THE SOCIETY IN THE HOME REGIONS
Report to the 12th General Chapter, July 1982
by Hans Wijngaards, Councillor for the Home Regions
IN 1979, reporting to the Society Assembly, I attempted to put down in writing what the Society is actually doing in the Home Regions. In 17 separate points I tried to cover our personnel policies, the various activities going on, services being rendered to the missions, aims and objectives regarding special groups, issues of concern today. The document, entitled “Society Policy in the Home Regions”, is still a valid and informative statement on what matters for the Society today. It should be read in conjunction with the Consolidated Report of what the five Regional Councils had to offer in the line of further reflections and modifications.
In this report to the Chapter, I have decided to be more selective. What the Chapter-and Society members in general—need to know is the present state of things and the challenges that will face us in the immediate future. The perception and thorough treatment of key issues should weigh heavier than anxiety about completeness of detail. Areas that need to be tackled by the Chapter itself will, of course, deserve special mention.
I arranged my observations under four major headings. By the nature of things, some sections are introspective: they analyse the conditions of our staffs, achievements and challenges in our work, our form of management. One section, which I consider the most crucial one of this report, reminds us that we are part of a larger body, the Church. We can only understand ourselves by remembering the family we were bom in, by monitoring the wide community to which we belong and by keeping an eye on our true home: the whole world!
THE HORSE THAT PULLS THE CART
OUR members in the Home Regions can roughly be divided into three major groups: the retired, the members engaged in Society work and the ‘pastores’. This last group comprises all those who, for a number of reasons, have left the missions and are now, either part-time or full-time, committed to pastoral work at home: chaplaincies in Old People’s Homes, hospitals, apostolate among immigrants, or straightforward parish work. The mall group of those in higher studies can, for the sake of convenience, be reckoned with this category.
It is useful to make this distinction, not only because the needs of these three groups vary greatly, but also because it gives a better insight into what keeps the Society at home afloat. The long and short of it is that a small group of Society workers (144) enable the rest of the Society (812 members) to concentrate on their missionary and pastoral work: those on the missions (505), those who have retired after a life of missionary dedication (153), and those who after work on the missions are still rendering services to the Home Church (143). In fact, the Society could be compared to a tree in which the members in Society jobs are the stem that supports powerful branches five times as heavy as itself! (See Graph l).
The Society has remained faithful to its primary missionary purpose. Not only are the majority of our members actively involved in Third-World countries, the missionary orientation is equally evident in the orientation of the groups at home. The retired are veterans of missionary service. The work of those engaged in Society jobs is entirely geared to mission. Even the ‘pastores’ bring their missionary past to their new commitments. If, as sociologists tell us, the strength of an organisation lies in its ability to retain a specific and distinct identity, then the picture of the Society is a healthy one. It shows that those people are wrong who think the Society is losing its missionary impetus “because there are so many people at home”.
OVEREMPLOYMENT AT HOME ?
THIS ties in with another popular misconception found in some of our missions. Members there seem to think that there are “plenty of people in the home regions,” that “many more should be kept on the missions”. This becomes all the more painful when a member from such a mission has to be withdrawn for service at home. With dwindling numbers of our men in many dioceses and an increasing workload as a consequence, the reaction is understandable. The impression that the Home Regions are overpopulated may also derive from uninformed perusal of huge figures or from attending some Society meetings at home. The question is: Are there too many people at home? Could the Society do more with fewer persons? Could a better use be made of those who are available? These are legitimate questions and they need a clear and decisive answer.
So let us look at the situation again. First of all, note that we could not and should not expect the retired to do more than they have done. Their average age, in fact, is 73 years! The ‘pastores’, too, are for the greater part semi- retired, as can also be inferred from their average age being 65.8 years. If at all possible, they are being drawn into Society work to release others, but often this is not feasible in their case. All the work at home, therefore, falls squarely on the remaining group of 144 members.
This is a task force of considerable strength. However, it should be remembered that they man 27 houses in nine countries! Analysed by principal tasks (see Graph II), they can be split up thus: central and regional administration 30, rectors 26, fund-raising 26, formation (Mill Hill, Roosendaal, Junior Colleges) 21, recruitment and promotion 18, and maintenance and catering 23. Ten years ago there were fifty more working on the same range of jobs. Most of our men have two or more tasks at the same time. Some jobs have become far more complex and demanding. Most of our houses no longer have sisters to look after catering and laundry, nor brothers to maintain the buildings and the grounds. As a result, from having been those who gave orders, rectors are now frequently reduced to be everyone’s bell-hop and jack-of-all-trades!
With the age level of those in Society jobs increasing (see Graph III) and with numbers dwindling even more, pressures will surely mount in many of our houses and colleges. It will be necessary for the Society to relentlessly pursue the trimming process already begun since 1970. Houses and departments not essential for our survival should be closed down. Other involvements should be cut back or reduced to a minimum. Outsiders should be drawn in to maintain essential services formerly rendered by our own members, even if it increases the cost of our operations. Many such measures have already been taken but more needs to be done.
The over-all picture, however, is one of a minimum of staff achieving a maximum of impact. It is also true to say that our members give generous support to the policy of keeping as many of our men on the missions as possible.
THE morale among the men in Society jobs is high. One reason for this is the fact that the younger group (52 under 50 years) are almost entirely made up of people recently come from the missions and anxious to return there after a
number of years. During the past six years there has been a constant flow towards and from the missions. Fifty-three members were appointed from Society work at home to the missions; 48 from the missions to the home regions for Society work (Graph IV). We have rather strictly adhered to the rule by which rectors have to be changed after six years in office. Also, in spite of initial resistance, some persons who had become ‘permanent fixtures’ and were blocking growth, have been successfully moved to other occupations. At the same time, we are grateful that a number of other veterans, who are still young of mind, courageously battle on after many years of drudgery and hidden service. Finally—to round off this survey—it should be remembered that it is the home regions which normally absorb those who failed on the missions for one reason or another. Although such members form only a small percentage of the work force, they do at times add to the burden imposed on others. It is to the credit of our Society that such extra burdens are carried without people generally being aware of them.
The personnel situation in the home regions is a happy one. We are proud to have among us our retired members who have borne the heat of the day in missionary service. We are happy that our ‘pastores’ are still giving such a valuable contribution to the Church through their varied apostolic commitments. We can congratulate the Society with the fine body of its ‘ship’s company’, the men who keep the Society going and ensure its continued future.
SECTION TWO :
OUR HOME COUNTRIES
OUR Mill Hill presence in Europe and North America could be plotted on a relief map with hills and valleys. In some areas our influence is thin and light. Elsewhere there are high concentrations standing out like mountain peaks. As I experienced during my visitations, it takes years to appreciate the complexity of each local situation. Every house has its own history, its specific customs .and practices, its distinct links with the Church it sprung from. Then there are the national differences that colour all the realms of our work: recruitment, publicity, fund-raising and formation. To have a feel of what is going on, one should really make a conducted tour of our various centres, to watch our promotion team in Holland display a mission exhibition in a school, travel with an organiser in Britain or the States to a far-out parish and follow his experiences in the priest’s house no less than in the
pulpit, join our retired members for a Jubilee celebration in Herberthaus or hear our students in Freshford sing ‘Fiddler on the Roof in their makeshift opera hall.
I will present a bird’s eye view of the Society’s condition in the various countries. I will only mention the prominent features, and those briefly. More comprehensive information can be found in the Regionals’ reports which will be made available as background material. Graphs V and VI could be consulted throughout this Section.
THE majority of our Austrian members come from the diocese of Innsbruck, which comprises Ost-Tirol as well as most of the Inn-valley. Absam is well known throughout the area as a missionary centre. Our ‘Missionsbote’, distributed partly by mail partly by hundreds of zelators in outlying villages, provides the main source of income.
Our hostel in Absam did not produce any vocations during more than ten years. This made the General Council wonder, in 1980, whether it should not be closed. The discussion that followed proved fruitful. A thorough re-orientation took place and two students have so far gone to Roosendaal. Absam should be given credit for having provided three brother-candidates, thus giving a valuable impetus to our new Brothers’ training programme. New contact groups for vocations in Innsbruck hold promise for the future.
