Plan for the Northern Hemisphere

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The members of the XXV General Chapter accepted the proposal concerning the necessity of a strategic plan for the future of our Congregation in the Northern Hemisphere. Although we have to wait for the official version of the decisions of the General Chapter the accepted proposal is like this:

“The General Government, in dialogue with the Conferences of Europe and North America, will develop a sustainable strategic plan for the future missionary presence of the Congregation in Europe and North America. In doing so, they will be guided by two determining principles:

a)      The Congregation cannot respond to every pastoral need. Prioritization is required. The basic question must be – where do we as Redemptorists want to offer our charism in these Conferences at this time and in the future.

b)      Bringing confreres from other Conferences to work in the Conferences of Europe and North America should be in the service of the missionary priorities of the Congregation and not to maintain existing structures, some of which may be obsolete.”

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Why this strategic plan?

There was a deep-seated anxiety about the future presence of our Congregation in certain areas of the world, as well as some of the institutions that have been operating in the Congregation up to  now.

The foundation of our Redemptorist tradition is found in the Northern Hemisphere especially in Western Europe and North America. The Congregation in these places is passing through some very difficult times, so much so, is that it is having difficulty meeting the urgent pastoral needs present within its boundaries. An urgent and creative response is needed that meets the challenges to the Redemptorist mission in these geographic locations, a response that is not just about simply “filling gaps” or maintaining existing houses. There are many levels and aspects which we should revise: so there should be a prioritisation in any of the deliberations of the Conferences.

In the course of the last sexennium, the Congregation has continued to decline in numbers at almost exactly the same rate of diminishment as experienced over the past 25 years. However, this diminishment is not evenly spread across the Congregation. Some Units and Conferences continue to grow, while others continue to diminish in size.

These statistics represent the information we have received in Rome up to October 15, 2016.

Statistics – Numbers                                      2016                2009          Change

Total Members in the Congregation:          4974                5233         – 259               -4.9%

Europe                                                              1428                1705        – 277               -16.2%

North America                                                  523                  628          – 105               -16.7%

Latin America and Caribbean                      1445                1518           – 73                 -4.8%

Asia-Oceania                                                 1163                1025          + 138              +13.5%

Africa and Madagascar                                415                  357           + 58                +16.2%

The Congregation in Europe and North America is decreasing in numbers quite rapidly. It is clear that this trend will continue into the future. This becomes quite evident when we look at the distribution of confreres according to age.

Statistics Average Age: North America (66.67); Europe (63.05); Latin America (52.47); Asia and Oceania (47.37); Africa and Madagascar (42.26).

North America has the highest average age, and 2/3 of the confreres are over 60. Europe also has 57% over 60 years of age. However, an area of particular concern is Western Europe, with more than 75% over 60 years of age. This is quite different from Latin America, where more than 2/3 of the confreres are under 60. In Asia-Oceania, more than 75% are under 60. And in Africa, more than 90% are under 60.

These are only two statistics about the diminishing number in the Conferences as well as about the average age, but the situation is more complex. Statistics do not tell the whole story about the situation of the Congregation. However they do point to some trends that it is important to consider.

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There are also the positive trends in each of the Conferences. Europe has begun a new mission in Albania which is the responsibility of the Conference. Many Units now rely greatly on interprovincial collaboration with confreres from Eastern Europe, and the other Conferences.

In addition, in many European Units there has been a renewed focus on extraordinary preaching – through missions, novenas, mass media. Work with migrants has taken on a new urgency especially in Europe, but also around the world – in many situations leading to concrete initiatives involving collaboration with dioceses, Religious and lay men and women.

So it is envisaged that reflection and action about this strategic plan will be initiated on many levels this year: at the levels of the General Council, the Council of the CRE and during the Third Phase of the General Chapter in Perth (Scotland) from 4 to 9 September 2017.

Please support us with your ideas and prayers.

Jacek Zdrzałek C.Ss.R.

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