Every General Chapter is considered an opportune time for us to gather around one table as brothers in the name of the Lord. It is the occasion to examine our fidelity to the gospel and the constitutions and the adequacy of our response to the needs of the Order of the Church. It is the time for renewal, of discerning the demands of the new challenges of times, of developing plans and strategies for the future.
Our experiences, both personal and community, given the present situation and its circumstances made us aware of our common vocation. The globalized society we are living in has indeed changed the way we think and act. Our survival depends on how we envision, plan and decide for our future. We belong to a one World, we have one Vocation, and together we create one Future.
In order to be aware of our present times, wewill use the SWOT/SWOC ANALYSIS as an instrumentin developing a full awareness of our situation and eventually help us with both the strategic planning and decision-making. It is a structured planning method use to evaluate our Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, and Threats.
The strengths may be related to the organization or persons. What are our advantages?What do we do well?What relevant resources do we have access to?What do other people see as our strengths?
Is there any real weakness in the Order? What elements need to be strengthened? What obstacles preventing progress?
This phase is responsible for assessing the socio-economic, political, environmental, ecclesial and demographic, among others, to evaluate the benefits they can bring to the organization.
Where are the good opportunities in front of us?
What external obstacles/challenges do we face?Could any of these obstacles/challenges seriously threaten our Order?
In order to understand better our situation let us consider both external and internal factors that would directly affect our vision of the present and our mission in the future.
The world we live in is a tapestry of human history, of evolving civilizations and conditions interwoven within the sphere of human experiences. It is the place where we define our being and existence. It is in this locus that we live out our unique yet common vocation as human beings.
The twenty-first century is ushering us into a more increasingly globalized humanity faced with climate change, dwindling resources, overpopulation and technological upheaval.
Six of Earth’s seven continents are permanently inhabited on a large scale. Asia is the most populous continent, with its 4.2 billion inhabitants accounting for over 60% of the world population.
Africa is the second-most-populated continent, with around 1 billion people, or 15% of the world’s population. Europe’s 733 million people make up 11% of the world’s population.
Northern America, primarily consisting of the United States and Canada, has a population of around 352 million (5%).
Oceania, the least-populated region, has about 35 million inhabitants (0.5%).Antarctica has a small, fluctuating international population, based mainly in polar science stations.
Population stability is 2.1 births, and the First World is already below that, at 1.7 and declining. The ongoing global birth decline is dramatic and unprecedented.
The birth rate reductions have been caused by factors such as increased food security, rising personal incomes, female education, and urbanization—all of which lead couples to use today’s improved contraceptive technology.
In fact, many European countries face concerns regarding under population as a result of this birth decline.2.
2. HUMAN MIGRATION
According to the International Organization for Migration’s World Migration Report 2010, the number of international migrants was estimated at 214 million in 2010.If this number continues to grow at the same pace as during the last 20 years, it could reach 405 million by 2050.
Some modern migration is a byproduct of wars (for example, emigration from Iraq and Bosnia to the US and UK), of political conflicts (for example, some emigration from Zimbabwe to the UK), natural disasters (for example, emigration from Montserrat to the UK following the eruption of the island’s volcano).Contemporary migration is predominantly economically motivated.
3. SCIENTIFIC BREAKTHROUGH
In a study published in Nature, Oregon Health & Science University researchers describe the first creation of human embryonic stem cells by cloning. Microbiology is opening a vast potential for altering living organisms. Recombinant DNA technology makes it possible to restructure both plants and animals and produce a variety of drugs, industrial lubricants, and enzymes.Human applications will range from predicting inherited genetic diseases to applying gene therapy for correcting genetic disorders.
5. POLITICAL SITUATION
The world’s political scenario is a puzzle of many events that has transpired in the last century.
September 11, 2001. Terrorists destroyed the World Trade Center in New York; damaged the Pentagon in Washington, DC. War on Terrorism was declared.
2003. Iraq War begins, triggering worldwide protests.
2006. The world witnessed the execution of Saddam Hussein.
2007. The Anti-government protests in Myanmar crushed by ruling junta. Assassination of Benazir Bhutto
In 2008, Barack Obama is elected President of the United States of America.
2010. Tensions rise between North and South Korea, culminating in the shelling of the island of Yeonpyeong. The website WIKILEAKS releases thousands of classified US documents.
