Superior General’s Newsletter – 7 – May 2009


Where is humanity heading?

No one of us can overlook the fact that the recent world financial crisis has affected the Congregation. We have only to ask our treasurers. Despite the fact that our civil governments try to convince us that the crisis has passed, we would do well to take advantage of this historical moment in order to analyze more critically and more deeply the present world situation. The financial crisis is only the tip of an iceberg.

A recent declaration of the National Conference of Brazilian Bishops affirmed: "The economic and financial crisis is only part of a much deeper crisis which is social, political, cultural, environmental, ethical and spiritual. The totality of its dimensions should be taken into account with courage and clarity, in order to achieve a sustainable resolution."

Within a few days, 15 trillion dollars "disappeared," forcing the bankruptcy of large banks and industries. The resulting deepening of the crisis that we are witnessing, has produced an even greater social crisis: massive lay-offs, more hunger, tears and insecurity.  Joined with all this, has been the suffering of so many of today's immigrants who, each day, seek out a better life in other countries. For example, here in Italy, where thousands arrive from Africa, this phenomenon is very evident.

It is sad to think that every five-seconds, a child with less than the age of 5, dies from starvation or malnutrition. And the world lacks no economic resources!  We watch as 1.3 trillion dollars each year are spent for wars. Besides the deepening of social inequalities, we witness the devastation of our natural environment.  Mother Earth cries out, signaling that she is not able to bear so much exploration. Signs are everywhere: global warming, and climate changes that are more surprising all the time plus an increasing lack of good, drinking water. We cannot go on exploring without limits the finite resources of our planet. We need some new paradigms that can orient humanity. The solution of encouraging greater consumption will only led us into even more chaos and danger. To cite an example of this present-day consumerism: in one country alone, every day, 426,000 cell phones are thrown away to be replaced by newer models.

Where is humanity heading? What are we doing to planet Earth? What are we doing to our fellow human beings? What kind of world are we preparing for the future generations that will follow ours?

We are celebrating Eastertide. In one of his apparitions, the Risen Jesus was mistaken for a gardener. I like to think about what it means to be a gardener.  A gardener cares for things. He lets things come about. He delicately handles his plants. He respects the natural cycle of a plant's nature. And he isn't rushed. The world needs "gardeners," who witness to the Resurrection, with its inherent new way of living. The world needs 'gardeners' capable of presenting new paradigms to humanity.  We need to care for nature, the poor, our brothers, the community, the Congregation and the Church.

What does all this have to do with our life and mission as Oblates? The answer is found in Article 12 of our Constitutions which reminds us of our commitment to be of service to the Church. It was our Founder's desire that we place ourselves "in human society exactly as it is" and not as we would like it to be.  Christianizing society "by all means possible": is part and parcel of the scope of our mission.  It is well to recall the statement of Pope Paul VI in Evangelii Nuntiandi: "The struggle for justice and transformation is integral part of Evangelization."

I would like to remember here the following decision of the 2006 General Chapter: That each Province/Region explore contacts with religious order or ecclesiastical associations in order to inform themselves about international peace and justice issues and how to be an influential voice therein.


The Good Mother's Cause

On October 28th, I presented to Monsignor Corradini, “promotor fidei” at the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints, a small study of about 100 pages entitled,  "La Cause de béatification  de la Mère Marie de Sales Chappuis. Etude historique de la suspension par le P. Roger Balducelli." Father Balducelli accompanied me on this occasion. Therefore, I have asked him to inform the Congregation about the contents and purpose of his work. His presentation follows:

“The Cause of beatification of Mother Chappuis was introduced on the 27th of July 1897. On the 14th of July, 1921, it was suspended by Benedict XV because, the day before, the writings of Mother Chappuis had been declared unacceptable by the Supreme Congregation of the Holy Office. This suspension was accepted, without restrictions and lamentations, by Father Célestin Rollin, OSFS, in the name of the Congregation. Father Rollin also assured his Eminence the Cardinal Merry del Val, Prefect of the Holy Office, that the Congregation would not be heading for spiritual starvation, since “the Oblates have until now sought their spiritual nourishment in the writings of Saint Francis de Sales exclusively”. This “exclusively” has something important to tell.

