Today we moved into a new phase of the discernment process at the General Chapter. The “Challenges” that were combined last evening by the Secretaries of the language groups would be revealed, and a hushed anticipation reflected our interest. The statement was projected on the screen behind the dais, along with the “Conditions” that had been similarly combined.
The task now was to consider, discuss, amend, and approve these statements separately. This was a challenge because the approved process for doing so was cumbersome, limited, and not very user friendly. We were told that we could only ask questions for clarification, which was to be expected, and after that – and right after that – to propose amendments, each of which required a second by a member of the asembly, and each of which would be immediately voted on after questions of clarification. There was clearly a time element at play. But before I could sufficiently read the run-on sentence to make some sense out of it, we were required to amend it and vote on it. There was really little or no time to reflect on the statement, sit with it a while, and perhaps suggest some elements for change.
There followed a painful (my assessment) 90 minutes during which the Moderators bravely followed the established protocols. There was no general discussion of concerns or amendments, because the time did not allow for this, and any amendments were hardly introduced before they were voted on. The saving grace ws the fact the Brothers in the room were “street smart” when it came to rapidly changing circumstances, and where five amendments were proposed, only three of them passed. The final statement of the “Challenge” was this: “We Brothers of the Christian Schools, called by God and challenged by various forms of poverty and injustice in our world, embrace the founding, prophetic intuition of the Lasallian Family and commit ourselves to witness communion through educational and evangelizing service among those who are impoverished.”
I appreciated the fact that Br. Robert Schieler, our current Superior General, made an intervention indicating that the first word of the original text (Revitalize) didn’t seem to be very helpful or positive, and that “We Brothers” would work better. When asked by the Moderator whether this was an amendment, since little else was allowed, he said, “Why not?”, and it it was quickly approved. After a number of these amendments had taken place, the Moderator said, “We should move on to the conditions. We’re not approving the ten commandments here.” And so we did.
The “Conditions” in their relatively final form said the following (although don’t quote me because they still have to be finalized by the Coordinator and the Central Commission, based on subsequent email input):
- As Brothers, beginning with initial formation and continuing throughout our life in community, deepen our vocational identity by responding to the call of God in Jesus allowing our hearts to be touched and converted by those who are poor.
- Our various communities re-imagine, together and by association, our way of living, in order to be fraternal witnesses committed to those most in need.
- At all levels of the Institute we will ensure structures of governance that generate co-responsibility, sustainability, transparency and solidarity to creatively ensure the animation of the Lasallian educational mission throughout the world.
The entire set – Challenges and Conditions – passed with 59 in favor, 5 against, 1 abstaining, and 4 Juxta Modem. Applause all around, probably both because folks were glad that it had passed and glad that this arduous process had been completed. One Brother later called it a very poor example of classroom management. Some of us were just frustrated that after so much talk about a new process, we’d gotten bogged down in word-smithing, as helpful as this might have been. A good alternative would have been to discuss the text, provide input orally or via email, and send it back to the Central Commission who could return with a second version.
After a welcome lunch and a break, at 3:00 pm we moved on to step number 6 (or was it 7?) in the process: World Cafe. After some instructions, we moved to one of the dining rooms where ten tables had been prepared (4 English, 4 Spanish, 2 French). The task was to articulate our “dream” for the future – the main thing that we want to work on, using evocative and motivational language. While those overseeing the process facilitated coffee and cookies all around, we met at the tables and came up with our dreams for the future, moving three times to share and rediscuss and refine it at different tables. I volunteered to be the Secretary/Moderator at one of the tables, but I guess I didn’t understand the instructions clearly because my table never did come up any clear “dream” statement.
After the excercise, those anchoring each table, including me, got together in language groups to combine their results into a single language-based statement. Ours was “Create One LaSalle that invigorates life and mission through Gospel fraternity.” The French ended up with “Un Institut renouvelé générateur de nombreuses nouvelles vocations lasalliennes comme levain d’un monde plus fraternel. (A renewed Institute generating many new Lasallian vocations as leaven in a more fraternal world.)” and the Spanish had “Una familia en salida al encuentro de Dios en los empobrecidos y la promoción de la justicia. (One family in search of a meeting with God in the impoverished and the promotion of justice.)” Are you getting interested yet?
After comments from the floor, the group leaders left the room to see if they could put all of that into one statement. During this interim time, the rest of us heard from the representatives of the Guadalupanas Sisters and the Lasallian Sisters from Vietnam who were there. Both were refreshing, short presentations about their realities and the various challenges that they were facing, and both received sincere, sustained applause.
When the “combined” version of the “dream” returned to the floor, we went through a similar process of consideration of statemements, amendments, suggestions, etc., and ended up with our final statement of the “dream” for the future: “We are one renewed Lasallian Family of different vocations, leaven for a more fraternal world, sent forth to encounter God in those who are poor and to promote justice.” For the very first time in our voting process the acceptance of this statement was 68 in favor and 2 Juxta Modem, which meant that everyone in the room voted for it. It was unanimous, with a couple of folks indicating that they’d like to see some slight modification which they would submit later.
The last piece of today’s activities would happen in the regional groups. We were asked to meet and determine the “values” that would strengthen, reinforce, inculcate, and prioritize this recently articulated “dream”. In our RELAN group, Br. Robert Schaeffer did a clever thing, asking us to split into four sub-groups and determine the attitude, behavior, or action that would ensure that this dream never comes true, followed by the values that we need to transform those negative ones. These were then shared in the larger group, and the list was “voted” on by going around the room and choosing the top three in our estimation. The final ones that we will submit tomorrow at our first general meeting were Audacity (or Holy Audacity from Med 96.2), Vulnerability (the willingness to take risks and to fail, and to be honest about having participated in the structures that got us here), and Perseverance (Faithfulness).
Because we pretty much regulated ourselves at the end of the day, we were able to end at around 6:00 pm and not the 6:43 pm of the previous days, just before Mass at 6:45 pm, giving us the rare luxury of some free time. After the liturgy, the RELEM and RELAF groups went out for dinner, leaving the RELAN and RELAF groups in the dining hall – a much smaller group. Afterwards, some when to the Den for some welcome relaxation.