2011. Independence of South Sudan. Arab Spring: revolutions in Tunisia, Egypt and Libya follow, as well as uprisings in Yemen, Syria and Bahrain, and protests in several other Arab countries.
2013. The United Nations General Assembly adopts the Arms Trade Treaty to regulate the international trade of conventional weapons.
Two bombs explode at the Boston Marathon, in Boston, Massachusetts, in the United States, killing 3 and injuring 264 others.
North Korea has been issuing near-daily threats against the United States and South Korea, and sometimes at United States forces in the Pacific. In one of the boldest warnings, the North said it could carry out pre-emptive nuclear strikes against the United States.
War escalates in Syria.
Year of Protests. Citizens are in the streets and squares clamoring for change with questions of leadership and politics.
6. WORLD ECONOMY
The Great Recession hit many developed economies in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007-2008. After a year the great recession was declared to come to its end, but many could still feel its ill-effects even up to this current time.
2009. Formationof BRICS economic bloc. An international association of emerging national economies: Brazil, Russia, India, China and South Africa.
2010 Threat of Greece defaulting on its debts triggers the European sovereign debt crisis and Ireland’s bankruptcy.
Emerging Economies. As early as 2005, The N11 was identified by Goldman Sachs Investment bankas having a high potential of becoming, along with the BRICs/BRICS, the world’s largest economies in the 21st century. The N11 countries are Bangladesh, Egypt, Indonesia, Iran, South Korea, Mexico, Nigeria, Pakistan, the Philippines, Turkey and Vietnam.
2011. Occupy movement. Inspired a worldwide protest, bringing economic inequality under capitalism to attention.
7. GLOBAL POVERTY
As globalization and technological advancements has given us control over external world, it has alienated us from understanding the inner intricacies of the human person and the complex reality of his essence and existence.
The entire world from the beginning till today is concerned about the material poverty. Everyone, including the world leaders, is concerned and takes every possible step to do away with the material poverty. Why is poverty endemic and has become globalized?
Let us examine some facts about Global Poverty:
- Nearly half of the world’s population — more than 3 billion people — live on less than $2.50 a day. More than 1.3 billion live in extreme poverty (less than $1.25 a day).
- 1 billion children worldwide are living in poverty. According to UNICEF, 22,000 children die each day due to poverty.
- More than 1 billion people lack adequate access to clean drinking water and an estimated 400 million of these are children. Because unclean water yields illness, roughly 443 million school days are missed every year.
- 870 million people worldwide do not have enough food to eat.
- Preventable diseases like diarrhea and pneumonia take the lives of 2 million children a year that is too poor to afford proper treatment.
- A quarter of all humans live without electricity — approximately 1.6 billion people.
- It would cost approximately $40 billion to offer basic education, clean water and sanitation, reproductive health for women, and basic health and nutrition to every person in every developing country.
- 8. ECOLOGY
We live in the most technologically advanced era the world has ever known; our real understanding of the planet is still so limited. We can get satellite images, maps and 3D photos of any place on the globe, thanks to the Internet. We can literally go to the ‘ends of the earth’ thanks to modern communication and transportation.
Since the 60s, much has been said and written about Ecology. Today, it has practically become a question of survival. The knowledge that life forms are interdependent has deepened our concern, and raised ethical questions about the effects of human activity upon the survival of human beings themselves and of all other forms of organic life
Global warming is one of the most critical issues of today. Temperature can go up by 5.8°C (10.4°F) during this century: the past decade has been by far the hottest on record; and the rise in temperature has been greatest in Polar Regions and around cities.
What if our world is 6 degrees warmer?
These recent years our planet had been visited by natural calamities which caused personal deaths and material loss and damage:
2004 – Tsunami occurs in Indian Ocean, leading to the deaths of 230,000.
2005 – Hurricane Katrina kills nearly 2000 people in the Gulf of Mexico. 80,000 are killed in an earthquake in Kashmir.
2008 – Cyclone Nargis kills 133,000 in Myanmar.
2010 – A 7.0 magnitude earthquake in Haiti kills 230,000.
Flooding in Pakistan kills nearly 2,000 and leaves roughly a million homeless.
The largest oil spill in US history occurs in the Gulf of Mexico.
2011 – A 9.0 earthquake near Tohoku, Japan triggers a tsunami that results in 16,000 deaths and the meltdown of the Fukushima Nuclear Power Plant.
Floods in Pakistan, Thailand and the Philippines kill roughly 2500 people.
