The Meeting of Spiritan Provincial Superiors of the Union of European Circumscriptions (UCE) was held from Monday 22 to Friday 26 January 2024 at the Luther King Centre in Manchester, England. Among the participants were Fr. Marc Botzung (General Assistant in Rome and UCE Correspondent to the General Council), Fr. Innocent Izunwanne (Superior of Germany), Fr. Pedro Fernandes (Superior of Portugal), Fr. Jean-Pascal Lombart (Superior of France), Fr. Marcel Uzoigwe (Superior of the Netherlands and Chairman of the Executive Committee of the UCE), Fr. Martin Kelly (Superior of Ireland), Fr. Eduardo Tchipolo (Superior of Spain), Fr. Guy Nakavoua (Superior of Italy), Fr. Innocent Abagoami (Superior of Switzerland), Fr. Paul Karim (Superior of Croatia), Fr. Marcin Dusinski (Superior of Poland), Fr. Ugo Ikwuka (the host Superior), Fr. Alphée Mpassi (translator), Fr. Arthur-Marie G. Matip and Fr. Solomon Shamee (for secretarial support and logistics).
The Annual General Meeting offers the superiors the opportunity to reflect on their common mission. Thus, reports from the provincials on the state of the congregation in their respective circumscriptions was the first item on the agenda. These reports enable them to inform themselves individually and collectively about the life and mission of the Congregation in the different countries represented, to exchange and share experiences about the challenges they face, the measures that have been taken as well as the vision for the future.
Two presentations were made during the meeting. The first was on the theme “The Spiritan Mission in Europe: Challenges of Diversity in Mission Perspectives,” presented by Marcel Uzoigwe, in which he explored the benefits and challenges of diversity, noting the need to understand the factors that shape our worldviews and play in the background to influence our diverse perspectives on various issues relating to our common life and mission. This presentation provided an opportunity for participants to reflect on such fundamental questions as how the current reality of the diversity of members in our provinces affect the process of reaching a common decision that includes all or most of the different ideas and the principles that guide our management of diversity to ensure that diversity, equity, inclusion, and belonging (DEIB) receives appropriate attention without losing sight of the need for the province to continue to engage with its core challenges (mission, finance, etc.). It also raised questions on how we see the future of the congregation in Europe with regard to diversity and what recommendations can be made to ensure the building of conviviality among its members
The second presentation was by a guest speaker, Fr. Sean McDonagh, an Irish priest who has been working on ecology for more than thirty years. He reflected on “Climate Change and the Church”. Drawing from the current realities of climate change, Pope Francis’ Laudato Si, and other Church documents, he argued that the Church has an important role to play in the preservation of the environment. The presentation was followed by a tour of the Laudato Si Centre (a pet project of the Bishop of Salford), and a courtesy call on the Bishop himself. The centre, which covers a large area of land demonstrating various plants and natural vegetation methods, was founded by Bishop John Arnold, to demonstrate the Church’s ability to protect the environment.
Other projects visited by the participating superiors include “Just Youth” and “Revive” which are both projects of the Spiritans, British Province. Just Youth is involved in youth and school chaplaincy ministries, and Revive is a social care agency that supports immigrants, asylum seekers, and other social categories. Both projects attracted the attention of superiors due to the quality of the services offered and the testimonials of the people they met on-site. It also provided the opportunity to see with our own eyes the reality that the brothers experienced in these environments. On behalf of the superiors, Father Marcel thanked the staff for their valuable insights and the work they had done for the congregation.
The business part of the meeting included reflections on the reports of the various committees like the JPIC, Confreres on Mission Appointment, Youth and Vocation, Formation, Finance, CESS, and Kibanda.
Fr. Marcel Uzoigwe, CSSp