Our house in Bludenz was founded to channel vocations from the Diocese of Feldkirch (Vor- arlberg). The original plan was abandoned because the vocations crisis had set in by the time the college opened. As present, part of the house is rented out to be a hostel for Catholic students. The other part is used as a missionary centre for the diocese and as a reserve home for our retired members. Buldenz is a paradise for mountaineers!
ENGLAND AND WALES
ENGLAND being the country in which our Society was founded, it is perhaps no surprise that we are its leading missionary Society. Of the 544 priests, brothers and lay missionaries who are working overseas, 175 belong to our Society! Moreover, we are known through the length and breadth of the country on account of our association with the Papal Mission Works. Our men take the lion’s share of the appeals work for the APF; with the North of England entirely in our
care, and the South receiving substantial help in personnel. It is also paying financial dividends. Whereas other missionary Societies, preaching their own appeals, increased their collections with a bare 3% in 1981, the joint APF-Mill Hill collections went up by 25%!
Among the achievements of the Society in England during the past six years we may mention: improving the facilities at Herbert House, making Courtfield a viable mission animation centre, completing the chapel in St Peter’s House at Freshfield, and working out a new plan for our house in Bum Hall. Both Courtfield and Burn Hall were examined at one time ‘in the light of the last things’; both were given a new lease of life after their continued need and viability were established. Other developments have been: the functioning of the full-time Regional Secretariat from Bum Hall from 1979, the study week-ends for APF promoters and zelators, the flourishing of our vocation groups especially in Burn Hall and Freshfield.
The British Region faces a number of challenges in England and Wales. There is an acute shortage of places for our retired members. The best alternative plan under consideration envisages an extension of our accommodation in Herbert House. In spite of many valiant attempts, we have not attained the level of publicity we should have in this country. Our joint APF-Mill Hill publication ‘Missions and Missionaries’ should be upgraded. We need more attractive literature for vocations work. We could do with a good Public Relations Office. The tide may be turned when Fr T. O’Farrell will have finished his communication studies at Leeds.
Vocations from England are steady, as steady as they have ever been. We ordained an average of two English priests over the past ten years and admitted two brothers to perpetual membership during the same period! There are now 13 priest-students, including three deacons. In providing vocations England is clearly in the lead.
ALTHOUGH the Society had German members in its early years, it is not strong in Germany now. Of the 8,194 German missionaries, only five belong to our Society. In the 1960s the Society studied the possibility of opening a minor seminary in Westfalen. Fortunately the project was abandoned before it could meet the same fate as Bludenz, St Louis and Albany.
Munster is our centre from which fundraising is undertaken and contact maintained with German donor agencies. Through Fr J. Hopfgartner we are represented in the common
missionary magazine ‘Kontinente’ and in the Catholic news agency at Bonn. Our main hopes, though, are that we may attract more vocations in the future. We have one German student in Roosendaal and the promise of more to follow his example.
HOLLAND is by far the most demanding of our Regions. The great number of members living outside our houses (25 retired at home, 32 in parishes, 19 chaplains in homes and hospitals, 16 special cases, including students) necessitated arranging for the election of a full-time vice-Regional (co-regionaal). Seeing to it that such members are well provided for and maintaining contact with them has been a major challenge for the Regional and his partner in Holland. Great progress in this has been made over the past years. Good working relations were set up with the personnel managers of the dioceses so that the placements or transfers of our members could be effected smoothly. The members living outside our houses have been divided into ten districts of approximately ten members each. The meetings of the ten districts are staggered in such a way that either the Regional or the vice-Regional can be present at them. A close network of contacts has thus been built up. ‘Regional Days’, in which resident members, nonresident members and home-leavers meet, have also proved attractive and fruitful.
Being a small country with many missionaries (7,107 on the missions in 1980), Holland has extensive and dynamic missionary organisations. It is a true achievement for our Society that we have integrated ourselves in the national developments without losing our own identity. The unique service rendered by our Promotion Team is recognised everywhere. The National Mission Council sends many of its groups of lay volunteers to Roosendaal for week-end courses.
Changes in Dutch civil law required that the juridical position of the Region be modified. Our House in Vrijland was remodelled and extended so that it qualified as a government-aided ‘Kloosterbejaardenoord’ (religious retirement home). Much anxiety and administration went into this work, but the benefits now accruing to our members are immense. For some years, Hoorn eked out an existence as a hostel for minor seminarians. The scheme proved not viable and our property in Hoorn has been sold to be replaced by a more modest and efficient presence in West-Friesland.
Our task facing the Dutch Region in the years
to come will be to find a well thought-out, balanced form of recruitment. Probably this will need to be a combination of establishing ‘contact groups’ and intensifying publicity for Roosendaal. A beginning with both of these approaches has been made. Incidentally, our Society is doing comparatively well in Holland. From the 28 active Orders and Societies like ourselves who used to recruit in Holland, a total of 67 priests were ordained from 1970 to 1979. These are low figures for Holland. The point, however, is that of those 67 (belonging to 28 Orders and Societies) 20 were ours (1).
AMONG missionary nations, the Irish surely rank highest in the world. They have 5,849 missionaries working overseas, which works out at an average of 16.7 per 10,000 Catholics. Our Society was a relative late-comer in Ireland and is now outranked in number by the SMA Fathers, Kiltegans, Columbans, and other Congregations. But, in spite of its smallness, our Society in Ireland is comparatively well known. This is mainly due to some of our members’ holding prominent posts in the Irish Missionary Union and the National Vocations Office, and through the ‘Advocate’. Moreover, since 1980 the Irish Missionary Union shifted its premises to our house in Dartry.
The Irish Region has its problems too. The withdrawal of the Sisters from both Freshford and Dartry caused untold difficulties. Then fate struck at Freshford college, our main source of vocations. The new educational scheme in Ireland has made it more attractive for parents to send their children to government schools. These have better facilities than we can offer. Free transport is provided from the home to the school. Parents do not need to pay the fees we reluctantly have to impose. As a result, the intake of students in Freshford college has been dwindling, which in turn causes further reduction in government aid. Saving the college would involve a massive financial commitment as well as providing a qualified and permanent staff. In view of all these and other difficulties, the General Council are considering whether alternative ways of recruitment can be found, such as are commonly employed by missionary Societies in Ireland.
The fundraising department has had to take a number of hurdles. The Irish are generous, but many of their donations take the form of Mass stipends which cannot be retained by the Society but have to be channelled to the Missions. Our main fundraising depends on dispatching our magazine ‘St Joseph’s Advocate’; with rising
postal expenses it has become a costly operation. Existing benefactors become old and die off: new ones are not easily obtained. In response to these problems a number of useful steps were taken. The organising department was streamlined. The subscribers to the Advocate were renewed and brought to the new level of 45,000, principally through our taking part in the Coordinated Mission Promotion Plan, through which our Society has dioceses allotted to itself for its annual appeals. But an imaginative, new approach might well be needed to put the Region on a more secure financial footing.
One major achievement of the Region is its new home for the retired at Dartry. After studying many alternatives, it was decided to sell the land in front of the old building and to use the proceeds for building an interconnected set of well-designed bungalows on the plot at the back. The new building has almost been completed. It will combine efficiency, low running cost and comfort. The old building will be either rented out or sold.
The demand of the moment in Ireland is to build up a new vigorous vocations programme that corresponds to the aspirations of modem youth. Should we develop alternative forms of presence, for instance by opening smaller centres in Belfast, North Dublin or at Knock? Interesting proposals of this nature are made by the Regional, Jack O’Brien, in his essay “Mill Hill in Ireland-the next Fifty Years” (1982). One thing is certain: the Society can ill afford to lose its tenuous, but valuable hold on Ireland.
THE CHURCH in Scotland, only 800,000 strong, is a militant minority within an overwhelmingly Protestant world. The Society has at present 47 Scottish members and 3 Associates, 36 of whom are employed in the Third World. It makes our Society one of the biggest missionary groups in the country.