In spite of this honest submission, the Congregation could not help asking itself questions about the writings of Mother Chappuis, its cofoundress. Why were they frowned upon by the Holy Office and found to be as unacceptable as to call for the suspension of the Cause? Unanswered since 1921, some years ago these questions triggered the research whose conclusions are now available to the Congregation for the Causes of the Saints. We hope that a research grounded on documentary evidence will one day allow the Cause to come to life and get going again.  

Thanks to the Chappuis file at the Archives of the CDF, the following conclusion has been reached: the writings of Mother Chappuis were declared unacceptable because of a deadly error made about their contents by three of the four consultors who examined them. These gentlemen undertook and conducted their examination on the basis of a pre-comprehension according to which the writings put forth the spiritual doctrine of Mother Chappuis. But it is perfectly evident that this pre-comprehension was mistaken. From the first to the last page, the writings are composed exclusively of what is known at the Visitation as “redditions de comptes," that is of accounts rendered to a mother superior (between 1823 and 1826) and to a spiritual father (between 1842 and 1844). In writings of this kind, the intention to teach a doctrine to anyone plays no part at all. Therefore they contain no doctrine that could be compatible or incompatible with any other doctrine. 

Now, what is going to happen when the examination of the writings is organized and carried out by consultors who detect in them the doctrine of Mother Chappuis? They are going to cry out indignantly as they notice that this doctrine is often incompatible with what the Church teaches or what is taught within the Church. This incompatibility forces them to declare the writings inadmissible (“tolerari non posse”) and to demand that the Cause be suspended, which is exactly what happened. On July 3rd, the writings were declared unacceptable by the assembly of the consultors and on July 13th, by the assembly of the Cardinals of the Holy Office. The following day the Congregation of the Rites was informed that the Cause must be suspended.

Something must now be added about Father J. Lemius, the fourth consultor who examined the writings. This O.M.I. declared that, having done his work “with all possible attention”, he had to conclude that “the 1045 pages written by Mother Chappuis day by day cannot be looked upon as the expression of a doctrine established in her mind”. It’s clear and precise: Father Lemius does not fall into the error of his fellow consultors. In her writings, he says, “Mother Chappuis does not teach anything”. She speaks of her spiritual experiences, while asking her superior and her spiritual father to judge them at their real value. It is therefore a mistake to magnify these experiences and make of them a doctrine to be censured.  It follows that, since this censure was solidly grounded on an obvious mistake, it can be revoked and ought to be.

But what about the Cause of beatification? Can the suspension be revoked? It can, since it is grounded on this supposition:  if Mother Chappuis is beatified, the publication of her unacceptable writings will inevitably occur. But this supposition is mistaken. Since these writings exist only as manuscript, they could not be published without the permission of the owner of the manuscript. Now, this owner was asked, across the grill, whether she would ever grant the said permission, if requested. She answered that no permission will ever be granted to anyone in heaven or on earth. “Why not?”, I say. Not because the “redditions de comptes” of Mother Chappuis could perhaps shock or horrify the devout, but because this Visitandine would never have imagined that her little personal secrets could one day become her “writings” and be issued for public sale. If anyone had mentioned this dreadful eventuality, she would surely shake her head in disgust and utter an unshakeable “No”. But if it is true that the writings will never be published, it follows that the suspension of the Cause is not adequately justified and that its revocation becomes a concrete requirement of truth and justice.

Roger Balducelli, OSFS

I express my gratitude, in the name of the Congregation, to Father Balducelli for his arduous task which he has undertaken for ten years.  Let us pray that the truth be known in this case, for the honor and glory of God.


