General Chapter 2024

Final Document & Resolutions

A Message from the Superior General

Dear brothers and sisters,

It is with great gratitude that I present to you the Final Document of the MSSP General Chapter 2024, with the theme “Salt of the Earth and Light of the World”.  Undoubtedly, this document is the work of the Spirit who never fails to surprise us.  We felt the presence of the Spirit in the atmosphere that pervaded the Chapter, and  in the working of the different drafting committees who built up this document.  In particular, we are greatly indebted to the generosity and expertise of Prof. Edward Warrington, the facilitator and guide of this General Chapter.  Through him too we witnessed God’s Providence.

With this document we tried to move away from presenting a list of resolutions and try to capture the spirit of the General Chapter.

It is a fraternal exhortation to our brethren in the Society and our lay co-workers. We hope that it will guide the Society and each member, to embrace a fresh, courageous understanding of religious life and missionary charism as we are called to live it today. We invite both our brethren in the MSSP as well as our lay Paulist family to reflect prayerfully on the contents and to commit wholeheartedly to the processes of personal and community adaptation recommended here.

(No. 7)

Conscious that “If the Lord does not build the house, in vain do the builders labour” (Ps 127), we pray that, through the intercession of our Founder, this prayerful reflection will lead to abundant fruit, so that we continue to be “Salt of the Earth and Light of the World”.

 

Yours in one Charism,

Fr Martin Galea mssp
Superior General

Foreword

Salt of the Earth, Light of the World

Salt and light are two evangelical symbols that Jesus used to describe the character and mission of his disciples. Each element in the right amount and in the right place makes a great difference. In the context of Jesus’ mission, that of the coming of God’s Kingdom, the disciples are called to follow their master and initiate the transformation of the whole of creation. Like salt they are called to bring the flavour of God’s love out of the many situations where sin has rendered life bland. And like the light they are called to overcome the darkness of confusion that sin always brings about. Jesus is very much aware that this is a delicate presence and there is always the danger that the reverse happens – salt loses its taste and light being capped.

Salt of the Earth, Light of the World, Working Document, 2 – 3.

  1. This is the opening paragraph of the Working Document which guided the Society’s preparations for the General Chapter. Besides setting out the theme selected for the assembly, it draws attention to our Society’s understanding of God’s call to its members, as well as the risks which they will confront.
  2. Since its founding more than a century ago, the Society has received from the fullness of Christ, “grace upon grace.” (Jn 1: 16) At the same time, contemporary secularised societies have become “less receptive of the Christian message and openly alien to the values we believe in,”[1] while post-modern culture moulds habits of thought, attitudes and lifestyles, even within religious congregations, in contradiction to the core principles of religious life.
  3. Accordingly, and once again quoting the Working Document, the General Chapter was intended:

primarily as a reminder of what we are called to, giving us the right bearing on our life and choices, both as individuals and as a Congregation… The images of salt and light are given to us at this time when our role is not determined by strength, influence, numbers and power but through the meek/simple presence of the disciple who is inspired by the Spirit of Christ and is then able to discern the right time and circumstance, and where and how to make a difference by proclaiming the Good News by word and deed. We hope that besides being able to adapt our religious life structures and missionary work to the current needs of the post-modern environment, this gathering can help us touch personal areas in our lives that need discernment and radical change.

Working Document, 2.

  1. This spirit of hope, gratitude and joy on one hand, and sober realism on the other hand animated the gathering at St Agatha’s Motherhouse throughout the time that the Chapter was in session. We convened in the Society’s motherhouse between 16 May and 7 June. Mass of the Holy Spirit, celebrated on Pentecost Sunday, inaugurated the Chapter following two days of preparatory meetings. Besides the sixteen capitulars, two former Superiors General attended the Chapter, together with six lay people from Australia, Malta, Peru and the Philippines. Unfortunately, bureaucratic obstacles prevented a lay person from Pakistan from attending. An additional lay person facilitated the Chapter.