Like other minor seminaries in Scotland, Lochwinnoch has its measure of problems. The intake for the first year has declined sharply in recent years. Moreover, the students’ life seems to be torn between the permissive atmosphere at St Cuthbert’s school where they attend classes, the disciplinary requirements in our College and comfortable week-ends at home. Anyway, the beginning of 1982 saw six Scots in Roosendaal and two in Mill Hill. Within Europe, a minor seminary system like Lochwinnoch may look like an anachronism: it deserves support as long as it produces results. In 1981 a new gym hall was built to provide much-needed indoor sports
facilities for the students.
Dowanhill continues to be an organising centre and a home for our Scottish members on leave. The ‘St Joseph’s Advocate’ for Scotland has been enlarged and improved.
THOUGH small in number, 430,000, the South Tirolese have given many precious vocations to the Society from its beginning. Its present Mill Hill membership is 79, of whom 40 are engaged in the missions. This makes our Society the largest missionary body in South Tirol. Our prominence is also proved by the esteem given to the ‘Missionsbote’. This is not only the most popular mission magazine: it has a larger circulation than any other secular magazine in South Tirol!
Our ‘Missionshaus’ in Brixen, the focal point for mission animation in the area, has been hit by the same kind of educational trouble that besets Freshford. Parents who would formerly send their boys with preference to our hostel now find the new government schools cheaper and more convenient. This has greatly affected the intake and selection of the students, and so far no definite solution has been found. Another headache is one of staffing: as time goes on it will be almost impossible to find from among our own members persons competent, qualified and willing to do this kind of work. For future recruitment alternative forms, such as ‘contact groups’, hold more promise. Lack of personnel has so far impeded the realisation of this policy.
In the past ten years, one South Tirolese joined the brotherhood and ten were ordained priests! This is no mean achievement. Renewed efforts at recruitment are bound to pay off.
IT IS hard, in a few words, to do justice to the Society’s prospects in the United States. A little history may be in order. The USA became a major partner in Protestant missions from the second half of the nineteenth century. Its contribution grew enormously so that by 1946 it supplied about half of Protestant mission personnel in all the world. For Catholics, however, the situation is different. In 1840 they numbered only 1,250,000 in all. Immigrants, especially from Italy and Ireland, swelled their numbers to 20 million by 1929, the year when immigration was curbed. The immigrant communities were themselves considered mission territories (the USA was only detached from Propaganda in 1908) and their spiritual needs were mainly
supplied by priests from Europe. Slowly the Church’s sense of responsibility grew so that the number of missionaries increased from 2,000 in 1940 to 9,655 in 1968. In other words: the Catholic Church in the United States was a slow starter as far as missionaries was concerned.
In the fifties our Society returned to the States. It took some years before it was allowed to settle in some dioceses. Only in 1959 was the minor seminary in St Louis opened and in 1966 the seminary wing in Albany. A number of students joined us in that period who still form the core of our American membership today. As luck would have it, the crisis in vocations erupted just at the time when we were opening our colleges. To be precise: the fatal year was 1965. From 49,000 seminarians in 1965 the number steadily dropped to a mere 14,000 in 1980. In 1965, the United States had 181,000 religious sisters; in 1980 only 128,000 were left. All over the country, minor and major seminaries were being closed, competition increased, the few vocations that remained would naturally be drawn to established American societies or dioceses. The ship had been torpedoed before it was properly launched!
It is good to keep these facts in mind when judging our presence in the States. With its 50 million committed Catholics (practice still at a record 40%) and its mission generosity (the USA provides almost half the Propaganda budget), the States hold an enormous potential for missionary personnel in the future. That is why determined efforts were made also during the past six years to continue our vocations work, even though immediate great success is not likely. Our one student from America received the diaconate this year. A new vocations programme has been worked out which will be put into effect from the beginning of 1983.
Our taking part in the Missionary Cooperative Plan (popularly known as the Appeals Program) must also be seen in this light. Of course, we can be proud of the 3.5 million dollars that were collected through this scheme during the past ten years (2.6 million for missionary bishops; 900,000 for the Society). But from the Society’s point of view this was first and foremost a mission animation programme, enabling our men to speak directly about the missions to parish communities and to make the Society known in many dioceses. The ‘Good News Sweepstakes’ serve the double purpose of attracting new benefactors and enlarging the circle of friends to whom we send our ‘Mill Hill World’.
The shortage of personnel is acutely felt in the North American Region. Will the Society be able to maintain four houses as it is doing at present?
There are a number of reasons that would favour I our selling the Albany property and moving our I Yonkers and Albany communities into a new I settlement in the Great New York Area. Albany I is not readily accessible, especially in winter. I We are under-utilizing its facilities thus raising I its running costs. New York would be a more ef-1 ficient place to have our headquarters in. In 1980, j Fathers Jack O’Brien and Hans Hienkens were commissioned to study the feasibility of Albany. They recommended the move to New York. The 1 Regional Council did not agree with the conclusions of the report. Since there was no need for an immediate decision, the matter was deferred while the study of alternative properties in the Greater New York Area continues. The question has not been properly resolved, however, and will need to be tackled firmly in the future.
Residing in our biggest country the North American Region is paradoxically the Cinderella of our Home Regions. Our credit is due to all who helped build up our position in the States and who held on to the beachhead in spite of unforeseen setbacks!
THE Society has a house in Antwerp which acts as a procure for the Diocese of Basankusu. A plan to recruit in Belgium after the Second World War was abandoned when the Society failed to get permission for this from the Belgian hierarchy.
I understand that the situation is different now. With the encouragement of the Bishop of Antwerp our publicity for Roosendaal will be extended to the Flemish part of Belgium. The mass media from both Holland and Belgium treat the Dutch speakers as one language area in any case. From this we may get in time to come candidates with Belgian nationality.
We have two members from New Zealand and and an officially registered house in Canada (now: Chesterville). On account of the local shortage of vocations it is doubtful whether further attempts to establish the Society more firmly in these countries would be successful.
THE CHURCH IN EUROPE
ALL our members are aware of the fact that things are not what they used to be. Values that seemed firmly anchored in European tradition are now being questioned and disputed. The Church seems split down the middle on important issues. Where peace and harmony reigned only 20 years before, we now find protests and
demonstrations. Many of our members are alarmed and upset. Others who reckon themselves optimists by nature or faith search for rays of light in a seeming chaos. Some again are delighted with certain developments while deploring others. What is going on in Europe? It is essential for the whole Society as well as for the individual members to have some grasp of the present situation. Only this will enable us to take the right decisions when pressurized by contradicting forces. I will be taking my examples mainly from Europe, but the same processes are at work in the United States.
No one can see the river banks when the flood is on. It is equally impossible to give an accurate assessment of our own times while we are in the middle of the turmoil. Future history will no doubt have a clearer verdict. But the least we can do at the moment is to become aware of actual developments, to get hold of the facts. In this we are greatly helped by a spate of scientific studies that have been published about Europe and specifically about the Church in Europe. These studies have produced a wealth of data that document the present trends.
For this report I digested 15 major, independent researches. I will briefly describe some. In the Gallup research called The European Values Systems’, 210,280 Europeans from Gt Britain, Ireland, France, Belgium, West Germany, Holland, Spain, Denmark and Italy expressed their opinions in interviews covering 480 questions each. It is the most extensive survey of this nature ever done and covers the whole of life: relationships with others, leisure, work, politics, religion, the meaning of life, the family and ethics. The first results have been published but detailed evaluations have still to be completed (2).
The Pro Mundi Vita study ‘The Roman Catholic Church and Europe’ (1976) is informative for our purpose (3). On the Church in England research was done by Spencer (1975), by Pro Mundi Vita (1978) and especially by Hornsby – Smith (1979), which has been called ‘the best study of Roman Catholics in England and Wales to date’ (4). An extensive research was conducted in Holland known as ‘Opnieuw: God in Nederland’ (1979). Also worthy of mention in this context are the study of Dutch Catholicism by the American sociologist, Coleman (1978), and a number of excellent reports by the Dutch Research Centre Kaski (5). A limited, but useful probe was done in South Tirol: ‘Kirchenbesu- cher in Sudtirol’ (1980) (6). The Hierarchy of Scotland commissioned the Gallup poll to undertake a ‘Survey of Scottish Catholics’ (1979)(7). Its publication was welcomed by Glasgow’s
Archbishop Thomas Winning with the wry comment: ‘I would rather know the truth than live in a fool’s paradise’.
