XX (20th) General Chapter of the Servants of Charity

In the beautiful Alpine hills of the Lombardy region of North Italy, at the Casa Don Guanella in Barza, the XX General Chapter of the Servants of Charity was conducted from April 8th – April 28th and whose theme was “Charism, Interculturality and Prophesy.” The setting was fitting as the house was, and continues to be, a house for formation of novices and many confreres, throughout the years, have spent some of their most memorable times in this house. It also serves now as a place of formation for those preparing for perpetual profession as well as a local spirituality, pastoral and cultural center.
The chapter opened on the evening of April 8th at the motherhouse in Como with the celebration of the Eucharist by Bishop Oscar Cantoni, bishop of Como, in the shrine church of the Basilica of the Sacred Heart. This was followed by a dinner where chapter members entered into the spirit of fraternal communion which marked the chapter. The chapter fathers gathered in the morning of April 9th in the chapter hall and the initial acts of the chapter began with the reading of the convocation letter by Fr. Alfonso Crippa, Superior General, the singing of the Veni Creator Spiritus and then his opening remarks. This was followed by the election of the two moderators and two secretaries for the chapter. Br. Franco Lain of the Our Lady of Hope Delegation in Africa and Fr. Mauro Vogt, provincial superior of the Cruz del Sur Province in Brazil, were elected as moderators. Fr. Alessandro Allegra of the St. Joseph Roman Province and Fr. Francesco Sposato, a member of the Sacred Heart Province of N. Italy, were elected as the chapter secretaries. As is the custom, the two youngest confreres attending the chapter became the tellers or observers for the chapter and they were Fr. Tiago Boufleur of the Cruz del Sur Province and Fr. Jude Anamelechi of the Our Lady of Hope Delegation. This day also was inspired with a reflection given by Bishop Paolo Martinelli, a Capuchin friar and auxiliary bishop of the Archdiocese of Milan as well as episcopal vicar for men religious in the archdiocese, whose theme was “The Intercultural Characteristics of the Christian Experience.”
There are significant and essential acts of the General Chapter which mark it and one such act took place during the next morning and part of the afternoon with the presentation of the report of the Superior General. Fr. Alfonso gave a panoramic view of the life of the entire congregation and the chapter members, in various groups, had an opportunity to discuss the report and present to the chapter assembly their findings. In the midst of this work, the report of the various provincials and delegate superior were also presented.
The chapter itself takes on a certain rhythm and a multitude of tasks are assumed by the chapter fathers. These are done in view of the General Chapter being “a singular moment of revision and discernment by which we strengthen our religious family according to the Gospel and in harmony with the times and directives of the Church” (Constitution n. 112) and whose “primary task…is to guard the charism of the Founder and whatever constitutes the spiritual patrimony of the Institute with fidelity in order to render them operative in its life and apostolate.” (Constitutions n. 113) In order to fulfill the spirit of these directives, duties of the chapter such as the report of the General Treasurer and a discussion of and presentation by the various workgroups on the report took place. In addition, the formation of five commissions among the chapter fathers helped also to realize the direction given by the Constitutions. These commissions were: Charism, Consecration, Ecclesiastical Life and the Guanellian Family; Fraternity, Interculturality and Prophesy; Vocation Ministry and Initial and Permanent Formation; and Economy, Governance and Animation and Organization of the Congregation. The commissions worked diligently in establishing inspiring principles, identifying lines of action and developing motions and proposals for presentation to the chapter assembly for voting at the end of the chapter. Finally, as part of this essential work, revised texts of the Regulations were presented for review and possible modification and these texts were also voted upon and, with the outcome of the vote, will now be included as revised regulations.
Unique and special moments are welcomed during the General Chapter and this was reflected in a presentation given by Fr. Mario Aldegani, Superior General of the Josephites of Murialdo on the theme of the chapter; an overview given by Sr. Neuza Giordani, Vicar General of the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence and Dr. Antonio Valentini, president of the Guanellian Cooperators of N. Italy and Switzerland on the mini-chapter of the Guanellian family which took place in Rome from November 10-12 of last year and, on that same day, a visit to the Cathedral of St. Lawrence in Lugano, Switzerland where the body of Venerable Aurelio Bacciarini is buried; and the Eucharistic Liturgy celebrated by Archbishop Mario Delpini, Archbishop of Milan.
This is a fitting point to note that the General Chapter and its members were continually spiritually nourished throughout the chapter with the liturgical celebrations. Daily Mass celebrated by many of the chapter fathers as well as Eucharistic adoration and benediction along with the celebration of the Liturgy of the Hours were rich times for its members and helped to sustain them in the work of the chapter.
In a sense, the zenith of the General Chapter is reached with the vote taking place for the Superior General, Vicar General as well as the 3 remaining General Councilors. These are historic moments in the life of the Congregation and this chapter proved to be no different. The election occurred on April 25th and it was prepared for by a personal hour of reflection and adoration in the chapel as well as Eucharistic Benediction with the chapter fathers.
The members then returned to the assembly and the following were elected as the new leadership of the Institute of the Servants of Charity: Fr. Umberto Brugnoni, Superior General; Fr. Nicola (Nico) Rutigliano, Vicar General; Fr. Soosai Rathinam; Br. Franco Lain; and Fr. Gustavo De Bonis. The composition of this council is certainly one that is historical in nature with, for the first time, a general councilor from India and a religious brother being elected; representation on the General Council from three nations – Italy, India and Argentina; and five continental mission experiences within the General Council – Europe, Asia, Africa (where Br. Franco has served for 25 years), South America and North America. One can say that this Holy Spirit led effort responded to the theme of the General Chapter, “Charism, Interculturality and Prophesy” and the motto of the General Chapter, “Rooted in the Charism for the Universal Mission.”
The General Chapter ended as it began with a Eucharistic Liturgy taking place, on April 28th, at the Basilica of the Sacred Heart in Como and celebrated by the newly elected Superior General, Fr. Umberto Brugnoni. The General Chapter proved to be a prophetic witness to the charism of the Institute; a reflection of the growing inter-cultural nature of the Congregation; and a living out of a fraternal and family spirit so desired by our holy Founder, St. Louis Guanella. May God continue to shower his blessings upon the Servants of Charity! Mary, Mother of Divine Providence, pray for us! St. Louis Guanella, pray for us!

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