The Chapter progressed through four inter-connected stages as follows:

    • a first stage lasting three days in which the assembly received the statutory reports embodying the Society’s ‘graced history’ over the six years since GC2018,
    • a second stage lasting two days, during which four external speakers helped the assembly to explore the social, ecclesial and religious dimensions of the contemporary world,
    • a third stage lasting one week, during which the assembly discerned the Holy Spirit’s call considering the signs and insights arising from the earlier stages, and
    • a final week, during which the capitulars elected the Society’s Superior General and the members of the General Council.
  1. Our deliberations followed the Working Document’s agenda, which focused on three broad areas: the Paulist Fraternity and family, mission, and living and working in solidarity and sustainably. The Society’s charism and spirituality emerged as an additional important area during the Chapter.
  2. This document embodies the outcome of our discernment. It is not primarily a strategy or programme of action: rather, it is a fraternal exhortation to our brethren in the Society and our Paulist laity. We hope that it will guide the Society and each member, to embrace a fresh, courageous understanding of religious life and missionary charism as we are called to live it today. We invite both our brethren in the MSSP as well as our lay Paulist family to reflect prayerfully on the contents and to fully commit to the processes of personal and community adaptation recommended here. With the guidance and support of the General Council, as well as the loving intercession of our patrons – Joseph De Piro, Mary Assumed into Heaven and St. Paul – we are confident that the Society and the Paulist laity will continue to be “salt of the earth and light of the world”.

I. Charism and Spirituality

A vibrant legacy

  1. The Missionary Society of St Paul is the legacy bequeathed to the Church and to the world by Joseph De Piro. We are heirs to his charism, spirituality, mission and ministry. Over the past century, the Society has lived, interpreted, applied and shared this heritage in response to the changing times.
  2. Our spirituality is rooted in the dynamic Pauline spirituality, Joseph De Piro’s life and vision as Founder, and the Church’s understanding of mission and evangelization. In the words of our Constitutions,

The Gospel text so dear to the Founder, “Master, I will follow you wherever you go,” (Mt 8:19) should spur us on towards our goal. Inspired by the missionary zeal of St. Paul and imbued with the charism which we have inherited from the Founder, we dedicate ourselves to spreading God’s word wherever we are sent by obedience.[2]

  1. We are ever more conscious of the value of our heritage in responding to the numerous challenges confronting the Society and the Church, within and outside. Our charism and spirituality are the sources of our ‘root energy’, animating our religious life, community bonds, our common mission and the ministries which we undertake. As co-heirs of our charism and spiritual heritage, the Paulist laity can also access this ‘root energy’.

Staying rooted

  1. For this reason, the General Chapter invites every member of the Society and the lay Paulists to remain rooted in our foundational charism as missionaries. In this way, the joy of our vocation and the bonds of love between us and with Christ will remain fresh. Guided and encouraged by our leadership, the members of every community, religious and lay, should strive to ‘live in communion’, on the model of our Founder, Joseph De Piro, whose very presence inspired joy, encounter and communion.
  2. To ensure that we remain vibrant, relevant and deeply rooted in our charism and spirituality, formation programmes must ground MSSP religious and lay in three principal sources, namely
    1. St. Paul’s life and missionary strategies,
    2. Joseph De Piro’s spirituality and vision, and
    3. the Church’s contemporary understanding of evangelization.
  1. In this regard, the MSSP liturgical calendar is not only an important instrument for celebrating defining moments in our history or precious elements of our identity: it should also become a means of deepening our spirituality and community life, as well as offering food for our individual spiritual journeys.
  2. The cause for the beatification of the Founder has enabled us to come to know Joseph De Piro better; it has also generated a large and still-growing collection of resources on his charism and spirituality. These are now well organized in the Society’s newly completed Archive. We urge the Society to draw on this treasury for the purposes of formation of our members as well as the laity who are inspired by our charism and spirituality. The resources may also be used in evangelisation.

Our characteristics

  1. In the course of our history the Society has developed certain characteristics embodied in four virtuesencounter, hospitality, solidarity and beauty[3] – which are markers of our identity. The General Council should initiate a process of reflection on these and on the Paulist missionary spirituality, so that our collective identity may be better understood, and our way of doing things may be more deliberately applied in discernment and ministry.