ONE startling finding is that morale in Europe is low. As many as 30% of Europeans find life meaningless. There is really nothing worthy to give one’s life for except perhaps one’s family (53%). Most are not proud of their own nationality (62%). Most expect religion to decline in the next decade (77%). The future is uncertain and a major war could well happen in the next five years (50%). It is best to live from day to day (52%). There is also a wide distrust of other people. Even though the majority of Europeans adhere to rather high moral standards (80%), they are convinced that others, people in general, have low standards. ‘Few people observe the Ten Commandments’ (70%). ‘Nowadays people expect more and more state support without deserving it’ (70%). ‘Mutual help declines’ (60%). ‘You cannot be too careful when dealing with others’ (62%). In other words: morale is low. Many Europeans are fearful and anxious. They have lost their self-confidence and pride, their certainty about values worth holding on to and their trust in society as such.
The Church, too, is undergoing a crisis. Practically everywhere we find the same picture that 30% of Catholics attend the church during weekends, that 40% remain loosely attached ‘to be christened, married and buried’ and that a further 30% has completely lapsed in recent years (Graph VII). The decline in church attachment shows up most in a country like Holland where Catholics had been a well-protected social group until World War II. The principal cause for the decline is undoubtedly the process of secularization, the transition from poverty to relative wealth, from village life to town dwelling, from belonging to a well-defined community to becoming part of a faceless, mobile urbanised mass of people. The effects and side-effects of secularization are not yet fully understood, but one thing is certain: it erodes religious values. Three out of every four Europeans still profess belief in God, but only one will say He is a personal God. 90% do not mention religion as a value they would risk their lives for. When asked what values parents should teach their children, religious faith receives a low rating. Similarly, for a successful marriage few consider that sharing the same religious belief is really important. Many who say they are religious persons (58%), that they long for prayer (66%), clearly consider religion a very personal, private practice. Researchers conclude: religious feeling is strong and religious needs are never totally absent; yet religion is low on the scale of values. It conies well after honesty, good manners, tolerance, unselfishness and obedience.
Another component of the crisis is a general distrust of structures. It ties in with the low morale mentioned above and shows itself in a suspicion of leadership and establishment. The Church is by no means the establishment that comes in for most criticism. Among institutions most trusted it ranks in the fifth place, after the police, the army, the legal system and education. Yet, many are critical and feel uneasy about present Church structures. Among churchgoers, a large section feels their moral and family problems are given no adequate treatment by the Church (41%), and that they receive insufficient help for their spiritual needs (34%). Many practise birth control in spite of public pronouncements (70%). In contradiction of the official position, many are convinced one can still be a good Catholic without going to church (at least 65%). Catholics are less inclined to accept ‘dogma’ on face value: only 45% subscribe to the traditional doctrine of heaven and afterlife.
The confusion of convictions and practises described so far is linked with social changes that deeply transform the traditional structures of European life. General mobility, immigration, common-market strategies and the widening of the horizon by international radio and T.V. communication break down protective walls and dividing barriers. Computerised technology creates new possibilities and dehumanises society at the same time. Human rights figure more prominently and people are concerned about pollution and the quality of life. The economic depression sharpens conflicts and confrontations. All this affects religion and the Church. Europe finds itself in a new situation and the traditional structures and beliefs are found inadequate to give meaning to its life in this situation (8). Central for Christians in this search is their concept of the Church. In the maelstrom of response three models of the Church are clearly emerging as possible answers to the Church’s task to be relevant to every age.
MODELS OF THE CHURCH
It is possible to construct five models as is done by Avery Dulles (9). For our purpose,however, the reflection going on in the Church in Europe is best expressed in three distinct models. I will outline them here in a rather extreme fashion, intent on being clear rather than sophisticated and subtle.
The so-called ‘Institutional Model’ (see Graph VIII) dominated the minds and hearts of Catholics until the Vatican Council. Grown as it had from persecuted anti-Reformation communities, it considered the Church as a fortress, a sacred temple within which the faithful were protected from the evil influences of the outside world. God’s majesty filled the faithful with awe and respect; He is worshipped in a sacred liturgy that emphasises his transcendence; He is obeyed without questioning in his Divine Laws. In the Incarnation the focus is on Christ’s divinity, on his presence with us in the Consecrated Host. God’s paternal care manifests itself in a hierarchy of sacred ministers set apart for this purpose. The Church’s main task was seen to be in the sacramental field, preparing people for baptism, confirmation and Christian marriage; in guiding people at Mass and in confession. It was the duty of the Christian laity to be responsive to the guidance of the priest and to live Christian virtues in their daily lives.
The ‘Liberal Model’ (see Graph IX) arose in reaction to the previous one to reaffirm the dignity of the individual Christian believer. Its origin lies in middle-class, suburban European communities where the faithful experienced that their personal development could no longer be squared with the position assigned to them in the previous model. Democracy, human rights, equality for all and other contemporary values are fully accepted and justified by reference to the Scriptures. Christ, we are told, liberated us from all that binds us to evil and death and so the Church is made up of free people, who walk on the way with Christ, happy at the prospect of meeting a God who is father to all. Catholics should welcome cooperation with other Christians and with adherents of other religions. The Church should be characterised by openness, by a responsible ‘public opinion’ and a healthy pluralism of views. In his private life a Christian should be guided principally by his own conscience in determining what is right and what is wrong. The pastoral care of the Church should be aimed first and foremost at helping individuals grow.
In recent years a new model, which I shall term ‘The Social Model’, has blown over to Europe from Latin America. Obviously the seeds for similar thoughts were present in Europe too, but the model has been given its fullest expression in the context of repressed Christian groups in Latin American countries. Christ came to bring the good news to the poor, we are told. A gospel which is not relevant, which does not terminate in bringing real liberation to those in chains or oppressed, can have no validity (see
Graph X). To find this liberation, both in their own lives and for the whole of society, Christians are called together to be a ‘church’, a community of God, the family of Christ. One’s spirituality should not be self-centred. It should be based on sharing, on a communal response to God’s Word. In this context Christ’s humanness and his involvement in contemporary liberation are emphasised. Ministries, too, are seen as springing from the base, from the community’s need to be served both spiritually and materially.
These three models are not only mutually incompatible, they do not exist anywhere in such stark forms. Each of the three models finds its roots in Scripture. Each can justify central tenets by reference to Vatican II. None of the three models is without weaknesses and inherent dangers. The institutional model is too clerical, bureaucratic and irrelevant to modem society. The liberal model may lead to extreme individualism and may canonise bourgeois complacency. The social model, on the other hand, may underrate the rights and needs of the individual, and may end up by making religion and the Church tools of a political struggle. The question arises: How does all this affect our Society?
WHEN faced with the different models we tend to take sides. Instinctively we plunge for one of the three. This is exactly what is happening in Europe on a large scale. Different groups are digging themselves in in defence of their particular model. This is unavoidable especially if we realise that there are large pockets of Europe where the issues involved have not yet been so freely and openly discussed. In England and Wales, for instance, the new teaching of the Council is virtually unknown in many parishes. Only half of all Catholics have heard of the Vatican Council. Among those who profess complete ignorance are: 24% of the weekly Mass attenders and 67% of the 15-24 age group (10)! Small wonder that liturgical reform, dialogue, ecumenism, freedom of conscience, public opinion in the Church, the priesthood of the laity, the duty of political involvement and other Vatican values are treated with suspicion in such circles. Also, falling into the trap of ‘post hoc ergo propter hoc’, they ascribe the religious crisis in the Church to the Vatican reforms. While paying lip-service to the Council, they see no other salvation than in reaffirming the institutional model in all its rigidity (11). Other extreme groups propound the liberal or social model without sufficient regard for values contained in the institutional model and equally endorsed by Vatican II. The
result is polarisation, a theological mud-slinging that confuses ordinary people no end.