2012 – Hurricane Sandy kills 209 people in North America, while Typhoon Bopha kills over 1,600 in Philippines
2013 February 15 – A meteor explodes over the Russian city of Chelyabinsk, injuring 1,491 people and damaging over 4,300 buildings. It is the most powerful meteor to strike Earth’s atmosphere in over a century.
9. THE CATHOLIC CHURCH
A chronology of significant events:
January 1, 2001
The 21st century and the new millennium begin. The Church solemnizes the start of the third Christian millennium by extending into part of the year 2001 the jubilee year that it observes at 25-year intervals and that, in the case of the year 2000, it called the Great Jubilee
January 18, 2002:
Former American priest John Geoghan is convicted of child molestation and sentenced to ten years in prison, as part of the ongoing sex abuse scandal. The Geoghan case was one of the worst scandals of the Catholic Church in the USA.
April 2, 2005
Pope John Paul II dies at the age of 84. His funeral is broadcast to every corner of the globe through the modern media. Millions of Catholic pilgrims journey to Rome to pay final respects.
April 19, 2005
German-born Cardinal Joseph Alois Ratzinger is elected by the College of Cardinals as Pope Benedict XVI, thus becoming the first Pope elected during the 21st century and the 3rd millennium.
October 28, 2007
Pope Benedict XVI authorizes the largest beatification ceremony in Church history involving 498 Spanish Martyrs who were killed during the Civil War in Spain.
The Vatileaks scandal is a scandal initially involving leaked Vatican document, allegedly exposing corruption; an internal Vatican investigation purportedly uncovered the blackmailing of homosexual clergy as well.
February 28, 2013
Benedict XVI resigned as Pope, the first to do so since Gregory XII in 1415, and the first to do so voluntarily since Celestine V in 1294.
March 13, 2013
Jorge Mario Bergoglio is elected the 266th pope, taking the name Francis. He is the first Jesuit pope, the first pope from the Americas, and the first pope from the Southern Hemisphere.
Catholics around the world:
There are an estimated 1.2 billion Roman Catholics in the world, according to Vatican figures. More than 40% of the world’s Catholics live in Latin America – but Africa has seen the biggest growth in Catholic congregations in recent years.
Latin America accounts for 483 million Catholics, or 41.3% of the total Catholic population. Of the 10 countries in the world with the most Catholics, four are in Latin America.
Brazil has the highest Catholic population of any country. The figure was put at 123 million in the last Brazilian census and as high as 150 million in 2010 figures compiled by the World Christian Database.
Italy has the most Catholics in Europe, with 57 million.
Democratic Republic of Congo has the biggest Catholic population in Africa, ranking ninth in the world with almost 36 million.
Since 1970, Catholicism has seen a global shift southwards – the proportion of Catholics living in Europe has declined, while Africa has seen a growth in the number of Catholics – from 45 million in 1970 to 176 million in 2012. Asia has also seen a growth in Catholicism and now represents almost 12% of the total Catholic population in the world, or 137 million people.
A group of seven lay men decided to abandon their families and businesses to devote themselves to a life together of prayer, penance and poverty. In that city divided by violence and murder, they gave a visible testimony to fraternal communion.
The fame of their sanctity spread far and wide and many men asked to join their group. Many became famous’Artists, Musicians, Architects, Theologians, Philosophers, Historians,Scientists, Missionaries, Cardinals ,and Lawyers Up to this century many were brave to follow that same footsteps our seven first fathers have chosen to trod.
THE STATISTICAL FORECAST OF 2006
In 2006, A statistical forecast of the evolution of the Order in the next 25 years has been carried out by asking every jurisdiction of the Order to furnish data about the entrants (new simple professions and friars coming from
other jurisdictions) and leavers (those abandoning the Order, transfers to another jurisdiction and deaths) that have occurred during the last 10 years, i.e., from January 1, 1996 to January 1, 2006.
RESULTS OF THE STUDY
- ITALY (Provinces of Annunziata, Piedmont-Romagna, Lombardo-Venetian) is in a phase of decline, so much so that in 25 years the actual 263 presences will reduced to almost a half of that: 153 presences.
- The rest of Europe (Austria, Germany, England, Ireland, France, Belgium and Hungary), the decline is constant, but not so strong; in fact, from the present 85 members, it will go down to 61.