II. Religious Life and Community

Crisis in religious life

  1. There is no doubt that the call to live our religious consecration rests in the hearts of the Society’s members. However, in our lived experience we often grapple with the paradox that our ministry seems to be the predominant concern. Because of this focus on the active part of our religious vocation, we forget that our primary task is to give witness by our very lifestyle: “Our religious calling within the Society binds us together as a consecrated community, so that in the Church we may give more radical witness of the evangelical virtues to the world.”[4] Our Founder’s original Rule exhorts us to foster the bond of love among us. That is the evangelising mission of the religious vocation; it is still so relevant today in a world marked by breakdown in relationships. Yet at times it seems as if we define ourselves more by our doing rather than our being.
  2. We experience crisis when time, energy and the attention due to community is sacrificed for the demands of ministry. Although individuals have different expectations of community life and different understandings of how this can be lived in the context of our missionary charism, there is a golden thread that runs through these various expectations, which is the desire for communion.
  3. We recognise the crisis in community life when we acknowledge the lack of time for each other. One sometimes gets the impression that we are not all comfortable looking at each other in the face: metaphorically speaking, we approach each other with our backs to the other, while our gaze rests on ministry. Yet we all yearn for communities where we can work through our griefs and be held in our darkest moments, where we can joyfully share our achievements and consolations, or experience meaningful common prayer and fraternal time together. Such communities affirm their members. In contrast, a dis-integrated community life gives rise to feelings of isolation, disconnectedness and loneliness. The burden of ministry is heavier when carried alone. Occasionally we hear the cry for a ministry which springs from community discernment rather than ministry as a lone venture.

Called to live the gift of community

  1. The call to live the gift of community more authentically has echoed repeatedly. GC2018 exhorted us to cultivate bonds of communion:

We are urgently called to recommit with new energy and vision to a lifestyle, the roots of which are well implanted in history. Our particular call from amongst all the baptised is to live on the margins of various contrasting realities and indicate the Christian way forward.

GC2018, Religious Life as Radical Prophecy, p.10.

  1. Our numbers have not increased since 2018: on the contrary, the number of elderly members is growing. This requires us to rationalise ministry and to devise ways of being more effective in ministry without having to squeeze out every drop of our energy. If action is not taken now, we risk losing more members to exhaustion, burnout and isolation.
  2. Central to the Society’s charism is the call to live in a community that “patterns its life on the unity existing in the Holy Trinity and after the example of the early Church.”[5] The Founder’s Spiritual Testament exhorts members “to engage to the full their holy eagerness in maintaining among themselves mutual love in Christ, being convinced that nothing may procure more the glory of God, one’s spiritual good and that of the neighbour than the conservation of the same, according to the words of our father, St. Paul, ‘But love builds up.’” Life in community thereby becomes communion.

From community to communion

  1. St. Paul’s letters provide rich guidance on living in communion, emphasising love as the greatest virtue for community life (1 Cor 13), mutual support by bearing one another’s burdens (Gal 6:2), and maintaining unity and peace (Eph 4: 1-3). Shared faith, prayer, vision and action nourish communities where we will grow to our full potential; where we experience the fullness of humanity; and where our common life is characterised by profound mutuality and interdependence.
  2. In communion, then, we embody a visibly countercultural life that attracts others, sustains our collective mission and demonstrates the transforming love of God. It is from community that we carry our gifts to others and where we, in turn, are enriched as the lives of others touch our own. The extraordinary changes in which humanity is caught, and which are fashioning new possibilities even now, invite us to come home to the margins, as communities rather than as individuals. It is in community and through the Spirit that we can bind wounds, console the distressed, build resilience, nurture new life, and sustain those invited to conversion of heart.
  3. One sure way to reclaim the space of community life is to re-dimension our ministry; valid and important as that may be, it must not take all our energy and time. To nurture our religious vocation we need to slow down and to cultivate a contemplative, discerning, joyful approach to life.
  4. Despite the challenges we face, our religious community plays a significant role in the Church’s life and holiness, with clear signs of new life and growth. These include a more consistent approach to formation, with the concomitant emergence of new vocations. A good number of men are in formation, a noteworthy achievement amid global declines.
  5. Additionally, our growing lay communities and the evolving community of women aspiring to establish a missionary female religious institute under our charism, reflect vital growth. We recognise a greater appreciation of the potential for Paulist laity in ministry, and their support for religious life, including vocation promotion, discernment and co-responsibility within the Society’s works and institutions.