In my visitation of the members, I frequently met individuals who suffer under the conflict. Quite a few have hardened their positions and are nourishing their own thinking with the gloomy assessments and unchristian accusations emanating from traditional magazines. Others on return from the missions can only live and work in surroundings that still reflect the old model. Again another sizable group struggle with doubts and anxieties while achieving a reasonable level of adaptation externally. The proportion of our members who have such problems is so high that I believe much explicit attention should be given to it. Our recent renewal programme, whether through seminars or through personal courses, evidently helps a good number of our members to understand the new situation and adjust themselves to it. But much more should be done especially for those working in the missions. They may be so absorbed in their immediate tasks that they gradually alienate themselves totally from what is happening in their own country. With a view to their own peace of mind and future involvement in the home regions, every member of the Society should be kept in touch with developments at home and should be helped to retain his love and appreciation of Europeans and their values. Nothing less than a real reverse adaptation is absolutely required!
It is important to note that the time of the worst initial confusion is blowing over. The hierarchies in various countries are bravely facing up to the new challenges and countering them by a positive response. The National Pastoral Congress in Liverpool in 1981, for example, opened perspectives for the Church that had not been sufficiently realised by our members. In spite of setbacks and problems, Europe’s search for a new Church is also an exciting adventure, a task with historic consequences, characterising our own age as a ‘time for building’ for centuries to come! Visions of a new Church are emerging that make a Christian’s heart beat faster. The open, ecumenical, grass-roots, democratic, socially committed and gospel-incarnating future Church of Karl Rahner (1972) and Gabriel Marc (1980) sketch orthodox ideals which it is worth suffering the confusion for (12). I believe that as a Society we should firmly follow the lead of the Church and implement Vatican reforms without allowing ourselves to be sidetracked in extreme right or left adventures.
The search in Europe also has its consequences for our formation programme. Our members in trainirig will have to be exposed to the various models in such a way that they can absorb the new values and take their own responsible stand within the Church. It frequently happens that older members want to impose one model rather than another, or that they demand a uniformity and consistency which at this junction of time do not exist within the Church. I am not suggesting that our formation programme should deviate from orthodoxy or in any way pursue a course of adventurous experimentation. On the other hand, the programme should be neither static nor monolithic. To reflect the challenges of the future Church it will need to be varied and flexible. Tensions and a good amount of fluctuation are unavoidable in such circumstances. Our formation staff are generally agreed that the present Mill Hill—Roosendaal course does indeed expose our students to a healthy range of Church commitments and theological opinions.
THE general situation outlined above also explains why vocations are at a low ebb. The reasons are both social and religious: smaller families and higher living standards, the decline of interest in religion, distrust of the establishment and reluctance to commit oneself for life, unresolved questions such as priestly celibacy, the confusion caused by priests and religious renouncing their vows and by right—left polarisation. But regarding the future,the religious studies done on Europe are extremely reassuring. For although in some countries the level of vocations may never again reach the exceptional height of past years (as in Holland), the low rate of vocations does not reflect people’s esteem for the priestly ministry and the missionary vocation. Catholics in England say their priests do their job well (63%). They give them high ratings for their ability to manage the affairs of the parish (59%), the way they treat their parishioners (55%) and their knowledge of what is going on in the Church (69%) (13). Catholics in Scotland commend priests for the way they run their parishes (83%), for the meaningful celebration of the Eucharist (85%), and for their ability to understand the problems of teenagers (56%) (14). Catholics in Holland are no less complimentary. Priests, they say, are equal to their task (88%), they are relevant and up-to-date (88%), they spend their time usefully (91%) and they could not possibly be missed (91%) (15). From other studies it is clear that missionaries are greatly appreciated both by the older and by the younger generations (16). I am quoting these findings not because they are necessarily correct assessments of what priests and missionaries are worth. But they prove that Catholics in general
understand the need of the ministry and that they are well disposed to their leaders.
The implications are clear: even though obstacles prevent many from actually committing themselves, the basis for vocations for the priestly and missionary life is there. This is explicitly confirmed in a number of studies. Rita Heeran showed that more than half of school leavers in Ireland had considered a religious vocation some time or other (17). In England, one third of recent Mass attenders and one quarter of all Catholics claim to have given serious consideration to the possibility of a religious vocation (18). Studies among teenagers on the continent demonstrate that, in spite of appearances, many are religiously motivated and prepared to undertake serious commitments (19). The lesson is that we should have patience. For some years to come the catch may be scanty, but the inner, spiritual force of Catholic youth will eventually make the level bounce back to the normal percentage. If we give the egg the time it needs, it will stand up and walk.
During the past six years, recruitment has been the first priority in all our home regions. I can vouch for the fact that humanly speaking we are doing whatever can be done in the circumstances. Nor have our efforts been without success. The average ordination rate has been six for the past ten years and there are no reasons to expect a further drop in the immediate future. Our brothers’ training programme received an unexpected boost, first from Austria, then from a number of other sources. Next September we hope to have seven brothers in training at Mill Hill. The secret of the game seems to be relentless determination and patience at the same time. The fluctuations in various regions level out in the common programme. It is one of the blessings of our multi-national character.
It has been the Society’s policy to support whatever remains of our junior colleges so as to make sure that no effort to promote vocations has been left untried. It has borne some fruit. Absam, Brixen, Freshford, Hoorn and Loch- winnoch have supplied students during the past six years. But Hoorn has meanwhile been closed. And although each case will have to be decided on its own merit, it is my prognosis that in the long run none of these minor colleges will prove either effective or viable. My reasons are the following:
1. The age-level at which teenagers decide on their future has risen high above previous levels and is now centred around school-leaving age. Since our minor colleges select their candidates from the top years of primary-school level, they cannot but by chance select serious future vocations.
2. The educational systems of most countries have been perfected to such an extent that it will no longer be profitable or attractive for par- rents to send their children to a boarding school.
3. Although we have run many schools in the past, we have not specialised in education as a Society, nor will it be possible as a Society to maintain a large number of degreed members for a small number of colleges. In other words, we will find it hard to secure staff for the colleges in question.
In view of such possible future developments, I strongly recommend that as a Society policy all regions develop the so-called ‘contact group system’, which has proved so successful in England and Wales. The reasoning behind the system is that many teenagers are open to vocation during their secondary schooling, and that such vocations should be carefully fostered by continued contact. When a vocations director gets to know that a particular student is interested (through meetings in schools, through benefactors, through advertising in Catholic papers), he will invite the person in question to come to a regular week-end in one of our houses. During the week-ends the student meets like-minded people, receives information on the Society and missionary work, takes part in a liturgy and other community events aimed at strengthening his motivation and creating a sense of belonging. The secret of creating a good group is that only those really interested should be enrolled and that the standard should be maintained even if the number is small. Apart from the week-ends, contact is also maintained by a newsletter, by personal visits and letters. The system seems a sound investment because it is economic with staff and financial resources. It leaves the student truly free in a time of growth and discovery, yet gives him the support and formation that will sustain him during the first years of response to his vocation. It is the ‘seminary without walls’ of the future!
IN harmony with the newer models, the Church in Europe has become aware of the potential of its laity. From the overwhelming response to the Vatican statements in this regard it is evident that people in Europe were mentally prepared for it. In many countries lay people are now playing a far more active role. Traditionalists sometimes maliciously accuse Holland of becoming a ‘lay Church’. If by this is meant that either the people or the official Church would want to dispense with ordained ministers, the statement
is wrong. What is true, however, is that lay people are taking a far more active and responsible part in all aspects of diocesan or parish affairs. Since Vatican II, the number of voluntary Church workers increased fivefold. The work they do goes far beyond the traditional fundraising for charity: it includes financial administration, liturgical planning, catechesis, and many forms of the apostolate (20). In England the response to the National Pastoral Congress was especially strong among the laity. And, whatever the clergy may think, most of the laity want a greater say in the control of Church affairs (64%), in the appointment of parish priests (50%), in financial administration (56%), and even in discussing Church doctrine (72%) (21). It is a reassuring development, realising the Vatican dream of an active and responsible laity and responding to European respect for democracy and personal maturity (22).
