CHELSEA – The Servants of Charity Community in Michigan was honored to host our Superior General, Very Rev. Umberto Brugnoni and his assistant Bro. Franco Lain, for a five-day visit from Friday, October 19th through Wednesday, October 24th. The purpose of the visit was to provide the new leader of the Servants of Charity with an opportunity to visit St. Louis Center in Chelsea and the Pious Union of St. Joseph in Grass Lake, and to assess the operations of each program and visit their new facilities. Fr. Umberto and Bro. Franco were relaxed and comfortable during their stay, and enjoyed the opportunity to visit their confreres in the United States.
“Holiness is one of the most beautiful gifts a human heart can offer to God.” – Mother Teresa. We know well that life is a precious gift of God to all of us and what we make out of our lives is our gift to God in return. I was told that in the culture of the United States as also of India, when you go to visit a family, never go with an empty hand. I wonder what gift we need to carry when we go to our eternal home (heaven) to our Father. We know well that we cannot carry anything but our pure soul and the good things we did here on earth. We fatigue a lot to earn so many things just to leave them to others as the proverb says “When he dies he will carry nothing away” (49;17). Each one must now reflect what gift we will be carrying to our Father once we are done with our pilgrimage here on earth. What good do we possess or cultivate? Humility? Forgiveness? Patience? Love? Charity? Kindness? Sharing with the needy? Endurance in suffering? What is the gift that I will present to God?
We begin this month remembering and honoring our ancestors who lived before us and returned to the Father. November 1st, we honor All Saints and November 2nd, we commemorate All the Faithful Departed. St. Bernard says the lives of the saints assure us that holiness is possible, they teach us by their lives and their writing how to serve God, and they can intercede for us when we need God’s help. Honoring the saints and millions of others who have tried to live a good and holy life, including those who have fallen along the way, but who have gotten up and kept on going. Saints are people who lived their lives according to the design of God and helped others also live their lives well. When we live our life fully and help others as to live well, then we become holy ones in the eyes of God.
Live: Whether we know it or not, we all have a vision for our lives. We all have a philosophy that sets out how we want to live and what we want to accomplish. It’s this vision that guides many of our decisions and actions. At the heart of our vision is the desire to do what makes us happy. As we mature, our vision gets refined and sharpened. It also becomes increasingly selfless. Our life is not just made of what this world has to offer us. Remember that we are the children of God and that heaven is our true home. We need to tell ourselves that we are more than our job, our skills, our wealth or education. We are precious to God and He delights in us. This is the call to live our life fully, meaningfully and joyfully.
Let Live: As we journey on earth God is asking us to love our neighbor as a commandment. God asks us to take the risk for the sake of His people. Our Founder, St. Louis Guanella, and Mother Theresa didn’t try to solve all of the world’s problems: they simply lived their life in radical service and love of their neighbor. Hindus, Muslims, and Christians alike saw in them a role model. They invite us to let others live with a simple program of life, “Spread love everywhere you go. Let no one ever come to you without leaving happier. At the end of life, we are going to be judged on the basis of our love for one another.” Fr. Guanella invites his followers to attain holiness with this simple program of life, “in doing our daily duties with love, we embrace holiness.” I would like to quote a passage from The Imitation of Christ. “How many people will remember you and pray for you once you are dead? So do all you can now, for you do not know when you will die or what you will face after death. Gain merit for eternity now while there is time and concern yourself only with your eternal salvation.” (Ch. 23; 8).
The month of November for the Catholic Church is special because the militant church commemorates its relationship with the triumphant church and the penitent church through the celebration of All Saints Day and All Souls Day. These two celebrations remind us of the temporality and the eternity of human existence. In other words they reiterate our fundamental vocation as Christians to become holy or saintly. Be perfect as your heavenly father is perfect. (Mt 5,48)
This month gives us, Guanellians additional privilege and joy since we celebrate the feast of the mother of Divine Providence. It is very evident from the life of our founder that the concept of Divine Providence was very close to his heart that he named his autobiography The Ways of Providence, that he named the first institution House of Divine Providence, that he called the bulletin of that house The Divine Providence and named the sisters the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence.
In general Divine Providence would mean that God governs and directs everything and therefore the entire universe is under His control. Moreover even when things go wrong, he can straighten up the crooked designs of human beings (Saul becoming Paul, the story of Joseph in the Old Testament) and produce good out of the bad which human minds design. Personally one can think of Divine Providence in terms of his existence, his family, his education and well-being etc.
