An Invitation from the Provincial Council
Dear Members of the Province of the United States – Brothers, lay partners in mission, and young people ready to lead your peers,
Fraternal greetings from the Provincial Council.
Our Provincial Chapter of 2017, made up of elected leaders from the Province, gathered to imagine and make decisions to achieve the kind of future we want for ourselves. The chapter unanimously embraced what is called a Core Statement that invites and challenges us to aspire to new levels of spiritual growth:
The United States Province is called to be prophetic
by being the compassionate Heart of Jesus.
We live a practical, compassionate love
that compels us to minister to one another
and to those on the periphery,
especially the young.
The Chapter also celebrated you, the diverse membership of our province, as a singular grace. It believed sincerely that God is building our Province into a dynamic and diverse network to promote our founder’s mission. Since you make up the very fabric of the U.S. Province network—a partnership of Brothers and lay, adults and young people—you are essential to that mission. It is a mission we hold in common as a precious patrimony. Our mission is an urgent one: to bring the good news of God’s providential love to the youth of today living through an unprecedented era of stress and strife. They need to know that God is all Heart.
We call out to you in the name of the Brothers of the Province because we believe that if we want to impel our common mission to a new level, using all our spiritual resources, we have to do it together as partners—Brother and lay—in union with the young people at the center of our life. To do that, we have to get rid of two misconceptions.
First, we used to think that the spiritual part of the mission we inherited from our founder, Father André Coindre, is a legacy he left only to the Brothers. Our common understanding was that it was up to the Brothers to assure the spiritual dimension of the mission through our vows, our prayer, our community life and our formation. Now, thanks to the strength of your commitment and the depth of your convictions, as well as your faith in God and in young people, you have shown us otherwise. Jesus wished that the fire he came to bring the earth were blazing already (Luke 12: 49).
Your spirituality, passion and ministry have clearly witnessed to us that, although André Coindre died nearly two centuries ago, the fire he lit still burns in all of us and is spreading in the world, wherever we go and whatever may be our state in life: religious, married man or woman, single person, or cleric. He passed on to persons of all vocations his charismatic zeal to show our world that God is alive and suffering about the plight of struggling youth at the margins of our society.
A second misconception is that our mission is what we do, something we accomplish by our actions and professional competence. Our default speech has us accomplishing our mission when we’ve nurtured and attended to the needs of the young, instructed them with academic and personal challenges, supported their growth, taught them to find their model in Jesus Christ, and given them good example.
André Coindre certainly saw the active dimension of our mission in similar terms. His inspiration was St. Vincent de Paul. In one of André’s sermons he gives an exhaustive description of countless amazing works the saint did out of pastoral zeal. However, our founder saw Vincent’s deeds as evidence of a more profound reality: “Vincent’s love is the love of the God-man.” God incarnated himself and his love for the needy in Vincent. Our common mission is really God’s mission. God is the real protagonist. Beyond what we do, our mission is to let God become incarnate in us to accomplish the divine saving mission through us. God doesn’t do it alone; our mission requires a synergy of the divine and the human. Brother Matthias Amos expressed this mystery in an often-quoted line he spoke during a homily to a group of brothers and candidates for brotherhood: “Young people come to us looking for Jesus. What a shame it would be if they found only us.”
The recent life of the Province has been rambunctious. By unifying three provinces into one in 2014 we enlarged our orbit. Since then, Brothers and laity have moved into new roles and new geographic areas. Young people and faculty from around the province trek to annual mission outreach projects. Lay members are taking more responsibility in boards and central administration. A lay leader has been named to lead the Coindre Leadership Program and to direct our schools. New corporate and financial structures have emerged. In sum, our Province is a dynamic threefold partnership pulling together brothers, lay women and men, and those young leaders closest to us into a cohesive force for good.
We can think of the province as a living, breathing version of the printed circuit board in our computers that etches, laminates, and solders potent components into a seamless high-performance processer. The networked human circuit that is our Province enables us to create our own human web so we can communicate, and even gather, to pursue our mission in distant hubs like Klagetoh, Maspeth, Pascoag, Digos, Lyon, Saint Albans and Rome.