In this context the decisions the Society will take regarding lay associates cannot be treated as peripheral. The laity will have a far greater share in the Church of the future, also in its missionary dimension. Will the Society be credible as the expression of the home Church’s missionary arm if it retains its clerical nature in permitting only priests and celibate laymen as perpetual members? Should the Society in its membership not reflect all the charisms present in God’s people? Would a continued restriction to clerical or quasi-clerical service not spring more from our past than from the missionary needs of our present-day Church? To obviate misunderstanding I hasten to add that I believe that the priestly ministry will always remain an indispensable element of our missionary contribution. But by excluding women and married couples from perpetual membership, would we not in fact clip the wings of the Holy Spirit? I am aware of the many practical problems involved, of the safeguards that would need to be taken. But many lay people, men and women, today lack neither the education nor the commitment nor the humility to fit into an organisation like ours. By offering them full fellowship in the Society, under terms equally stringent as those imposed on ourselves, we will establish the Society on a sound ecclesial basis for the future.
CENTRAL AND REGIONAL ADMINISTRATION
THE new regional structures set up by the 1970 Chapter have been beneficial to the Society in the home regions. The day-to-day running of the Society in nine countries could not be done centrally. The numbers are too high and a large proportion of members needs constant and specific attention. Regional subsidiarity has worked out well because it safeguarded the overall and individual responsibility of each Regional in his own territory and provided a body—the Regional Council—to whom the Regional could turn for advice and guidance. I could not with a clear conscience say that during the past years there have been only successes as far as the regional administration was concerned: Regionals, like other human beings, do occasionally make mistakes; moreover, some Regions have such a fragile and uneven composition that problems are bound to occur. The point I want to make here, however, and make with conviction, is: our regional structures are of great benefit to the Society. They have functioned very well during the past six years. The Regionals and their councils should be commended for dedicated and efficient service.
As Councillor for the Home Regions I have continuous dealings with all the Regionals. Communication between the General Council and the Regions normally flows through me. It is my own honest impression that our working relationships have been good, if not excellent, both on the level of the job and on that of personal friendship. It is also my strong view that the present balance of responsibilities between the General Council and the Regional Councils is close to optimal performance from the point of view of efficiency as well as group participation. These feelings of complacency, self-congratulation and job satisfaction have, however, been ruffled from time to time by rumblings and grumblings of various kinds. Some people maintain that there has been too much centralising, I am told, too much forceful intervention from above. Others contend that the Regional Councils should be given more responsibility. Others again say there is too much dejay and secrecy in appointments; they would like to be consulted at every stage. Doubts about the effectiveness of the system are at other times voiced by an almost touching concern for the Councillor for the Home Regions: does he have sufficient time to cover all the regions? Should he not rather stay at home to answer telephone calls and reply to letters?
I hesitated for a long time before deciding to tackle such questions in this report. After all, if a job entails an occasional crawl through nettles and briars one can expect to be scratched from time to time. I can’t help but be aware that in a number of instances the rumblings originated from persons harbouring pet views or petty grudges not known to others. I know too that I have made mistakes at times and that everyone’s style of action is bound to cause reactions from one side or the other. In other words, I was inclined for a long time to dismiss the questions raised as being of a personal nature, hardly meriting the time and attention of the Chapter. However, I have come to recognise that, divested of their personal trappings, the questions themselves are real and that, having been raised, they need to be answered with honesty and precision. It also struck me that, even if some may discredit my arguments as being self-defensive, I owe it to my successor in the job and the future administration that my experiences and views are clearly expressed and left on record.
PARTICIPATION AND SUBSIDIARITY
OUR Renewal Chapter of 1970 adopted for the Society what is known as the ‘systemic’ model of organisation. As some people have still failed to grasp the implications of this change, I will briefly outline them here (see Graph XI). In the past our Society was governed in a ‘classical’ or bureaucratic form of administration. This system is rather efficient for unchanging, mechanistic jobs. At one time it was widely propagated for armies, businesses and industries. Characteristic of this model is that decisions are not only finalised at the top but that they originate with the top. Only the top leaders know what is going on and determine the objectives. Communication and responsibility flow from them to an ever lower level of leaders. In this form of organisation everyone has a specific and well- defined task on which he or she can fully concentrate. The problem with it is that it is top- heavy. It does not leave sufficient scope to the creativity and wisdom of ordinary members since their participation is reduced to execution only. Also, the organisation is too rigid. It cannot meet new challenges or a wide variety of different needs.
The ‘systemic’ model of organisation tries to meet the objections by combining, as much as possible, local subsidiarity with a strong central direction. The units of this organisation are cells or teams. They are given specific jobs (fundraising, vocations work, etc.), but each unit or sub-unit remains at the same time responsible
for the over-all objectives. Consequently, many of their responsibilities overlap, as we experience ourselves with the same issue being discussed by Regional Councils, our Formation men, our Vocation Teams, our Bursars. The system requires that communication flows in all directions. As all have to be aware of the over-all objectives, a high level of information and motivation should be maintained throughout the system. Decisions can start anywhere: through a process of further consultation the decision will ultimately be taken by the particular unit responsible for this specific kind of action (23).
The General Council and the Regional Councils are units within the system. Their specific task, however, is not one limited area of activity but coordination, encouragement, and decision making in certain cases. In my view the Society in the Home Regions has worked extremely well with this model of organisation. Most individuals and teams understand the present system, even if they do not know the theory or the terms involved. Problems arise when some people hark back to the ‘classical’ organisation: expecting directives from above or reacting against imaginary impositions from the top. Problems also occur when people unconsciously assume that in the new form of organisation there is no need for a clear-cut leadership or for leaving final decisions to particular units. The concept they may be playing with in their minds is the so-called ‘human relations’ organisation, ideally suited for ecological groups, butterfly- catching organisations, and other loosely joined fellowships. In these organisations, no doubt, decisions are always reached by consensus, by what pleases most individuals. In fact, if members don’t agree with majority decisions they usually pull out. We are, however, an organisation dedicated to a complex and difficult set of tasks. While allowing the maximum of participation and subsidiarity throughout the initial stages of decision-making, there is the need for particular groups having the function of terminating discussion and specifying the action to be taken. Decision-making of this nature has been entrusted to all units and sub-units within the area of their competence; it applies in special measure to the General and Regional Councils.
With all the dialogue and overlapping going on, it is important, of course, that the specific areas of responsibility are clearly defined. The 1976 Chapter referred to this when it asked the General Council to guarantee adequate authority to the Regional Councils so that they can fulfil their tasks more effectively in accordance with the principle of subsidiarity ( p.49). The Chapter, however, added the proviso that the unity of
the Society and its international character be duly safeguarded (pp. 49 and 63). The General Council and the Regional Councils discussed these matters which resulted in a clear statement entitled ‘The Responsibility of Regional Councils’ (1977). Its implications are outlined in Graph < XII. In a nutshell, the Regional Council is entrusted with the care of the individual members in its region. It is competent to decide minor appointments (within the region), it supervises the programmes of work and community life in our houses and colleges. It has responsibility for all Society activities in the area: vocations work, junior formation, mission awareness programmes, fund-raising and publicity. It represents the Society at national level. The General Council, on the other hand, retains its duty of personal visitation of the members and takes the final decisions on major appointments. It has the final say in major decisions affecting our houses or the various Society activities. It approves the regional budget. It is understood that in all these areas there should be true mutual consultation and that cooperation is given to decisions taken by either team within the area of its competence.
When people are asking for more responsibility to be entrusted to Regional Councils, I am genuinely puzzled. Are they aware of the far- reaching responsibilities already enshrined in everyday practice? Do they also know that the 1977 working document explicitly states: each Regional Council can at any time re-open the issue and ask for more responsibility if it has specific proposals? In other words: if there is a legitimate need for greater subsidiarity, the machinery for achieving it is already there. My own feeling is that the itch for greater regional power is, in fact, a remnant of past dissatisfaction. It does not seem to reflect either the level of satisfaction or the genuine needs of our present Regional Councils. Or, to put it differently, if further subsidiarity be desirable, it should now be proposed in the form of specific suggestions, no longer in oblique and general remarks.