Our founder does not stop with this idea of Divine Providence as God’s intervention in one’s life. He moves further to assert that human cooperation is a must to avail this gift: “It is God who does; we are only instruments in the hands of God”. He recommended his followers to merit Divine Providence through trust, work and sacrifice. For example, he was fully convinced that Divine Providence and poverty go hand in hand: “if you want to weaken the institution, let it become rich, to live in much poverty and to entrust ourselves completely to Divine Providence is a virtue of high perfection”. Divine Providence means human charity too: when the fortunate helps the unfortunate, the haves hold up the have-nots, when the healthy accompany the crippled.
Providence does not mean looking at the roof and waiting for some treasure from nowhere, it is doing what one can in his concrete situation: “If a man limits himself to be a zero, he is nothing and will never do anything. If instead he tries to be something, he does whatever he can, he becomes a positive reality, after all he has only to ask Providence to add one zero, two zeros, three zeros to his small number and immediately the small things become large”. As members of the Divine Providence Province with a lot of energy and enthusiasm, youthfulness and vitality, let us inculcate this teaching and exhortation of our founder in our minds and hearts: you try to provide first with what you are, what you have and God will do miracles.
I wish you fruitful celebration of the feast of the Mother of Divine Providence. On behalf of the province I extend my sincere wishes and prayers to our Guanellian sisters as they bear this name. I make this special plea for your ardent prayers (both common and personal) for the good health of our confrere Rev. Fr. Bala Yesu who is under treatment.
Fr. Ronald J, SdC
Dear loving Confreres, DSMP sisters, GC and GLM members, seminarians, benefactors, Parishioners, staff and residents of our facilities,
I send my simple and sincere wishes and greetings in the name of the newly appointed provincial council of Divine Providence Province.
We are not makers of history; rather we are made by history – Martin Luther King Jr.
I believe that what we are today as the Divine Providence Province is what our veterans and pioneers dreamt, toiled and shaped. It is good to recall that some of the pioneers went back to the Lord telling Him, “I have finished the race. Give me the crown prepared for me,” (2 Tim. 4: 7-8). Some others for different reasons are not able to be physically present in the province, yet we sense their countenance amongst us.
At this historical juncture, I would go unjustified, if we are not grateful to you, dear confreres our veterans. My mere thank you is a small way in which the entire province repays you for what you are to us.
Thank you dear Rev. Fr. Alfonso Crippa (Former Superior General) and his council for your paternal guidance and charismatic presence.
Thank you dear Rev. Fr. Gustavo De Bonis (Link councilor for DPP) for your edifying personal accompaniment.
Thank you dear Rev. Fr. Soosai Rathinam (former Provincial of DPP) for your simplicity and prudent leadership.
Thank you dear fathers Charlton, Visuwasam, Kulandaisamy, Dennis Weber, and Silvio De Nard for your encouraging animation.
Thank you dear Rev. Fr. Joseph Rinaldo for your tireless journeys and for your fatherly prodigality.
We are stepping into this new month of October, a moment very close to our heart. It is the moment when we bring back to our memory and relive the heavenly birth of our beloved founder St. Louis Guanella and the official recognition of him from the part of the church. We would be already in preparation for the festivities and dinners. At the same time we cannot be blindfolded to the fact that these are the days when our founder was bedridden and underwent pain and suffering. These last days of our founder are the touchstone of his program of life ‘pray and suffer.’ In other words, his yesterday’s pain has become my today’s joy. His carrying of the cross then is my exultation of the cross now. His fast has turned into my feast today. How apt it is to quote our founder at this moment “The Lord works in our soul little by little, like the chisel of the artist on the marble he wants to turn into a statue.”
I encourage all of you to continue this legacy of charity and relive it in our times. I thank you dear confreres for the religious witness you show forth and for being ‘fiery swords’ in your missions. My special thanks go to all those who take up new assignments for your generosity and availability.
Let me wish you a fruitful preparation and happy feast of our Founder.
Fr. Ronald J, SdC
By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
One of the more meaningful and fulfilling parts of the Catholic doctrine that is not well developed in other Christian denominations is the incredible value of suffering. Sadly many Christians believe that Jesus suffered and died for us so that we would not have to suffer at all. While Jesus did suffer and die to save us and that the redeemed will one day have every tear wiped from their eyes, our path of salvation to the final, eternal reward in this life is to follow in His footsteps. Christ promised us that, if we are truly His disciples, we will suffer just as He did. Suffering for a Catholic is never meaningless; it is always meant for the sanctification of our souls and to prepare us for heaven, no matter what form it takes: sickness, financial troubles, emotional turmoil, family strife, religious persecution, natural disasters, government oppression and so on. Whether we will it or not, we must suffer. There are some who suffer like the good thief, others like the bad thief. They both suffer equally. Only one knew how to make his suffering meritorious and accept them in spirit of reparation. Jesus said to him, “This day you will be with Me in Paradise.” The other, on the contrary, cried out, uttered blasphemies, and expired in the most frightful despair. There are two ways of suffering: Suffering with love and suffering without love. The saints suffered everything with joy and patience, because they loved. We suffer with anger, because we do not love. If we loved God, we should love crosses and be happy to be able to suffer for the love of Him who lovingly suffered for us. The Cross is consoling! But, we must love while we suffer, and suffer while we love. On the Way to the Cross, only the first step is painful.
