At 4 pm today, the 1st of May 2022, the long-awaited General Chapter of the Society began at Mount St Annes Retreat Centre in Portarlington, Ireland, with the opening Mass lead by the Society’s Leader Fr Victor Dunne. At the beginning of the Mass Fr Victor welcomed all the delegates, the two facilitators and the support staff to the 13th General Chapter of the Society. He thanked God that we are able to begin the Chapter after two years of waiting because of the Covid 19 pandemic. A pandemic which sadly claimed the lives of six million people in the world, including that of one of our delegates Fr Bill Mauric who was due to be at the Chapter and one of our students, Edward Anam.
During his homily in the opening Eucharist, Fr Victor invited the delegates to give praise to God for the Society’s celebration of the ninety years since its foundation and for the great work of its members during all those years. He further called on all present to prayer for the presence of the Holy Spirit to guide and direct the deliberations of the delegates during the Chapter. Fr Victor said that in ‘’these last years we have been blessed with the inspirational leadership of Pope Francis, who through his preaching and ministry has focused on missionary outreach and has reminded us that we cannot ‘’keep silent about the joy of being loved, the certainty of being ever precious in God’s eyes’’. Fr Victor says this necessity to go out and share this love is what inspires us as missionaries. It was exactly what inspired Msgr. Patrick Whitney to go out to win people for Jesus. He continued by saying that our Society’s Constitutions in its Directive number 4, states that ‘’All peoples have the right to know the riches of the mystery of Christ’’ and that the Gospel of the opening Mass, in which Jesus requested Peter to feed his sheep extends to us all to look after the sheep of Christ.
Finally, Fr Victor reminded all delegates about the role of the General Chapter to foster renewal in the Society as spelt out by Article 48 of the Society’s Constitutions. He went further by saying that ‘’our Society of missionaries can be renewed and re-invigorated when each member’s experience of the risen Christ is deepened and each one has a growing desire to share Christ with others and bring the Gospel message to people’’. He concluded his homily by praying that the Holy Spirit may bless the discernment, deliberation, and decisions of the Chapter so that each member of the Society may experience a new energy and passion to proclaim the Good News of the Risen Lord.
At the end of the Mass all the delegates processed to the door of the Chapter Hall and Fr Victor called each one by name to enter the hall and take their seats. After lighting the Chapter candle which as a sign, represents the presence of the Risen Lord among the delegates, Fr Victor declared the 13th General Chapter of St Patrick’s Missionary Society officially opened. With the Chapter having been officially opened, we implore all members of the Society to continue to pray for the delegates and the success of the Chapter as we all journey together in Christ in these days of discernment and renewal.
Fr Emmanuel Obi SPS (Chapter Delegate).
May 1st, 2022