Lurking behind some of the misgivings is the old bugbear of provincialism. Yes, in one or two Regions there are individuals who, perhaps, would like their particular region to pursue a policy different from that followed by the rest of the Society, who might envisage the Regional Council itself appointing people to and from the missions. If we want to protect the integrity and specific character of our Society, such tendencies, however small they are, should be firmly resisted. We are multi-national in character as can be clearly seen in our combined formation programmes, our joint working in all mission
fields, our unified and common strategies. To start with provinces now would, in my view, have the following devastating disadvantages: it would destroy some of the finest qualities of our Society; it would result in a far more elaborate and top-heavy proliferation of regional and central structures; it would make the appointment process even more complex than it is already; it would not prove viable in the smaller regions nor be beneficial in the long run to the larger ones. In other words: provincialism should be firmly rejected, as’it has been in our previous Chapters, and this entails confirming the present responsibilities of the General Council: to guide the Society towards its over-all objectives; to coordinate our work in the missions and other regions; to effect all major personnel appointments in such a way that both the ultimate good of our work and the individual’s happiness and integrity be safeguarded.
HOW are major appointments arrived at? Most people are now familiar with its tortuous and complex path. For those who are still asking for more consultation, I outline the various steps in Graph XIII. With the help of the local team and the Regional Council a job profile and a list of candidates are drawn up. The General Council studies the list, enlarges and improves it, and selects one or two likely appointees. If the member works in a mission diocese, contact is now taken up with the Bishop and the Society Council to assess further the appointee’s suitability and availability. At the same time the candidate himself is approached and his personal reactions are ascertained. If all is well, the General Council takes the final decision. Mishaps still occur. But I am sure the present system is both efficient and kind to individuals. A small neutral group, such as the General Council, with personal acquaintance of the individuals concerned, and with good communication in all directions, is ideally suited for the handling of confidential information and for cutting twisted knots.
Important policy decisions go through a similar drawn-out process. Before every visitation I meet the Regional so that we are both fully informed about the latest developments. After the visitation I report extensively to the Regional except on matters confided to me by members which are of a personal nature. If any major issue arises, it is thoroughly discussed, then taken to the General Council for its consideration. The General Council may then suggest that a formal study of the question be undertaken. Persons who conduct the study are selected jointly by
the two Councils. When the study has been completed the Regional Council appends its own assessment and recommendations. The General Council then receives the report and studies it, usually inviting the Regional in for further personal deliberation. As far as my recollection goes, in all matters of importance except possibly two, complete agreement was reached between the General Council and the Regional Council concerned before the final decision was taken. Contrary to what some may imagine, it was not the style of the outgoing administration to force its own point of view through with the aid of a sledge-hammer.
I have found the annual meeting with all the Regionals extremely useful. Over-all programmes for the Home Regions were hammered out from year to year. It is here that the seminars for various groups were planned before they took place. It is with all the Regionals together (after consultation in their Councils) that policy statements were arrived at—statements that resulted in important General Council documents on: ‘The Responsibility of Regional Councils’, ‘Retirement’ and ‘Associates in the Home Regions’. After I had attempted to formulate the Society’s policies for the Home Regions in 17 statements (General Assembly 1978), the Regional Councils at my request took them up for detailed discussion during the next two years. It proved a fruitful undertaking, producing interesting suggestions.
In conclusion I should like to repeat what I stated right at the beginning of this section. Working relations between the General Council and the Regional Councils have been good over the past six years. The task division between the two bodies seems as efficient and reasonable as it can be. It would not be in the interest of the Society to weaken or emasculate the responsibility of the General Council in any way. A hut will not collapse as long as its main pole is standing, as the Maasai tell us. If all this seems an ‘oratio pro domo’ I apologise; but then, remember that I’m thinking of my successor. I would not have started the whole discussion at all if it were not for the isolated rumblings mentioned before. I believe the Chapter will waste its time by upsetting delicately balanced structural arrangements that have served the Society well over the past twelve years.
THE ELECTION OF REGIONALS
THE Regional holds a key position in the Region. The job requires a high level of competence. Entrusted with the pastoral care of our members, he should be able to deal with all kinds
of cases. He is responsible for a lot of administration, including financial questions and correspondence. He should give leadership to the Regional Council, to our Houses, to every department in the Region. He is expected to represent the Society on national bodies. The whole Region will suffer if the Regional is not equal to his task.
There are two reasons why the present system of electing Regionals does not always ensure that the best man is elected for the job. First of all, whereas for other demanding jobs (rectors, heads of departments) we carefully select possible candidates from our members throughout the Society, the Regional is elected only from among those in the Region at the time. Since most members in the Home Regions are retired or semi-retired, the number he can be chosen from is extremely small, especially in some Regions. Secondly, in the bigger Regions people don’t really know one another. Most of our members have been scattered on the missions and are even scattered when at work in the Home Regions, so that they hardly possess sufficient information regarding candidates for this task. The vote they cast is, to a great extent, a blind vote. Many admit that this is so.
In 1978 I discussed this problem with the Regional Councils and put proposals before the Assembly. The Assembly felt that a drastic change in procedure would exceed its competence. For the elections of 1978 makeshift alternatives were tried, such as having a straw vote before the real election, but these did little to improve the situation. The only alternative that worked, in my view, was the nomination procedure adopted in the Dutch Region, preliminary to the ordinary elections.
I should like to propose to the Chapter that the election of Regionals be revised in the following manner:
1. The passive vote should be extended to all members hailing from that Region, wherever they are working at the time.
2. The Rectors in the Region should form a nomination board to which is given the task of receiving suggestions from the members in the Region and drawing up a tentative list of nominees.
3. This list should then be submitted to the Geeral Council, who may add some observations and, if necessary, take up contact with the mission to ascertain if a certain person is available or not.
4. The nomination board revises the list in the light of the General Council’s observations and publishes the list to the whole Region.
5. A normal, free election can now take place
according to the established rules.
6. Just as members of the General Council, the Regional elected in this manner should remain in office for six years.
Our Society is a truly democratic body in the sense that its chief executives are freely elected. In this we are following the old tradition of the religious Orders, who were, in fact, the earliest truly democratic bodies in medieval Europe. The electoral techniques which made the establishment of political democracy possible in Europe were developed by Religious (24). At the same time, it is interesting to note that our ancestors in these democratic elections were aware of the shortcomings of unguided democratic processes. For instance, they carefully distinguished what was called the ‘major pars’ (the majority) from the ‘sanior pars’ (the wiser group) (25). They knew from experience that going by simple majorities alone did not ensure the success of the outcome, nor that the will of the community was really respected. From early times there have been, therefore, safeguards— a combination of guidance by those in the know and elections.
In this context it is good to know that most other missionary Societies have incorporated precisely such a combination into their procedures. Many extend the passive vote to members outside the Region: the Maryknollers, SVD, the Holy Ghost Fathers, Scheut Fathers, the SMA Fathers, the Verona Fathers and the White Fathers. In some Societies a panel is elected of three or five persons, and the Superior General appoints one as Provincial (SVD, Holy Ghost, Scheut, the Kiltegans). Some Congregations only have confidential consultations, after which the Regional Superior is simply appointed ( OMI and the White Fathers). Maryknoll has a nomination procedure and the SMA Fathers have a two-tiered election: one by the general membership, another by an inner group, the so-called Provincial Assembly. All this shows that the need of extending the passive vote and of incorporating an element of guidance is recognised everywhere.
FIRE AND THE HOLY SPIRIT
LEADERSHIP consists mainly in giving encouragement. This implies much more than the occasional nod of recognition. Encouragement entails strengthening people in their motivation, helping them develop their fullest potential, making them feel that the Society backs them up in their initiatives and efforts, giving them the support they need to bring their tasks to a good end. All our leaders in the Home Regions are engaged in this work of encouragement:
Regionals, rectors, heads of departments, as well as over-all functionaries like the members of the General Council. Through encouragement we give people the scope they need for their work and the space in which they can truly grow (26).
