With the words from the Gospel Matt. 20:20, 24, the animation programme began for the District Superiors of the Province of Jaffna on the 22nd of March, 2022 at the Provincial House, Thodarpaham.
Certain words of the Founder were quoted to awake them of their responsibilities. ‘Members of the Congregation live the community in different ways: in a canonically established house or in a duly constituted house with a local Superior or in a district community entrusted to a local Superior or exceptionally in an autonomous residence under the care of a Director. Those who, because of the mission, live alone are normally to be assigned to a district community or to a house’. Thus the District Body of the Province is not an optional entity but a community with particular rights and duties within the Province. Hence it was stressed that the District Superior is person in-charge for the spiritual welfare of the members within the District unit.
It is our Founder’s intention that no Oblate should live alone in his loneliness, it was stated that the first mission of any Oblate is to live in a community and to work for the betterment of the community. RR 77a and 77b were quoted to note the nature and functions of a District Body. However no district community could be autonomous or independent from the Major Superior, since the Oblate Congregation is lived by obedience to the Major Superior who is in the responsibility of the Founder. District Superiors have to always work in collaboration with the Major Superior and his council decisions. [R 92b. District communities and residences are governed by their particular statutes determined by the Major Superior in Council. R 92c. Living together in community has, from the time of the Founder, been our ideal. However, because of the mission, Major Superiors can allow an Oblate to live alone. In this case, the Oblate will make every effort to participate in the life of the district community or of the house to which he is attached. The situation of Oblates living alone is to be considered as temporary].
The District Superior must be very watchful towards his members of their duties and responsibilities. Due to the multiple missions within and outside the Church, the members could be simply drawn away from the family of District Community. So he has to function as a father in admonishing them and as a mother in embracing them. Therefore the District Superior must be available in visiting the members in their own mission field and in their respective communities. It is also the responsibility of the members to understand the duties of a District Superior and his responsibilities. From the very beginning of the Congregation and also in the history of the Mother Church, it was very often repeated to the religious members that the Church or a Congregation is not a Democratic Organization, but a school of Disciples, where rules do not run the race but obedience and discernment win the race. It was also stressed that any change in the formation and dissolution of the District Community is not in the hands of as few members as they want, ‘R 92d. The suppression of a canonically established house is reserved to the Superior General in Council at the request of the Provincial in Council. The suppression of a constituted house, which has not been canonically established, pertains to the Provincial in Council, as does the suppression or modification of a district community or residence.’
Finally a few Challenges of a District Superior were also highlighted: First of all the DS should understand and meditate on the themes of ‘Authority’. In Christian life and in the life of the Church, the word, ‘authority’ (?????????), does not fit in. Jesus and his call is not a model for authority and power but a witness to humility and to service. Whatever the outcome may be, the DS must be ready to exercise humility and tolerance. A DS must be a man of spirituality then only he can weigh the situation of his members. A DS who is not at all interested in community and personal spiritual enterprises, will never lead his members in a right path. This thirst for personal and communal spiritual life may not be very automatic but will be attained via prolonged sacrifices and with personal disciplines.
The lack of understanding and knowledge of a DS, might give his ministry of DS a lot of troubles. A DS should be an updated person, and a meditative figure. His ignorance of certain matters pertaining to the members might become an Ice-berg of an imminent danger. A DS superior also should be a good animator and a supervisor. The meeting of a DS, should not become a party gathering alone or synod of persecution. He should be always watchful to curtail certain members who could draw the members in wrong paths or popular paths that may not be an Oblate Path.
Finaly it was stressed that the DS must have a personal relationship with every member of the community that will save them from all disturbances and problems. The personal relationship and friendship, knowledge of the particular lifestyle of the members will always win the hearts of the Oblates.
It was also stressed that the DS should not think that he is left alone in this ministry of guiding the members. There had been many outstanding DS who have contributed greatly to the Congregation. Our Lord Jesus is always the source of comfort and solace. The powerful intercession of our beloved Founder and Father, St. Eugene will be a shield always in trouble. What else do we need other than the motherly protection of our Divine Mother, who is our patroness and Queen. The Love of the congregation is also another trump cart that will always protect the service of a DS.
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