Joint Session Daily Report – Days 1 Through 5

Washington, DC

Originally Published on OMIWORLD.ORG

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Joint Session Daily Report – Day 5

Joint Session of the Central Government and the Canada-US Region
8-13 July 2024

Day 5 – Friday, July 12

Today, CROCUS 2024 Joint Session participants rolled up their sleeves and plunged into the final stages of the discernment process, sharpening their shared vision for the region’s renewal. With determination and focus, they identified key priorities and solidified their commitments.

After a final round of small group sessions, provincial discussions, and plenary meetings, three main proposals for action emerged: Community Life, Missionary Priorities, and Collaboration. Each proposal comes with clear goals that each provincial unit will implement in the coming weeks and months.

In his closing remarks, the Superior General summed up the week with inspiring words:

“We need saintly Oblates; we need excellent Oblates. We need saints in the CROCUS Region. We challenge you to do your best to reach the dream of the Founder! This is your time; do not wait for any other time. This is the time to make a difference in Canada and the USA. Think of the future of the Oblate mission and Oblate life in Canada. The patrimony of the Congregation is in your hands. Dare to have a vision, to embrace innovative approaches, according to the vision of Eugene De Mazenod.”

With these motivating words still resonating, members gathered one last time to celebrate the Eucharist. During this liturgy, everyone renewed their Oblation and commitment to live as witnesses of the Gospel, embodying God’s love in the world just as Saint Eugene did with his companions.

“This is not the end of the Joint Session; this is the beginning!”

U.S. Administrative team: (L-R) (L front) Fr. Antonio Ponce, (L rear) Fr. Juan Gaspar, (R rear Fr. Emmanuel Mulenga, (R front) Provincial, Fr. Raymond Cook

Joint Session Daily Report – Day 4

Joint Session of the Central Government and the Canada-US Region
8-13 July 2024

Day 4 – Thursday, July 11

On the fourth day of the CROCUS Joint Session with the General Administration, we gathered for morning prayer to celebrate the memorial of St. Benedict. Fr. Jim Brobst, General Councilor for the Canada/US Region, shared inspiring reflections on St. Benedict’s call to reform the religious life of his time. He encouraged us to consider our need for reform, repentance, and forgiveness as we seek God’s guidance for our region. Fr. Jim also reminded us to “travel light” on this spiritual journey.

The morning was filled with heartfelt and candid small-group discussions, first in mixed groups and then within our provincial units. These conversations provided a space for honest exchanges about our region’s shared priorities as we move forward. Common themes that emerged included the need for increased collaboration, fostering a vibrant community life, caring for one another, and focusing on our mission priorities.

As we look ahead to tomorrow, we will take the insights from today and begin to shape and define these shared priorities, continuing our journey with renewed purpose and commitment.

Honoring History and Embracing Diversity

In the afternoon, participants of the Joint Session had the opportunity to visit the National Museum of African American History and Culture. This wasn’t just a visit; it was an immersive journey through the rich and complex history of African Americans, celebrating their resilience, contributions, and relentless pursuit of equality and justice.

The museum’s exhibits brought history to life, depicting the struggles and achievements of African Americans from the time of slavery to the present day. This experience deepened our understanding and fueled our passion and commitment to foster a more inclusive and equitable society.

We were inspired and moved by the stories we encountered. Let us continue to honor the past and work towards a brighter, more inclusive future for all.

Joint Session Daily Report – Day 3

Joint Session of the Central Government and the Canada-US Region
8-13 July 2024

Day 3 – Wednesday, July 10

On this anniversary of the death of Br. Anthony Kowalczyk, OMI, participants in the CROCUS Joint Session, were reminded of his exemplary religious life. His humble and dedicated zeal for service to others, particularly the youth, and his intense search for God were central themes. The Canada-US leadership strives to emulate this same devotion to mission and service to the poor as they discern the future path of Oblate missionaries.

Where do we want to go? How will we get there?

These two questions guided the day’s discussions, primarily in small groups. Three key priorities emerged repeatedly: fostering a life-giving community, living out the vows (CCRR), and caring for each other.

Fr. Charles Rensburg took to the podium to present the results of an extensive OMI demographic analysis. He discussed the financial implications of demographic changes within the Oblate Congregation over the next eight to ten years and how these shifts might influence decision-making as the Congregation moves forward in this synodal process toward renewal.

With all this information in mind, participants walked to the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception, a few blocks away. There, they celebrated the Eucharist in the Oblate Chapel, with CROCUS President Fr. Ken Thorson presiding.

Joint Session Daily Report – Day 2

Joint Session of the Central Government and the Canada-US Region
8-13 July 2024

Day 2 – Tuesday, July 9

Be excellent missionaries living in community!

Day two of our meetings opened with a call to action from the Superior General, Fr. Chicho. He urged us to become true pilgrims, daring to step out of our comfort zones to unite with the Founder’s vision. Through a synodal process, we aim to become a life-giving community and serve the poor, following the example of Christ. Given the current renewal process within our Congregation, it’s the perfect time to affirm together: “Yes, we can!”—drawing inspiration from Laudato Si and our Constitutions and Rules.

Throughout the day, participants of the JS had the privilege of hearing and receiving reports from members of the central government. Fr. Jim Brobst (CROCUS), Fr. Henricus Asodo (Formation), Fr. Raymond Mwangala (Mission), and Fr. Charles Rensburg (Finance) shared their insights on each of their assigned portfolios, explaining how the Canada/US Region’s reality impacts each one at different levels of the Congregation. It was an interesting and eye-opening day. In all presentations, the recurring themes of mission, interculturality, and community life were highlighted, as well as how the Canada-US Region can play its role in the growth of the Congregation. Despite the challenges, we are called to navigate them together as missionaries committed to community life. Be excellent missionaries living in community!

To close the day, our animator, Scott Woodward, prompted everyone to reflect on our future steps with key questions:
What conditions will make restructuring the mission possible?
How do we plan backward from our goals to achieve them?

Joint Session of the Central Government and the Canada-US Region
8-13 July 2024

Day 1 – Monday, July 8

The 37th General Chapter, themed “Pilgrims of Hope in Communion,” used the journey to Emmaus as a point of reflection. Inspired by this theme, the CROCUS Region’s 2024 Joint Session with the General Administration added the subtitle “Discerning Calls for Mission.”

The session began with a heartfelt opening liturgy prepared by the US Province’s group of scholastics. Fr. Ray Cook, Provincial of the US Province, warmly welcomed everyone, hosting this Joint Session. Fr. Ken Thorson, President of CROCUS, then officially launched the week-long meeting.

Mr. Scott Woodward, President Emeritus of the Oblate School of Theology in San Antonio, Texas, facilitated the session in an atmosphere of transparency and trust. He asked participants to share their expectations for the week with questions such as:

● What is the worst that could happen this week?
● What is the best outcome that could happen?
● What do you really expect to happen at this Joint Session?

The day continued with presentations on the current realities and challenges of each province in the region. Representatives from Notre-Dame-du-Cap, OMI Lacombe Canada, Assumption, and the US provinces each presented their provincial reports. After each report, participants discussed the most key points they heard.

Toward the end of the day, a question was posed by one participant: “We’ve discussed what we heard in the presentations today. It might be helpful to consider what did we not hear. What was NOT said in the four provincial reports that we might have expected to hear?” This question, among others, will assist us in our discernment in the coming days.