Current Situation of our Founder's Cause

On the 2nd of October, 2007, the Cardinals and Bishops met in Ordinary Session discussed the heroism of the virtues of the Servant of God, Fr. Louis Brisson, OSFS.  The result of the voting by the members was as follows: 3 votes in favor, 4 favorable ad mentem (that is, a "yes" not really expressed, but 'intended' which signifies a "yes" with reservations), and 2 suspensive votes.

A further study of basically two points was asked for: the relationship between the Servant of God and the Diocesan Bishop, Msgr. Cortet, including a more detailed profile of the Bishop, and more information about the period of the last twenty years of our Founder's life.

The Postulator of the cause, Sister Madeleine-Thérèse Dechambre, Oblate Sister of St. Francis de Sales, dedicated months responding to the above questions and has produced the document, Supplementum, of some 144 pages. This document has been handed over to the Proposer of the Cause, Msgr. Croci, responsible for studying it and giving his evaluation in writing to the Congregation for the Cause of Saints.  For the time being, Msgr. Croci has given only his verbal approval of the work. He still must give his "placet" (consent) in writing in order that, the cause be returned and be treated at a future meeting of the Cardinals and Bishops. There is a possibility that this may occur next October.  Meanwhile, our role continues to be to pray for his beatification and to await, with hope, the next step.


German Speaking Province

The present provinces of Austria-South German Province and the German Province will form, as of July 1 of this year, the German Speaking Province. In an elective Chapter, with members from both Provinces present, that took place in Fockenfeld on the 14th of April, Fr. Thomas Vanek was elected the first provincial of the new Province.  The General Council has ratified this election.  A new Chapter has been called for the 20th of May, 2009, during which the members of the Provincial Council will be elected.  Both - the Provincial Superior and his Council - will take office on July 1, 2009, unification day.

I would like to ask for your prayers for Fr. Thomas Vanek and for his confreres who will be elected to the new council.

At the end of my visitation which I made with Fr. Esser, I wrote a letter to the members of the two provinces undergoing the unification process. Below, I am including a part of this Letter, because I believe that it may be useful to other confreres in the Congregation.

“As a Congregation we are recognized by the Church with the charism of living and spreading the spirit of St. Francis de Sales. We need to return always to this: our identity and our mission. It is possible that, with the passage of time, we have in practice concentrated on our works, not always with our eyes focused on Jesus and our mission in the Church. Thus we run the risk of considering the means as an end. Our works are a means, historically valid in order to concretize our charism.  But they are not an integral part of our identity as Oblates. God has freed us in order to be free and not to fall into slavery during the course of history.  Our vows have exactly this goal: "free our life for a greater love of God and mankind, for it is only love that makes us perfect." (Constitution 91). The new Provincial and his council will have to make decisions about our works some of which, for many years, have been important means for the concretizing of our mission. But, all indications point to the fact that, in the future, we will not be able to maintain our presence in all of our present works. It is simply a question of mathematics. The more we concentrate on our identity and mission, the freer we will be to deal with our works which, historically have served as means of giving life to our mission in the Church. Specific apostolates are important, but they are not eternal. To leave a specific apostolate, for reasons of historical necessity, does not mean a loss or lack of appreciation for the confreres who dedicated precious years of their lives to that particular work. We admire and profoundly respect all of our confreres. But we need to be aware that we are passing through another historical moment. Works pass away; our charism and mission remain.

The Provincial Superior and the Local Superiors in the communities have a defined mission.  The Provincial "takes on a great responsibility in regard to the interior life of the confreres" and directs the work of the communities of his Province" (Constitution 319).  Therefore, the Constitutions envision that at least once a year "he will visit all of the confreres" (Constitution 324).

At the local level, the function of the superior is of vital importance for the quality of community life. When a superior is zealous and aware of each member's needs and loves each one in his own right, then he becomes a source of a truly salesian spirit within the community.  Such a community evangelizes by its very existence. And its members are capable of offering all their energies in the ministry which has been confided to them. I encourage all superiors of our local communities to really give priority to their mission that they have with their confreres."


