Dear Confreres and Lay Spiritan Associates,
At our meeting this morning, 15th April 2020, the General Council decided to postpone the 21st General Chapter of the Congregation indefinitely in the light of the uncertainty created by the current global pandemic. As the virus continues to spread and countries struggle to get the pandemic under control, it is clear that restrictions on international travel and on assemblies of people will continue for quite some time to come. Even in countries where the worst of the crisis appears to have passed, it is envisaged that the current stringent restrictions will only be gradually lifted over several weeks and will be subject to ongoing evaluation. The guidelines issued by the European Union to member States today foresee ‘a very long way back to normality’ and stress that ‘we will have to live with the virus until a vaccine or treatment is found.’ Against this background, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life has already issued a general authorisation to religious institutes to postpone their Chapters sine die, asking simply that the Dicastery be informed of the new dates once they have been decided. A number of Congregations have already cancelled their Chapters with no decision as to when they will eventually take place.
At present our intention is to maintain Poland as the venue for the Chapter and to seek an alternative four-week period in October-November when the facilities at Lichen might be available to us again. It is our hope that by that time the current wave of the virus will have declined globally and that unrestricted international travel may again be possible. A second possibility would be simply to defer the Chapter for a year from the original dates (mid-June to mid-July) but it is by no means certain at this point that restrictions would not then be re-imposed should there be a second wave of the virus next winter in the absence of an effective vaccine or treatment.
At the heart of the spirituality of Francis Libermann is the conviction that God is present in the reality of the human situation in which we find ourselves, however difficult or painful it might be, although our tendency is often to seek him elsewhere. His advice to the Superior of the Sisters of Castres seems particularly appropriate in the present circumstances:
Let us be patient and let us place our trust in Him. This ordeal will not last and, while we are waiting for calm to return, let us mobilise our resources and walk courageously on the painful path along which the Lord has brought us. [N.D. 308].
We remain in prayerful solidarity with the members of the Congregation worldwide, particularly with circumscriptions who have been most directly affected by the pandemic.
Fraternally yours in the Holy Spirit,
John Fogarty, C.S.Sp.