Journeying in synodality with the lay Paulist Family[6]

  1. As the Church is being called to journey in synodality, there could not be a better time than the present to consider how fraternal partnership with Paulist laity could benefit ministry. We must therefore explore more ways of drawing the laity to exercise their baptismal call to the common priesthood and our charism to minister together with us in matters that pertain to them. This will allow us to focus more on that which is essentially and necessarily our task.                                                       
  2. Growing numbers of laity are animated by the Society’s charism and spirituality. Undoubtedly, this is the hope-filled work of the Holy Spirit who inspires new forms of ecclesial life according to the needs of each age. Recognising new life, we exhort the Society to continue forming lay communities embracing the Paulist charism, fostering communion between religious and lay missionaries.
  3. St. Paul’s conviction that charisms are given to all the baptised for the common good of Christ’s body never wavered. For him, a Christian community could only flourish with a variety of charisms operative in all its members. And so it is within our Society: we affirm the calling for a greater commitment of our whole Society to ‘go forward together’ with our Paulist laity. Our Society would be much the poorer without their presence.
  4. Religious and laity together forge a new approach to fulfilling the vision of Joseph De Piro. There is a convergence of interests, a sharing of gifts and growing co-responsibility in ministry. We affirm that co-responsibility offers the Society a perspective which refashions and enlarges our missionary imagination. If laity and religious participate and share in the prophetic, priestly and royal service of Christ and use their charisms for the common good, the Missionary Society of St Paul will remain a life-giving presence, salt of the earth and light of the world.
  5. Authentic commitment to co-responsibility impels us to continue exploring possibilities for Paulist laity to work side by side with MSSP religious in ministry and in supporting our religious life, including vocation promotion, formation, and the exercise of authority. This will require a more consistent approach to formation and even consideration of the drawing up of guidelines regarding the laity. It also urges our MSSP religious to have greater confidence in the laity’s capacity for discernment and their fidelity to the Gospel. We acknowledge that there are different and evolving patterns of association of the laity with the MSSP religious; these require further reflection so as to develop a clearer identity for Paulist laity, an identity that is rooted in the Society’s charism and spirituality.
  6. The renewal of religious life and community emerged as the central concern of GC2024. We offer this extended reflection to the Society and the Paulist Family in the expectation that it will inspire the conversion of heart that is needed to reconcile community and ministry, as well as to make progress towards lay co-responsibility in mission and ministry. The General Council and Regional Superiors are asked to nurture this conversion of heart and to continue supporting existing initiatives that promote authentic religious life, to nurture the Paulist missionary vocation, the growth of the Paulist Family’s communities, and the welfare of all its members, especially the most vulnerable.
  7. We also ask the General Council to persevere with initiatives that restore joy and vitality to community life especially where it is distressed by age, infirmity, loss, separation, division, scandal, or ministry burdens.
  8. Although some outward signs might give a contrary impression, our small congregation still has great relevance today. Committed to synodality, we walk together, religious and lay, fulfilling our mission in the Church. We remain responsive to the signs of the times, witnessing to the Reign of God, accompanying the suffering, and making the Gospel visible at the grassroots. We are unbowed and unafraid, guided by our Founder’s vision, our own past experiences, and confidence in the Holy Spirit.

III. Mission and Ministry

Characteristics of our mission and ministry

  1. As Missionaries of St. Paul, we take pastoral ministry to heart, inspired by Jesus’s sending of the Twelve “to proclaim the Kingdom of God and to heal”(Lk 9: 1-2) and his parting command “to make disciples of all nations, baptising them … and teaching them …”(Mt 28: 19) We are mindful of Joseph De Piro’s counsel: “The law of Christian love requires us not only to support the hungry and to elevate the misery of people, but we should focus on full and deeper liberation, until all people come to experience the freedom of being Children of God.” Over the years, encounter, hospitality, solidarity and beauty have become characteristic of our ministry.
  2. We are aware that differences in outlook between the Society’s generations and the difficulty of changing outmoded structures or mentalities sometimes hinder our mission. As was explained earlier, because of our ministry endeavours, prayer and community life may often take second place and suffer for it. Yet if our ministry is to remain vibrant and life-giving, if we are to avoid excessive stress and burnout, missionaries must attend to their spiritual, mental and physical well-being by maintaining a healthy work/life balance. They are to be helped to consistently cultivate practices of self-care, accountability, spiritual direction, and supervision (which may include mentoring and coaching). Deeply ingrained habits will not change overnight, but the support of community life and consistent encouragement from their peers and leaders will facilitate re-learning.
  3. While the missionary must have a robust capacity for self-reliance and may sometimes necessarily be detached from a community, no missionary can afford to live and minister in splendid isolation: superiors must make every effort to prevent this. Community living and ministry have a great impact upon each other.  Authentic community life will enable us to create the supporting structures needed to take the necessary leaps of faith towards more effective ministry.
  4. Connectedness among our missionaries and joint efforts in ministry will avoid fatigue, bear witness to ecclesial communion and be conducive to more effective evangelisation. By adjusting our lifestyles to create space and time for each other and persevering with the adjustments, our missionary efforts will be better connected and mutually supporting. Greater connectedness will also promote a necessary sharing of good evangelising practices among the missionaries, while such sharing will reinforce fraternal relations and help us to celebrate the achievements related to our ministries. In this way, a virtuous circle of communication and shared endeavour will encourage further growth and development. A commitment to accountability also needs to be inculcated in every missionary.

