"The strength of our charism and the assistance of the Holy Spirit make us optimistic and hopeful that the 56th General Chapter will bear good fruit"

We interviewed José Alberto Moreno (Arnedo, La Rioja, Spain, 1973), the religious of the Province of San Nicolás de Tolentino who has participated as a member of the Precapitular Commission of the preparatory tasks of the General Chapter of the Order of Augustinian Recollects that begins in March in Rome.
News | 2022 Jan 24

What is the Pre-Chapter Commission and what are its functions?

On April 26, 2021, ten months before the beginning of the General Chapter, the Prior General, with the consent of his Council, appointed the Precapitular Commission to prepare the 56th General Chapter, which will take place in Rome starting March 1, 2022. The Commission is formed by a religious from each of the four Provinces that make the Order of Augustinian Recollects: Raul Adival Reinoso (Province of Our Lady ... of Candelaria), Francisco Javier Tello (Province of St. Thomas of Villanova), Jose Ernil Almayo (Province of St. Ezekiel Moreno), and me as a participant of the Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentino. We elected Francisco Javier for president of the commission and Raul as secretary.

The Prior General accompanied the work of the Commission at all times. The laws of the Augustinian Recollects, in the Additional Code number 338, specify what we had to do:

  • Prepare and send surveys and questionnaires to offer everyone a chance to voice their opinions and suggestions.
  • Request the collaboration of other religious or experts if necessary.
  • Prepare a Working Document for the Chapter Delegates that considers Fr. General’s Report and bring together all the responses.

Have you reached these objectives?

The Commission presented this Work Document on December 2nd at a meeting with Father General, his Council and the four Provincial Priors. On the same day, the prior general and his Council approved it. Subsequently, on December 17th, we sent the final report, which will be part of the work dossier delivered to the capitulars and which contains the following materials:

  1. Office of appointment of the Commission and minutes of the meetings.
  2. Report (quantity, origin and theme) of the contributions that were presented by the religious.
  3. Written bulletins and list of responses.
  4. Questionnaires and list of answers.
  5. List of proposals done by individual friars received especially by email.
  6. Summary of responses presented to the corresponding people or secretariats.
  7. Summary of responses to newsletters.
  8. Contributions, comments and suggestions in reference to what is requested in the Life and Mission Project 2016-2022.

How did you organize these tasks?

We wanted to encourage all the religious to have interest and participate in the celebration of the General Chapter. In previous convocations there was very little interest on behalf of the religious for the Chapter, we knew we had to have a different approach to get everyone’s attention during the ten months previous to its celebration.

We also wanted to focus our reflection on the core issues that the General Council and the provincial priors had established: Formation and accompaniment, simplify the structure of the Order's organization and maintain the processes already initiated.

We didn’t believe one big questionnaire would be enough so we sent out a trickle of topics with brief questionnaires. Everything was translated to the three main languages that are spoken in the Order: Spanish, English and Portuguese. In total there were eight bulletins entitled “Walking Together”, simple and focused on a specific theme.

The idea was to avoid dedicating too much time to reading but at the same time make everyone conscience of the Chapter that is to come. We recommended that each publication be read and shared in each community creating a space to dialogue. Each topic came with an extract from the Father General’s report on a particular subject, statistical data to show the state of affairs, an interview, a reflection done by our commission, three to five questions and a prayer for the General Chapter.

The “Walking Together” topics were:

  • Presentation, structure and agenda of the bulletins (June 2021)
  • Look up: charismatic identity (June 2021)
  • Formation and accompaniment (July 2021)
  • Augustinian Recollect spirituality (August 2021)
  • Apostolate —parishes, missions and schools— (September 2021)
  • Government (October 2021) Sustainability of processes (November 2021)
  • Social dimension (December 2021)

I would like to highlight in particular the section titled "In dialogue", which was an interview with a particular person regarding the that particular bulletin’s topic. Various friars participated, a nun and three lay people were interviewed:

  • Charismatic identity: Miguel Miró, prior general.
  • Formation and accompaniment: Wilmer Moyetones, master of novices.
  • Spirituality: Héber Hermosillo (JAR-Mexico, layman) and Alicia Correa (contemplative Augustinian Recollect).
  • Apostolate: Russell Lapidez (missionary), Edgar Tubio (parish priest), Genaro Japos (lay educational manager).
  • Government: José Ramón Pérez, Vicar General of the Order.
  • Sustainability: Emili Turú, Marist and Secretary General of the Union of Superiors General of Rome.
  • Social dimension: Javier Sánchez, executive director of ARCORES, layman.

 

In addition to these eight newsletters, the Commission prepared thirteen questionnaires directed to various groups of interest with topics such as: The Secular Fraternity, JAR, Ministerial Apostolate, Vocations, Education, Formation, Government, CEAR, Missions, Media, Economy, Protection of Minors and Social Action.

Religious and laity directly related to these issues received these questionnaires through the Google Forms platform on behalf of the General Secretariat and Secretariats, Commissions and other teams of the Order.

Eran muy sencillos de responder y con la ventaja del anonimato, solo conocíamos el lugar desde el que se respondía. No buscábamos que se identificase ni la Provincia religiosa de procedencia, ni siquiera de si se trataba de una respuesta individual o colectiva. A la Comisión nos interesaba la riqueza de las propuestas en sí, no su valoración numérica.

Finally, the Commission also made available an electronic mailbox to receive all proposals and comments deemed appropriate, without following a defined guideline or a specific system. About ten responses were received, most of them very elaborate and extensive. With these three modalities (newsletters, survey of interest groups, electronic mailbox) we want to believe all possibilities were covered for everyone to have a chance to voice their suggestions and comments.

What were the results?

The response was good and most of the suggestions were of great importance. It should be noted that many of the responses came from communities that gathered to elaborate their input. Other meetings were done by the different Secretariats or Commissions, zone Assemblies and local community meetings.

Once the Commission had their suggestions and comments, we got them together to prepare the final report. The synthesis work has been considerable. It has been necessary to read, select and condense almost 500 responses.

It is practically impossible to summarize everything in a practical way for capitulars and still keep the spirit of what was being proposed. We did our honest best to respect everything the intentions of each proposition.

In our first meeting, the prior general asked us to prepare a draft of the new Life and Mission Project. We found it to be too much for our original purpose and lack of competence, so we proposed to present an evaluation of the Life and Mission Project 2016-2022 based on all who contributed in this commission.

We have presented a list of suggestions and reflections on the previous Life and Mission Project. It is a complementary work that we hope will serve as a tool not only to evaluate the fulfillment of the past project and help design the new one.

What are your personal feelings and thoughts after being part of this preparation team?

None of the proposals I read are the panacea to the many challenges the Order has and will have in the future, but much of the material gathered will undoubtedly help the capitulars to focus their reflections to make good and realistic decisions for the Order’s future.

We have seen that there are many religious and laity who are restless and eager to find new paths together to confront all challenges. An important point to ponder will probably be to rely more on the strength of the laity for the appropriate development of our Augustinian Recollect Family in the coming years.

To what we have accomplished in this Commission, much must be added after listening to the orientations of the Church, listening to what other Orders are doing, rediscovering our tradition, boldness to adjust our structures to the current times...

I believe that all these ingredients, in all likelihood, will form the basis of reflection at the next chapter and will guide the steps for the drafting of the Life and Mission Project 2022-2028.

Confidence in the strength of our charism and the assistance of the Holy Spirit make us optimistic and hopeful that the 56th General Chapter will bear good fruit.

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Augustinian Recollects Province of St. Nicholas of Tolentine.

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