One feature of the outgoing administration has been an attempt to give expression to its apostolic task in seminars organised for specific groups. The needs that led to the particular kind of seminar we developed were the following: There was a widespread malaise among many members (‘Mission has come to an end’, ‘The Society has lost its vigour and vitality’, ‘We are doomed to die out through lack of vocations’, etc.). Many were ignorant about recent changes in the Society (the brothers, senior members). Many had never received specific guidance for the skills required in their tasks (rectors, vocations men, promotion men). Others again simply needed a forum within which to discuss their problems and proposals. It was recognised that these needs were typically Society needs, which had to be fulfilled from within the Society through a communal effort. It was also seen that the main component in all the seminars was to be straightforward encouragement: letting people know that what they are doing is worth doing, and that the Society we belong to is worth being proud of. Mill Hill College also played a prominent part in the process. Being ‘back in the motherhouse’, seeing it function so well and experiencing its genuine hospitality, has meant a lot to many of our members. To those of us who were involved in organising these seminars it became ever more apparent as time went on that we were taking things for granted that yet needed to be expressed again and again, and in a tangible form such as in coming together in true community.
In Graph XIV I have outlined the various groups that were reached in this manner. The seminars on specific issues contributed substantially to an improvement in general policies. After the Assembly of 1978 all the Home Regions organised renewal seminars of their own with visible results. The Irish Region and the North-American Region held ten-day seminars at which all members were present. The Germanspeaking and the British Regions staggered the seminars in shorter meetings, the British Region having a succession for different groups. In the Dutch Region a seminar for all members proved impossible. A three-day consultation was held, at the conclusion of which the District System was introduced, as I have outlined above. It proved a viable alternative for animation within the Region.
When everything is said and done, what really
matters, what will keep our Society responsive and alive is the inner force, the motivation that drives us. What we need is a baptism of fire and the Holy Spirit. This will also be the key for attracting new vocations. Young people will gladly join our ranks and even accept our idio- syncracies if we are happy and confident in our work and in our lives. Having had the privilege of getting to know many of our members more intimately, I can vouch for it that the Society has the inner strength to provide such a response. There is a lot of realistic satisfaction, happiness, enthusiasm and optimism. Most of our communities, though assembled almost by chance, are reasonably supportive ‘families’ in which our members feel at home (27). The coconut tree is immortal not because its shells are hard but because the sap inside it keeps flowing.
(1) . Roepen tot Religieus Leven, Secretariaat SBCN
Nijmegen 1981, p. 13
(2) . Groupe Faits et Opinions, The European Values
Systems. Report of the Pilot Study, Paris 1980; Gallup Poll Ltd, European Values: Summary Results, London 1981; S.H. HARDING and CH. GEORGE, European Values Pilot Survey. Comments on the British Data, London 1982
(3) . Pro Mundi Vita, The Roman Catholic Church and
Europe, Bulletin 73, Brussels 1976
(4) . A.E.C.W. SPENCER, “Demography of Catholicism”, The Month 8 (1975) 100-105; Pro Mundi Vita, Aspects of the Roman Catholic Church in England, Bulletin 70, Brussels 1978; M.P. HORNS- BY-SMITH and R.M. LEE, Roman Catholic Opinion. A Study of Roman Catholics in England and Wales in the 1970s, Univ. of Surrey 1979; “Have the British got Religion?”, Now Dec. 21, 1979, pp. 22-31; J.H. LESLIE, “Religious Ideology in a North Midlands Parish”, Essay, Univ. of Surrey 1979
(5) . W. GODDIJN, H. SMETS and G. VAN THILLO,
Opnieuw: God in Nederland, De Tijd, Amsterdam 1979; W. GODDIJN et al., Hebben de Kerken nog Toekomst?, Commentaar op het Onderzoek: Opnieuw: God in Nederland, Ambo, Baarn 1981; J.A. COLEMAN, The Evolution of Dutch Catholicism 1958-1974. Univ. of California, Berkeley 1978; Kaski, De RK Kerk in Nederland 1979/80, 121 Special, 28 Nov. 1980; J. WIJNEN and Th. KOOPMANSCHAP, Hoe Katholiek is Limburg?, De Lijster 1981
(6) . Kirchenbesucher in Sudtirol, Konferenzblatt 91
(7) Gallup Polls Ltd, Survey of Scottish Catholics, London 1979
(8) . A strange phenomenon resulting from this is the
fact that a relatively large group in Europe consider themselves convinced Christians and profess to be Catholics while staying outside the (sacramental) realm of the Church. Two alternative interpretations are given by: K. FORSTER, Religios ohne Kirche?, Griinewald, Mainz 1977; in Dutch: Religie zonder Kerk?, Ambo, Baam 1977; F. KAUFMAN, Kirch- liche und nicht-kirchliche Religiiosität, Herder, Freiburg 1978.
(9) . A.DULLES, Models of the Church, Gill and MacMillan, Dublin 1976; id., The Resilient Church, Doubleday, New York 1977
(10) . HORNSBY-SMITH, o.c., Table 5.11; pp. 73 ff.
(11) . Characteristic of this group are: J. BOTS, “Het
Nederlands Katholicisme van nu in historisch perspectief”, Geestelijk Leven 9/10 (1976) 3-53; id. Zestig Jaar Katholicisme in Nederland, De Rots, Venlo 1981; J.HITCHCOCK, Catholicism and Modernity, Confrontation or Capitulation?, Seabury Press, New Yoek 1977; M. OLIVERI, The Representatives. The Real Nature and Function of Papal Legates, London 1980
(12) . K. RAHNER, Strukturwandel der Kirche als Aufgabe und Chance,Herder, Freiburg 1972; G.MARC, The Institutional Church in the Future, Pro Mundi Vita, Bulletin 82, Brussels 1980. Worth reading is also E. SCHILLEBEECKX’s book on ministries with a similar vision of what could be: Kerkelijk Ambt, Nelissen, Bloemendaal 1980
(13) . HORNSBY-SMITH, o.c., pp. 70, 208
(14) . Survey of Scottish Catholics, Table Q 328
(15) . W. GODDIJN etc., Opnieuw: God in Nederland,
(16) . For a survey of some literature on the topic, see
my paper for the Courtfield Vocation/Promotion meeting, Nov. 1976, “The Hand on the Plough”
(17) . R. HEERAN, Attitudes of Schoolleavers to Missionary Religious Vo cat io n, IMU, Dublin 1976, Table 45
(18) . HORNSBY-SMITH, o.c., p. 72
(19) . P.W.J. VAN HOOF and F.E.A.M. DE BRUYN,
Gaat nu allen heen in vrede, Katholieke Jeugdraad, Utrecht 1976; M. GABRIELLE, “Attitudes of School Children to the Church”, Lumen Vitae 32 (1977) p. 70 ff; J. NIEUWENHUIS, Tussen Twaalf en Zeventien , Ambo, Baarn 1978
(20) . R. SCHOLTEN, Kerk Al Doende, de Horstink,
Amersfoort 1978;seealso: M.M.J. VAN HEMERT and R.G. SCHOLTEN, “Kerkelyke Deelname en Medewerking in Nederland”, Bijdragen 40 (1979) 313-324
(21) . HORNSBY-SMITH, o.c. pp. 54, 194
(22) . Pro Mundi Vita dedicated a series of studies to the
question : Priestless Parishes in Western Europe, Brussels 1919 ; New Forms of Lay Ministry in Western Europe, Brussels 1980; Participation in the Catholic Church, Bulletin 84, Brussels 1981
(23) . P.F. RUDGE, Ministry and Management, Tavistock, London 1968
(24) . L. MOULIN, Le Monde vivant des religieux, Calmann-LSvy, Paris 1964, ch. 7
(25) . B. SCHIMMELPENNIG, “The principle of the
sanior pars in the election of bishops in the Middle Ages”, Concilium 157 (1980) 31-40
(26) . “Enlivenment of Government of Provinces and Regions and the Concern for Persons”, address to Jesuit Superiors by J.Y. CALVEZ, Rome, 27th Sept. 1977
(27) . More could be done admittedly in a campaign
aimed at animating our communities themselves as total units of renewal: it could be an objective for the next administration to pursue.