New directions in ministry

  1. From time to time new needs appear and fresh directions in ministry become necessary. At times, they are impelled by powerful crises, such as the Covid-19 pandemic, natural disasters or civil unrest, which cause widespread suffering. In such situations, our missionaries may have to respond urgently to people’s needs.
  2. At other times, socio-economic and cultural shifts call for fresh directions in ministry so that our missionaries can continue to engage the prevailing culture and identify new processes and vehicles for evangelisation. An analysis of social trends, ecclesial developments and missiology will help our missionaries to respond more effectively to present and future realities. One such example is the opportunities for evangelisation and outreach that social media provide; they transcend the limitations imposed on missionary activity by factors such as distance and limited personnel. We encourage our missionaries’ efforts to extend their evangelisation through the channels provided by contemporary technologies and social media.
  3. On-going communication between the General and Regional administrations will keep these and other developments in view, prompting discernment about the appropriate response. The General and Regional administrations should also regularly evaluate the Society’s ministries so that they may continue to bear abundant fruit. Collective discernment about struggling missions and new or prospective missionary ventures is particularly important. One such instance is the presence of Vietnamese men in formation, which raises the prospect of a mission in Vietnam at some future date. We encourage the General Council to continue monitoring the situation. No missionary should embark on any venture without the Society’s discerned approval.
  4. Considering that fewer religious members will be available for ministry in the coming years, the future of our communities and ministries needs to be carefully planned jointly by the General and Regional administrations.
  5. This Chapter highlighted the positive involvement of lay people in our ministries, in answer to their baptismal call and animated by the Paulist charism and spirituality. Consequently, we may now discern the handing over of certain ministries to lay missionaries, which will allow us to focus on what is essentially and necessarily our task, as well as to answer new calls for evangelisation. For lay co-responsibility in our mission to develop and bear fruit, appropriate formation is necessary. We therefore ask the General Council to commission the development of guidelines for lay formation.
  6. Partnerships with other secular and religious organisations serve useful purposes. Our Peruvian Region, for example, supported the establishment of the Society of Christian Doctrine (MUSEUM) in Peru, and thereby not only permitted that Society to extend its ministry, but bore witness to the value of ecclesial communion. In other circumstances, joint ventures with religious or secular organisations may offer a way of giving new life to projects that are suffering from lack of human or material resources, or to scale up projects and programmes in response to growing needs.
  7. Finally, our Constitutions speak of “implanting the Church in missionary lands known as missions ad gentes.[7] As the terminology is outdated and no longer used by the Church, the Society’s Constitutions should be updated to reflect the change in contemporary understanding of mission.

IV. Discerning Leadership, Governance and Stewardship

Animating principles

  1. Leadership, governance and stewardship involve more than structures, policies and management systems. We wish to see the salient MSSP virtues of encounter, hospitality, solidarity and beauty, which the Society holds dear, applied also in these spheres of our life.
  2. In so far as the exercise of authority is concerned, the Constitutions of the Missionary Society of St Paul declare that “The model of authority for us is Jesus Himself, who came into the world to serve and not to be served.”[8] Similarly, “The temporal goods which the Society owns belong to God and the Church. They have to be used in the implementation of our apostolic and missionary activities and administered according to Universal Church Law and our own in a spirit of evangelical poverty.”[9] In short, the Society’s governance is animated by three fundamental principles, namely, servant leadership, a wholehearted reliance on Divine Providence and stewardship of all that is entrusted to our care, whether people or assets.