Our greater Cross is the fear of Crosses. Most men turn their backs to Crosses. The more they run, the more the Cross pursues them. He who goes out to meet the Cross and embraces it courageously is purified and detached from this world. The Christian lives in the midst of Crosses as the fish lives in the sea. When the good God sends us Crosses, we resist, we complain, we murmur and we are so adverse to whatever contradicts us that we want to be always in a box of cotton, but we ought to be put into a box of thorns. It is by the Cross that we will go to heaven. Illness, temptations and troubles are so many Crosses which will take us to Heaven. Our Lord is our model. Let us take up the Cross and follow Him who has gone before us. The Cross is the ladder to Heaven. The Cross gave peace to the world; it must bring peace to our hearts. Nothing makes us more like our Lord than carrying His Cross. We must never question where our Crosses come from. They come from God. It is always God who is giving us this way of proving our love for Him. One of the greatest gifts in Heaven’s treasury is an understanding of the Way of the Cross, a love for trials and sufferings. If we could just spend a week in heaven we should understand the value of our moments in suffering.
It is with gratitude in our hearts for the many years of service from our outgoing Provincial Council that we wish them all a fond farewell as they transition into their new positions within the Congregation. With hopefulness we welcome our incoming Council and pray that they transition well into their new leadership roles.
Fr. Jesiah Ronald – Provincial Superior
Fr. Antonysamy Kulandaisamy – Vicar and First Council
Fr. John Samson Rajasegaran – Second Council
Fr. Alphonse Satheesh Caniton – Third Council
Fr. Selvaraj Francis – Fourth Council
A gentleman who calls me his friend, among other questions about the Church asked me: “Isn’t the Church’s teaching discriminatory against homosexuals?” Not at all.
The Church does not discriminate against homosexuals. It revolves around the distinction between homosexual activity and homosexual persons. First is the Church’s belief that Homosexual acts are intrinsically disordered. They are contrary to the natural law. Under no circumstances can they be approved (Catechism, # 2357). The Church also insists, however, that men and women with same sex attractions are valued members of the human family and must be treated with the same respect and love as every other child of God. Every sign of unjust discrimination in their regard should be avoided. Hatred, persecution, prejudices and ridicule of homosexuals is a grave sin and must always be treated as such.
The teaching of the Church does not intend to offend our homosexual brothers and sisters, and we recognize that for some individuals and their families, especially parents, questions of sexual identity and behavior can be very difficult and emotionally charged. To those individuals and their families we offer our sincere concern and prayerful support
As a society, however, we have to understand the possibility, sometimes the necessity, of loving and respecting their inappropriate or immoral behavior. Parents have to do that with their children once in a while.
What harm is done if the activity is between consenting adults? The fact that two adults consent to an action doesn’t make it morally right or socially acceptable. The “harm” is that such reasoning leads us down a very dangerous and permissive slope to the detriment of the common good and the spiritual impoverishment of the individuals involved. After all, two consenting adults can engage in drug use, prostitution, polygamy or other immoral activity. In other words, the determination of the morality of an action is found in the act itself and not in the consent of the people involved.
Same sex unions affect the family. We should recognize that in every culture and society throughout the ages traditionally defined marriage, as a stable union of one man and one woman, has been normative and has been given protection and respect. The definition of the family’s identity is a priority. Such marital and family stability does not only depend on the good will of concrete persons; it takes on an institutional character of public recognition by the State. The recognition, protection and promotion of this stability contribute to the general interest, especially of the weakest, that is the children.
In other simple terms, marriage as traditionally defined has always been a privileged institution, and that distinction should be recognized, preserved and applauded. Accepting other personal unions as equivalent to marriage undermines the special status afforded to marriage in every society and culture.
Examples of this point: in the classroom if all the students routinely get an “A” on their report card, the work of the real “A” student is devalued. In the Olympics, if everyone receives a gold medal, why bother competing? And if every intimate relationship between consenting adults is marriage, then marriage is nothing.