The circuit board analogy helps us see the Province as the support center of our single corporate body. As we do our physical bodies, we have to count the body of the Province as a blessing. Its unique history, age, membership, diversity, gifts, limits, and geography are hard-wired givens. Of course, we will always need to make ongoing adaptations – pesky but essential upgrades – to keep it in optimal health.
We won’t dwell on all the upgrades we may need; they are many. This letter has only one in mind: to call on you to help spread the Provincial Chapter’s vision for greater spiritual union among us so we can give God a human network apt to become the heads, hands, and hearts needed to express divine love. To do that we need spiritual resources beyond our licenses, workaday apps, and tool bars. We need communications that go further than institutional goal setting and strategic planning. We need to embrace ideals that express our best possibilities, human and divine. We hope our province can come together in living a unifying and challenging spirituality that expresses itself in deed and in Truth.
Call to a Brothers of the Sacred Heart Spirituality
In the Church and in our culture, there are hundreds of voices speaking about spirituality. Closer to home, each of us has a unique approach to spiritual life. Among those voices and personal preferences, our Rule of Life places us in the “incarnational” school which believes that our spirit is embodied in flesh and blood: “God is at the heart of our everyday lives.” (128) As well as through prayer, we meet God in events, in people, in daily tasks, and in the difficulties we face. (133)
An important voice in the revision of the Rule of Life in the 1970’s was that of the Swiss priest Maurice Zundel, who believed that the major task of spirituality is searching for God with and in others. Today the North American Oblate Ronald Rolheiser advocates that same incarnational approach. He defines spirituality as “what we do with the fires inside of us, about how we channel our eros,” the power of love within us.
Rolheiser sees the mystery of God’s becoming human as the basis for Christian spirituality. “We are not simply theists” like our country’s founding fathers, he writes. “God is not just in heaven, God is also on earth.” Hence, a flesh-and-blood spirituality is “always as much about dealing with each other as it is about dealing with God.” The increased spiritual union we are calling for is not about like-mindedness, a shared fear, the need for intimacy in our lives, a common roof, a common ethnicity, a common denomination, or a shared mission. It is about being the Body of Christ.
An Invitation from the Provincial Council
To deepen our understanding of the movement of the Provincial Chapter, let us explore the call to deepen and develop our spirituality of the Sacred Heart through important questions: What does it mean to ‘be the compassionate Heart of Jesus’ today? To what are we being called? How are we to respond, both individually–Brothers and lay–and as a broader Province community so as to be faithful to Coindre’s founding intuition? How do we incarnate his way of being faithful and responsive to Jesus?
A Prayer for Desire
A true province spirituality can’t take hold among us unless we deepen our desire to feel the close empowering presence of God in our everyday lives. It is God who breathes that longing into us. As Adam and Eve needed divine breath before their heart could skip with the marvel of being God’s image and companions, our Province needs God to rouse in us a desire to expand our spiritual possibilities.
A first step is to pray ardently for that desire –
God our creator,
You breathed into us divine possibilities.
You have always drawn us beyond ourselves
by stoking our heart with pangs of desire—
– when newborn, for the caress of affection
– after our first step, for a firm, safe guiding hand
– beyond home, for reassuring smiles of friendship and
– as students, for the poise that comes from success and
– grown up, for a sense of achievement and for the touch of
love sealed by the elation of partaking
in Your act of creation.
Intensify our desire to feed our spiritual lives
and to feel the mystery of your presence deep in our heart.
Impel us to live beyond our own cause and our lesser longings.
Make our province resonate with the movements of your divine Spirit
so that those who need your loving presence and compassion
might discover You made flesh through us.
All this we pray through Jesus Christ, your image, our ideal and our brother. Amen.
Let us all pray to become a province of partnership in the great-souled mission of being attuned to “the joys and the hopes, the griefs and the anxieties of our contemporaries, especially those who are poor or in any way afflicted.” Pope Francis made that desire the heart of his papacy. It is a longing originally expressed by Pope Paul VI at the close of Vatican Council II in 1965. Today let us make it the heart of the spiritual growth of our province.
In His Heart,
Brother Ronald Hingle, S.C.
Brother Barry Landry, S.C.
Brother Ivy LeBlanc, S.C.
Brother Clifford King, S.C.
Brother Donald Sukanek, S.C.