Our Indian Mission

After having completed an evaluation of the formation program of our young Indian candidates, the General Council has determined some alterations.  Basically, these involve having them take philosophy before undertaking their novitiate year.

The construction of the new house of formation in Eluru - which will be called Brisson Nilayam - had its beginning delayed.  Reason for this was the religious hostility towards Christians prevalent within India.  However, construction has now begun. We foresee that it will be ready for occupancy next October.  The visitation to India that I had planned to make with Fr. Esser during May of this year, therefore, has been advanced until the second half of October. The term of Fr. Matthew Mukkath, as the Delegate of the Superior General, and the members of the Advisory Board, have, likewise, been renewed until October.

This May, on the 17th, the scholastic, Jayaraj Arepalli will make his perpetual profession. And on the 12th of June, the young Oblates, Mathias I. Kumar, and Rayappa Reddy Yeruva, will be ordained deacons in Magalore.

Fr. Mukkath has contacted the Bishop of Guntur, with the objective of assuming a parish in his Diocese.  Fr. Mark Mealy is helping draw up a contract between the Oblates and the Diocese.

From the 6th of May until the 11th, our Indian confreres will be together for their annual retreat which will be given by Fr. Sebastian Leitner.

I renew my request for your prayers for our Indian mission and our Indian confreres.


New general Treasurer - As of May 1, 2009, Fr. Joseph Morrissey is the new General Treasurer of the Congregation. He replaces Fr. Robert Mancini, who had filled this position for more than five years. In the name of all of us, I express our whole-hearted gratitude to Fr. Mancini for his selfless service in our salesian spirit.  I know that you will join me in prayer that God may enlighten and guide Fr. Morrissey, who has taken on this ministry during these turbulent times regarding the economy in the world. Fr. Konrad Esser will continue as Assistant to the General Treasurer.


Committee for the Salesian Education of Youth – Following the directive of the General Chapter of 2006, the General Council has appointed the Committee for the Salesian Education of Youth. Its members are: Fr. Bill McCandless (coordinator), Fr. Bruno Lecoin, and Fr. Ferdinand Karer. In March of this year, this committee held its first meeting in Rome. The committee has submitted various proposals to the General Council. Plans have been made for events involving both the administrations and students from Oblate schools throughout the world.


Note of Thanks - Recently the Province of the Netherlands made a donation of 200.000 Euros to the Chablais Fund and another donation to India, to help in the construction of the house of formation in Eluru, in the State of Andra Pradesh. To our confreres of this Province our heartfelt thanks. I also wish to extend my gratitude to all who have contributed to the Chablais Fund, either personally, or as a community or a Province.

Wilmington/Philadelphia Province - The Provincial of the Wilmington-Philadelphia Province, Fr. James Greenfield, is making his canonical visitation to the confreres of the Province. It is worth noting a new program has been initiated in September of last year at De Sales University. It is called: “Center for Discernment”.  It is intended as place to welcome young university students who wish to discern the possibility of a vocation to Religious Life, the priesthood or lay ministries in the Church. The first group has begun with 19 students (14 young women and 5 men). Fr. Christopher Hudgin coordinates the Center, with the assistance of one Oblate Sister, who coordinates the program of the young women who live in the Center. This program is a new initiative in vocational promotion. I congratulate the Province for this exciting initiative!

Toledo/Detroit Province - The Provincial Fr. David Whalen is also making his canonical visitation to the Province. As has become a yearly occurrence, in June our confreres from this Province will be meeting in Assembly. During the week prior to this assembly a salesian retreat will be offered to the members of the province. Also in June, the annual week-long Salesian Leadership Camp, for student leaders from different Oblate high schools and from various Visitation Academies, will take place.  Let us keep these events in our prayers.

