diversity of cultures around the SVD world. As native sons of the U.S., Brazil, India, Indonesia, the Philippines, Poland, Portugal, and Togo I can say that we are truly “One Heart, Many Faces!”
As members of the Commission, we were tasked with reviewing the reports of all of the SVD Provinces, Regions, and Missions (PRMs) as well as those of our Lay Partners and men in initial formation reflecting on the theme of the 19th SVD General Chapter and related questions. From the reports we took note of the common themes and concerns which emerged and which we could then make the basis of a Second Reflection Guide, which will eventually go back to the PRMs to invite a deepening of their ongoing reflection on the Chapter theme.
One impactful moment of our work together that was also very instructive for me was on the second day of our time together. We were discussing diverse opinions and seemingly coming to an impasse, not sure how to move forward. One of our facilitators suggested we divide ourselves into two smaller groups to keep the discussion going, and once we did that, we were able to talk very freely among ourselves, bringing clarity and insight on a number of the issues where we were struggling. Once we moved back to the larger group of the Commission, we were able to bring the voices of the two smaller groups together and begin to find resolution on the issues which were previously presenting themselves as stumbling blocks and which were now perceived as an opportunity to seek new and creative ways to advance our work. It was definitely an experience of learning to trust in the guidance of the Holy Spirit as well as in the good will and integrity of each member of the Commission.
Members of the General Council in consultation with our Mission Secretary and other collaborators will now work on revising and editing the draft we prepared, and the hope of us who served on the Commission is that our efforts will have served the purpose of more fully engaging the confreres in taking personal interest in and responsibility for their part in preparing for the General Chapter, a most important moment in the life and history of our congregation.
Reflecting upon the experience of serving on the General Chapter Preparatory Commission, I no longer ask “Why me?” Instead, I proclaim “Glory be” as I give thanks to the Holy Triune God for this inspiring and unforgettable experience which has deepened my love for my own vocation and for our Society!