Ongoing improvements

  1. The General Chapter noted with pleasure the improvements in financial accounting and reporting, the significant increase in the number of members of the Society who have made wills, as well as the great strides made in safeguarding. We encourage the General Council and Regional Superiors to continue making progress in these matters.
  2. The Society’s leadership adapted well to the restrictions on movement imposed by the Covid-19 pandemic, animating and assisting our communities at a time of extraordinary disruption. Our leadership in all spheres of our presence and activity nurtures the characteristics of our ministry:
    1. our openness to encountering others;
    2. the hospitality offered by the missionaries;
    3. our solidarity with those living on the margins, as well as the solidarity between the MSSP regions; and
    4. our ability not only to minister efficiently, but also to create beautiful spaces that inspire and console.
  3. The call heard by GC2024 concerning leadership, governance and stewardship can be summed up as follows:
    1. firstly, to ensure that the Society’s leaders benefit from moral support and companionship;
    2. secondly, to consider whether the Society’s governance structure absorbs a disproportionate share of the Membership and, if so, to identify remedies;
    3. thirdly, to promote lay co-responsibility in leadership, governance and stewardship;
    4. fourthly, to continue the commendable progress made in regard to safeguarding; and
    5. finally, to continue promoting a sense of stewardship in the use of the Society’s material assets.

Leadership

  1. Every member holding a leadership role in the Society, whether a member of the General Council, or a Regional or Community Superior, or the director of an institution, ought to have moral support and companionship, especially when circumstances require them to live and work far from their communities or regions for extended periods of time. This principle applies especially when the members of the General Council are unable to reside in Rome together with the Superior General. We recommend that, if it becomes impossible for at least one other councillor to reside in Rome, the feasibility of retaining the Generalate in Rome should be reviewed.

Streamlining the Society’s government

  1. In our deliberations, the issue of reviewing the constitutional arrangements for governing the Society was raised. Given the Society’s small numbers, elaborate governing structures impose a heavy burden that could also distract our focus on mission. This has been a recurring theme of recent General Chapters: the time seems ripe to undertake a comprehensive expert review of our government, to streamline structures and rationalise resource use.

Lay co-responsibility in leadership

  1. Lay co-responsibility, referred to earlier in the section on Religious Life and Community, is one way of expanding the leadership cadre and enhancing governance. In a conference hosted by the Vatican on lay co-responsibility in the Church, on 16 Feb 2023, Pope Francis remarked –

All members of the People of God, pastors and lay faithful alike, share full responsibility for the life, mission, care, management and growth of the People of God. There is a need to go beyond the approach of ‘delegation’ or that of ‘substitution’ where the laity are ‘delegated’ by the pastors for some sporadic service, or the laity ‘substitute’ for clerics in some functions, yet they are working in isolation.

Pope Francis, 16 Feb 2023.

  1. Lay people already work side by side with our missionaries in virtually every sphere of our ministry: in our parishes, schools, children’s homes and oratories, in clinics and soup kitchens, in the International House of Formation, in administrative positions, as well as advisors on legal or financial matters, and in other programmes. We value their expertise, their generous commitment, their assimilation of our spirituality, all of which have led to the steady growth of the Paulist laity and our ministry. In time, lay co-responsibility will extend beyond participation in our ministry and in administration. This General Chapter and its predecessor offered a fine example of co-responsibility in discernment and leadership, with the participation of Paulist laity in our deliberations and in the preparation of this document.
  2. Lay people may, in principle, support the governance of the Society, for example, as consultors to the General and Regional Councils, or as members of task forces established by the councils. As both the Society’s members and the laity gain experience of such co-responsibility, experimental arrangements could be formalised: the obligations of lay office holders in regard to matters such as confidentiality would be defined, as would norms for selection, conduct, tenure and remuneration.
  3. We therefore encourage the General Council and the Regions to continue promoting lay co-responsibility, by providing appropriate spiritual and leadership formation to those who are called to leadership roles in our various ministries. The General Council should keep a watching brief on developments in this field to harmonise practices of selection and formation.

Stewardship of financial assets and property

  1. Divine Providence has sustained the Society since its founding: it is abundantly evident in the generosity of numerous benefactors and the diligence of its members. As our Constitutions say, we live “consecrated poverty, making use of material goods in a serene liberty of spirit and with deep gratitude to the Lord.”[10]
  2. Our gratitude for the liberality of Divine Providence finds expression in the prudence with which we use the gifts that come to us. In the past, the virtue of prudence was left to the judgment of individual members and communities. In our times, ever-higher legal standards of reporting, accounting and regulatory compliance must be met. This has a growing impact on the administration of the Society’s financial assets and their various sources, such as fund-raising, benefactors and investment income, along with for proper and transparent accounting. Financial transparency and accountability lead the way towards building, maintaining and even strengthening Lay trust of the Society: “the church must be exemplary and irreproachable, especially on the part of those who hold important roles of responsibility.”[11]
  3. The Society in the different regions is already making commendable efforts to honour these principles. We encourage on-going improvements, such as the harmonisation of accounting and financial reporting systems, so that a comprehensive understanding of the Society’s finances and assets becomes possible. This will permit a more strategic approach to fund-raising, projects and initiatives. Harmonisation will also promote consistency, monitoring and transparency. That said, we acknowledge that accounting standards and legal regimes vary greatly across State jurisdictions, and that these variations may prevent full harmonisation.
  4. We also recommend that –
    1. a central property register be compiled and administered by a suitably qualified team; and
    2. efforts to enhance transparency in regard to the sources and uses of personal assets should continue.