Italian Province – During the month of May I will be visiting, accompanied by Fr. Shaju Kanjiramparayi, our confreres of the Italian Province. This visit is part of the election process of the new government for Province. The election will take place in September. On May 30th, the deacon Andrea Giovannini will be ordained a priest. Let us keep our confreres from this Province present in our prayers.

ICSS Newsletter – The latest edition of the ICSS Newsletter, number 23 (March 2009), from International Commission of Salesian Studies, features the article “The History behind the History of the Introduction to the Devote Life."  On behalf of the entire Congregation, I wish to thank Fr. Joseph Chorpenning, OSFS, Chairman of ICSS, for his article. It will certainly help us to prepare for the symposium on the subject of the 400 years of the Introduction, scheduled to be held on the 27th and the 28th of July, in conjunction with the Meeting of the Major Superior in Annecy.

May They Rest in Peace!

During the last four weeks, exactly the days most significant for us liturgically (celebrations of the Death and Resurrection of the Lord), five confreres were called to be with God. One of these was Fr. Theodor Syberichs, OSFS who came close to celebrating the centenary of his birth. I believe that he was the longest living Oblate in our history.  For these deceased and all our departed confreres, our prayers of thankfulness and praise to God for all the good that they accomplished and for their witness to the Oblate life that have left us.

The following are the names of deceased Oblates in 2009.

 1. Fr. Johannes Wagner, OSFS from the Austrian - South German Province, at 83 years, 62 of profession and 57 of priesthood, died on January 16.
2. Fr. John McMenamin, OSFS from the Toledo - Detroit Province, at 79 years, 61 of profession and 49 of priesthood, died on January 19.
3. Fr. Joseph A. Connolly, OSFS from the Wilmington Philadelphia Province, at 87 years, 61 of profession and 56 of priesthood, died on February 9.
4. Fr. Thomas J. Fitzpatrick, OSFS from the Wilmington Philadelphia Province, at 77 years, 56 of profession and 47 of priesthood, died on March 16.
5. Fr. Vincent Paul Burcke, OSFS from the Wilmington Philadelphia Province, at 80 years, 60 of profession and 51 of priesthood, died on April 7.
6. Fr. Laurentius J. van of Raadt, OSFS from the Netherlands Province (he worked in the South - American Province for more than 50 years), at 81 years, 59 of profession and 54 of priesthood, died on April 10.
7. Fr. Johann Allex,OSFS from the Austrian - South German Province,  at 71 years, 50 of profession and 44 of priesthood, died on April 13.
8. Fr. Theodor Syberichs,OSFS, from the German Province (he worked in the South - American Province for almost 60 years), at 99 years, 78 years of profession, 73 of priesthood , died on April 20.
 9. Br. Gert Mario Smith,OSFS, from South - African Region , at 90 years and 67 years of profession, died on May 4.

I would like to recall that Article 6 of our General Statues calls on each Oblate to remember our deceased Oblates at Mass and in our prayers.

May the Good Lord grant them Eternal peace!

My Schedule

During the month of May, I will be making my visitation to our confreres of the Italian province.

During the last week of May, I will participate with Fr. Shaju in the meeting of Superior Generals in Rome.

On the 27th of June, I will be in Haus Overbach in Jülich, Germany for the inauguration of the Science College, a modern annex to the already existing school.

From the 26th of July until the 1st of August, I will be in Annecy for the Meeting of Major Superiors in conjunction with the symposium on the 400 years of the publication of the Introduction to the Devote Life.  The General Council will also meet in Annecy for two days prior to the meeting of the Major Superiors.

During the second half of next October, I will visit our confreres in India. Fr. Esser, our Assistant General, will accompany me. On this occasional there will an election for the new leadership for our mission in India. In addition, we plan to bless the new formation house in Eluru.

I thank everyone for accompanying me in your prayers.


Fr. Aldino José Kiesel, osfs
Superior General