By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC
‘In every human person there is the imprint of God’- Pope Francis. The statement reminds us that each of us is created in God’s image and likeness. Our province has given birth to new houses for the good children in the United States and in India, on June 12th a formal dedication of ST. LOUIS GUANELLA VILLAGE along with the grand opening of four new CHILDREN’S HOMES for children with Intellectual and developmental disabilities and on June 29th, the Solemnity of Sts. Peter and Paul, DON GUANELLA RESIDENTIAL HOME for the orphaned special children respectively. These are the outcomes of the untiring efforts of our confreres along with the Staff, Parents, GLM, Benefactors and well-wishers. It is realized after 58 & 20 years of our ministry presence in USA and Chennai as per the sayings of our Founder St. Luigi Guanella, ‘A new house develops little by little according to the ways of Divine Providence.’ It is also a miracle of Providence. Fr. Luigi invites us not to put our trust in economic security or fixed revenues or human protection but in prayer, work, sacrifice and poverty. He not only expressed this by his words but by deeds of trusting in God and soliciting help from the people.
Every human person is born with a heart of compassion which reacts in accordance with the feelings of fellow humans. Compassion, love, affection and care are the innate qualities which make us human. It is these qualities that define the human person. All world religions ecumenically share and support this concept of treating others with courtesy and kindness. The best example of humaneness is the parable of “The Good Samaritan” in which a lowly Samaritan assisted a helpless man who had been waylaid and injured.
Therefore my humble reminder to all those associated with the Guanellian Mission in our province as we remember the foundation day of our ministry on July 3rd to inculcate a heart of compassion, love, affection and care to the differently-abled people who need love and compassion. Pope Francis rightly said in one of his audiences when he directly met the sick and the differently-abled people: “God has a special place in His Heart for differently-abled people.” Dalai Lama said: “Love and compassion are necessities, not luxuries… without them humanity cannot survive.” So let’s always strive to be persons filled with compassion and love for humanity without any distinctions. Having the imprints of God in us, let’s see God’s imprint in our fellow humans.
Fr. Soosai Rathinam, SdC
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!
Anytime the subject of marriage comes up in a conversation, the questions are always the same. Why is the Church so adamantly opposed to “gay marriages” and civil unions? Doesn’t the Church’s stance discriminate against homosexuals? What harm is done if homosexual activity is between consenting adults? How does it affect my marriage and family? Why does the Church care if in fact the Church won’t be required to witness such unions?
These are just some of the questions debated today over gay marriage and civil unions. For the sake of the record, there is no difference between the two: just different terminology for the same thing. It seems however, that some advocates use civil unions as a stepping stone to legitimize gay marriage.
As the debate continues, it’s really important that Catholics understand why this is such a critical moral issue and why the Church is involved. And we begin with a review of the Church’s fundamental teaching about marriage. As Catholics we believe that matrimony is a sacred institution, designed by God and raised to a level of a sacrament by Jesus Christ. The Bible clearly sets forth God’s plan for the human race: “God created man in His image, in the divine image He created him, male and female He created them. God blessed them, saying, ‘Be fertile and multiply, fill the earth and subdue it.’” (Gn 1,27-28).
The teaching of the Church explains: the intimate community of life and love which constitutes the married state has been established by the Creator and endowed by Him with its own proper laws. God Himself is the author of marriage.
The two divinely established purposes of marriage are obvious: to promote life and love and to be creative and unifying. “This life giving complementarity between the sexes is natural and normative. Holy Scripture affirms that man and woman were created for one another.” (Catechism, #1604). A statement of the Pontifical Council for the family explains it this way: “We can also see how incongruous the demand is to grant marital status to unions between persons of the same sex. It is opposed, first of all, by the objective impossibility of making the partnership fruitful through the transmission of life according to the plan inscribed by God… Marriage cannot be reduced to a condition similar to that of a homosexual relationship: this is contrary to common sense.” (#23).
The statement refers to “common sense and I think that’s important. When we learned about the birds and the bees, it was always male and female; it was always male and female birds and bees, wasn’t it? Some advocates of homosexuality point to the fact that there is evidence of homosexual behavior in the animal kingdom, and I suppose that’s true. But it always emerges as an exception to the norm.
Finally, even from a biological standpoint, the “facts of life” are obvious: man and woman are physically designated for union with each other. In short, from the evidence of the Bible, the teaching of the Church, common sense and biology, so called gay marriages and civil unions are contrary to God’s plan, morally objectionable, and an unacceptable substitute for marriage.
By Fr. Joseph Rinaldo, SdC