Safeguarding

  1. Our responsibility as stewards of human well-being extends to safeguarding all those whom we encounter from harm. We are glad to know that commendable progress has been made in formulating and applying safeguarding policies for the guidance of religious and lay. We urge the General Council and Regions to persevere in this work, and to provide appropriate training in safeguarding to all those who are associated with our ministry.

Envoi

  1. The General Chapter is not simply the Society’s highest governing body: it is a profound experience of community discernment under the Holy Spirit’s guidance and the loving gaze of our Founder. It makes us fully aware of divine grace at work within and among us, and thereby allows us to align our lives and mission ever more closely to God’s saving action in the world. The Society’s collective leadership continues this discernment after the Chapter concludes its work, deepening it and applying its fruits to the Society’s ongoing renewal.
  2. We pledge our prayers and heartfelt practical support to the incoming General Council and invite every member of the Society and every lay Paulist to do likewise. This document opens the way for each one of you to savour the capitulars’ experience and to participate meaningfully in the work of renewal and in building the Kingdom of God, as Salt of the Earth and Light of the World.

Capitulars

Hector Attard mssp
Nilton Bardales Pezo mssp
Silvio Bezzina mssp
Gerard Bonello mssp
Lonnie Borg mssp
Busuttil Alex mssp
Martin Cilia mssp
Frankie Cini mssp
Bernard Falzon mssp
Clinton Farrugia mssp
Martin Galea mssp
Mark Grima mssp
Victor Livori mssp
Louis Mallia mssp
Bernard Mangion mssp
John Taliana mssp

Former Superiors General

James Bonello mssp
Joe Cremona mssp

Lay Participants

Pascual Coaquira
Maribel Corcolla
Miriam Isuiza
Geralyn McCarthy
Rozlyn Scerri
Lorraine Tabone

Secretary of the General Chapter

Karm Debattisa mssp

 

St. Agatha Motherhouse
Friday, 7 June 2024

Appendix

Summary of Resolutions and Exhortations

Charism and Spirituality Par. No.
Every member of the Society and of the lay Paulists is invited to remain rooted in our foundational charism as missionaries… Guided and encouraged by our leadership, the members of every community, religious and lay, should strive to ‘live in communion’, on the model of our Founder, Joseph De Piro, whose very presence inspired joy, encounter and communion. 11
Formation programmes must ground MSSP religious and lay in three principal sources, namely, St. Paul’s life and missionary strategies, Joseph De Piro’s spirituality and vision, and the Church’s contemporary understanding of evangelisation. 12
The MSSP liturgical calendar should become a means of deepening our spirituality and community life, as well as offering food for our individual spiritual journeys. 13
The Society should draw on our treasury of resources on the Founder’s charism and spirituality for the formation of our members and of the laity who are inspired by our charism and spirituality. The resources may also be used in evangelisation. 14
Four virtues – encounter, hospitality, solidarity and beauty – are markers of our identity. The General Council should initiate a process of reflection on these and on the Paulist missionary spirituality, so that our collective identity may be better understood, and our way of doing things may be more deliberately applied in discernment and ministry. 15

 

