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Meeting the Pope - Robert Dempsey's Pilgrimage

Posted by Robert Dempsey on 14 June 2019
Meeting the Pope - Robert Dempsey's Pilgrimage

Creative Fidelity Workshop and Tercentenary

11/05/2019-16/05/019

This article is written as diary entries rather than as a report on the events.

It was exciting to be in Rome and staying at the motherhouse in preparation for the events ahead. Banners and signs were going up in preparation for the tercentenary celebrations. The main chapel was beautiful and not over the top as some places were in Rome. It contained a relic of St John Baptist de La Salle.

The first day of the conference involved meeting the other participants and presenters. There were people from all around the world, including South America, Africa, Canada, Italy, Spain, USA, Philippines and Australia. The participants consisted of about half Brothers, quarter sisters and quarter lay people.

This was my first experience of a multilingual conference, and it took a while to learn when to focus more on the dialogue. Participants were asked to introduce themselves in their non-native tongue. Most could, but I could only speak in English.  Most discussions and proceedings were translated in four languages; French, Spanish, English and Italian. This was the first of many eye-opening experiences.

We joined together in the private chapel of the Brothers for morning prayer and Mass. Then breakfast together with the Brothers community. Each day we had to write a few reflective comments that captured our personal thinking around the themes for the day. These were collated into a final communique for the conference.

We were asked to reflect on the title. In which ways was John Baptist de La Salle creative and in which was he creative. We discussed the great legacy and challenges that would have been part of his daily life being open to the guidance of God is an important part of his daily ritual. We reflected on how we do this in our own setting.  We visited the archives room and saw critical documents in the establishment of the brothers of the Christian schools.

A day was spent on pilgrimage into the heart of Rome as has been done by pilgrims for over 2000 years. Many amazing Basilicas and Cathedrals and people worshipping. We met at the Spanish steps and visited a Lasallian school nearby the most amazing school chapel I have seen.

We reflected on the early writings and people critical in De La Salles life. What were they called to do and whom were they called to serve? What was God's intention for them? The path was not easy and smooth! Is something changing? Where are we going? How can we be creatively faithful to the mission?

What do we mean by communities in the Lasallian world? There are brothers, sisters and partners communities. All interact in various ways and are changing over time, but the importance of Lasallian communities is critical to our mission.

The superior general reminds us of the importance of our discernment. "Union and community are a precious gem." Br Robert Schieler. Into the future, it is critical to be a welcoming and inclusive community. We must nourish spirituality if our mission is to survive. What will Lasallian communities look like into the future?

The role of the mission in social justice projects around the world was examined. I explained yourtown, and kid's helpline to the group. Supporting the development of La Salle Universities in Africa was a great mission. A decade of solidarity in South Sudan is also an amazing project.

A text of commitment was discussed and modified created from our deliberations at the conference. We emphasised the commitment between the Brothers, Sisters and Partners to the future of the Institute and asked for God's guidance in the mission ahead.

The tercentenary Mass was held at the Motherhouse chapel and attended by an old scholar Cardinal, Priests, Brothers, Sisters, Partners, Staff, Students, Old Scholars and Friends. It was broadcast on YouTube and can probably be viewed still.

The next day we had a Papal Audience. I had no idea what this would involve. Many Brothers had come to Rome for the Mass and audience. There were 300 people present, and we waited what seemed an eternity and instructions were given on how to address the Pope. Bow, greet him and shake his hand. Surely just an invited few would get to do this, or maybe just the Brothers, but no the Holy Father shook the hands of all Lasallians present. The superior General Br Robert Schieler introduced the guests to the Holy Father and told him who they were and where they had travelled from. This was a very emotional experience for me, my friend in Rome, Angelo Spadavechia, said this was not normal. This group was honoured for its work with the poor and being faithful to the mission for over 300 years.

Our text of commitment was signed by all involved and will be preserved in the Motherhouse archive.

I would like to thank Br David Hawke, Provincial, for putting me forward to participate in this great experience. My pilgrimage is continuing. Live Jesus in Our Hearts Forever.

Click HERE to view the formula of commitment which was the outcome of the conference.

 

Author: Robert Dempsey
About: St Michael's College, Adelaide
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