The General Chapter

The Congregation of the Most Holy Redeemer, popularly known as the Redemptorists, celebrated its 275th anniversary on November 9, 2007.  During that long history there have been only twenty-three General Chapters. The assembly that begins in Rome in October, 2009 will be the twenty-fourth. That statistic alone suggests that a General Chapter is an extraordinary event in the life of a religious order or congregation.

The General Chapter is a visible expression of a fundamental sense of democracy that lies at the heart of religious life.  This democracy is based on the radical equality of all the members by virtue of their baptism and their religious consecration, hence their common vocation to be prophets or spokespersons for God.  In this sense, a General Chapter resembles more the gathering of Mary and the apostles at Pentecost than a modern parliament or congress.  The participants in the General Chapter gather in the name of Jesus Christ, confident that his Spirit will help us to accomplish our work.

What are those tasks?  The General Chapter must first take an honest look at the state of the Congregation, which carries out its mission in seventy-seven countries across the globe.  This examination should then lead the Chapter members to face honestly certain discomforting questions: are we faithful to our mission or have we slid into mediocrity?  What is the Lord asking of us today?  How are we being asked to change?  The General Chapter will offer specific directives for the whole Congregation as it proposes a path to help Redemptorists live more authentically their missionary vocation.  Finally, the delegates will elect the leadership of the Congregation for the next six years: the Superior General and his Consultors who together form the General Council.

Who will do the work?  The Chapter begins with over 100 members from the 37 provinces, 25 vice-provinces, 16 regions and 11 missions of the Congregation.  Most are provincial, vice-provincial or regional Superiors, though a province with more than 100 members is entitled to elect a second representative.  For example, the Province of Warsaw, the largest single unit in the Congregation, is entitled to two voting delegates in addition to its superior.  The Superior General, his immediate predecessor and the actual Consultors General are all voting members, as well as the Secretary General, the Treasurer General and the Procurator General.  With this composition, the General Chapter will count on representatives from all the continents and practically each of the seventy-seven countries where the Congregation is present today.