Religious Life and Community Par. No.
One sure way to reclaim the space of community life is to re-dimension our ministry; valid and important as that may be, it must not take all our energy and time. To nurture our religious vocation we need to slow down and to cultivate a contemplative, discerning, joyful approach to life. 24
We must explore more ways of drawing the laity to exercise their baptismal call to the common priesthood and our charism to minister together with us in matters that pertain to them. This will allow us to focus more on that which is essentially and necessarily our task. 27
Recognising new life, we exhort the Society to continue forming lay communities embracing the Paulist charism, fostering communion between religious and lay missionaries. 28
Religious and laity together forge a new approach to fulfilling the vision of Joseph De Piro. There is a convergence of interests, a sharing of gifts and growing co-responsibility in ministry. We affirm that co-responsibility offers the Society a perspective which refashions and enlarges our missionary imagination. 30
The renewal of religious life and community emerged as the central concern of GC2024. The General Council and Regional Superiors are asked to nurture the conversion of heart that is needed to reconcile community and ministry, and to continue supporting existing initiatives that promote authentic religious life, to nurture the Paulist missionary vocation, the growth of the Paulist Family’s communities, and the welfare of all its members, especially the most vulnerable. 31, 32
We also ask the General Council to persevere with initiatives that restore joy and vitality to community life where it is distressed by age, infirmity, loss, separation, division, scandal, or ministry burdens. 33

 

Mission and Ministry Par. No.
If our ministry is to remain vibrant and life-giving, if we are to avoid excessive stress and burnout, missionaries must attend to their spiritual, mental and physical well-being by maintaining a healthy work/life balance. They are to be helped to consistently cultivate practices of self-care, accountability, spiritual direction, and supervision (which may include mentoring and coaching). 36
While the missionary must have a robust capacity for self-reliance and may sometimes necessarily be detached from a community, no missionary can afford to live and minister in splendid isolation: superiors must make every effort to prevent this. 37
A commitment to accountability also needs to be inculcated in every missionary. 38
An analysis of social trends, ecclesial developments and missiology will help our missionaries to respond more effectively to present and future realities. 41
We encourage our missionaries’ efforts to extend their evangelisation through the channels provided by contemporary technologies and social media. 41
On-going communication between the General and Regional administrations will keep [socio-economic and cultural] developments in view, prompting discernment about the appropriate response. 42
The General and Regional administrations should also regularly evaluate the Society’s ministries so that they may continue to bear abundant fruit. Collective discernment about struggling missions and new or prospective missionary ventures is particularly important. 41
The presence of Vietnamese men in formation raises the prospect of a mission in Vietnam at some future date. We encourage the General Council to continue monitoring the situation. 44
No missionary should embark on any venture without the Society’s discerned approval. 44
Considering that fewer religious members will be available for ministry in the coming years, the future of our communities and ministries needs to be carefully planned jointly by the General and Regional administrations. 45
We may now discern the handing over of certain ministries to lay missionaries, which will allow us to focus on what is essentially and necessarily our task, as well as to answer new calls for evangelisation. 43
For lay co-responsibility in our mission to develop and bear fruit, appropriate formation is necessary. We therefore ask the General Council to commission the development of guidelines for lay formation. 43
Our Constitutions speak of “implanting the Church in missionary lands known as missions ad gentes.” As the terminology is outdated and no longer used by the Church, the Society’s Constitutions should be updated to reflect the contemporary understanding of mission. 45

 

Discerning Leadership, Governance and Stewardship Par. No.
We wish to see the salient MSSP virtues of encounter, hospitality, solidarity and beauty, which the Society holds dear, applied also in leadership, governance and stewardship. 46
We encourage the General Council and Regional Superiors to continue making progress regarding financial accounting and reporting, the making of members’ wills and safeguarding. 48
Every member holding a leadership role in the Society, whether a member of the General Council, or a Regional or Community Superior, or the director of an institution, ought to have moral support and companionship, especially when circumstances require them to live and work far from their communities or regions for extended periods of time. This principle applies especially when the members of the General Council are unable to reside in Rome together with the Superior General. We recommend that, if it becomes impossible for at least one other councillor to reside in Rome, the feasibility of retaining the Generalate in Rome should be reviewed. 51
The time seems ripe to undertake a comprehensive expert review of the Society’s government, to streamline structures and rationalise resource use. 52
We encourage the General Council and the Regions to continue promoting lay co-responsibility, by providing appropriate spiritual and leadership formation to those who are called to leadership roles in our various ministries. The General Council should keep a watching brief on developments in this field to harmonise practices of selection and formation. 56
We encourage on-going improvements in financial transparency and accountability, such as the harmonisation of accounting and financial reporting systems, so that a comprehensive understanding of the Society’s finances and assets becomes possible. 59
We recommend that a central property register be compiled and administered by a suitably qualified team. 60
Efforts to enhance transparency in regard to the sources and uses of personal assets should continue. 60
We urge the General Council and Regions to persevere with the application of safeguarding policies for the guidance of religious and lay, and to provide appropriate training in safeguarding to all those who are associated with our ministry. 61

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