- The movement of presences in North America (USA and Canada, with the addition of Australia by reason of common history), however, appears more marked: in the next 25 years they will be reduced to just about a third (from 162 to 57), caused by the scarce number of entrants
- The jurisdictions of Latin America (Mexico, Brazil, and Chile) appear to be on the increase (from 139 presences to 204).
- Asia and Africa (India, Philippines and EAF) the increase will be from the present 134 presences to a good 399 over 25 years.
- The Servite Order is in a phase of decline, whereby it will go from the 945 members of January 1, 2006, to 882 on January 1, 2031.
- But perhaps more interesting is the projection worked out for the percentage distribution by area, from which it is apparent that while at present Group A (Europe + USA + Australia + Canada) is the majority group in the Servite world (54%).
- Already during the next five years parity will be reached, and in the future there will be an inversion of the majority, until by 2031 the friars of Group A will constitute 28% while those of Group B (Mexico + Chile + Brazil + India + Philippines + Uganda) will make up 72%.
- This inversion can be attributed, above all, to the factor of new entrants; while in Group A, entrants are scarce and sometimes very scarce, in Group B, there are a high number of entrants and very few leavers.
READING THE SIGNS OF THE CURRENT TIME in 2013
Developing a full awareness of our situation can help us with both strategic planning and decision-making.
- Increase in number of vocations in the southern hemisphere of the Order.
- A notable formation of multi-ethnic and pluricultural communities (Italy, Spain, Holy Land, France, Canada, Australia, United Kingdom, East Africa, South America and the USA).
- Strong collaboration in the form financial assistance and exchange of personnel.
- Strong commitment towards the poor and marginalized and the promotion of justice and peace.
The Order is small and not especially wealthy but nevertheless shows solidarity in time of crisis and troubles
- A life style characterized by ISM’s: secularism, individualism, consumism, relativism and hedonism.
- The lack of concrete prospects for the future and a strong sense of resignation.
- The scarcity of vocations and aging of friars (average age is over 70) in the older jurisdictions.
- . Perseverance in our vocation. The statistics of the the Oder clearly shows that the majority of of defections and request for dispensations are coming from young friars (temporary professed and friars who were recently solemn professed).
- Lack of priority in forming friars for a more international, intercultural
- Financial Economy
– Notable decrease in income due to aging friars and the closure of many convents in the older jurisdictions.
– The need for a centralized economy, at least in the field of formation.
The difficulty of finding friars for administration of Patrimonial goods (example: Monte Senario)
– The inability to form our friars in other field of professions as an alternative profession and source of sustenance due to a notable decrease of income derived from cult these past years.
– With the present condition of the Order there is an urgent need to undertake serious reflection regarding new economic and administrative strategies at the level of the Order, provinces and communities.
7. The Charism
Although the essential elements of the Charism are known, there is an urgent need to discover anew and deepen it.
The need to transmit the same Charism and to find new ways of communicating it in this globalized society.
- A younger population in the southern hemisphere.
- 2. A strong phenomenon of Migration. Our world is becoming a pluricultural e multicultural through migration of people from Asia, Africa, Latin America towards Europe,Northern America and Oceania.
- Lands of the older Missionaries becoming new mission territories.
- Computers and computer technology is changing the way we handle information and communication. The numerous scientific-technical innovations will revolutionize the way we live.
- A secularized society characterized by a strong sense of individualism, consumerism, hedonism and relativism.
- An aging society above all, in the northern hemisphere.
- The traditional paradigms of cosmology, value, and reality have lost their unquestioned relevance and authority among contemporary people.
- The social institutions which were structured by these traditional concepts and values are deteriorating in vitality and influence.
- The economic and political infrastructures of society are breaking down and losing their credibility and effectiveness.
- The mores that have been the foundation of human behavior and ethical standards in society are crumbling and immorality, crime, and violence are endemic.
- Religious institutions that were once the central pillars of society are now relegated to a peripheral position
- Faith crisis in the Universal Church
– Abandonment of faith
– The so called- countries that were traditionally catholic are becoming mission territories
– Sexual misconduct among the priests
– Financial scandal in the Church
Seven years after the study was made, the projection in the statistical forecast made in 2006 is being realized.
We are living in one of the major turning points of history. Our times have been labeled variously as the post-industrial, post-modern, and post-Christian era.Everything around us is undergoing change and we are part of the
so-called “fluid society.” There is a need of a paradigm shift. We have to learn and recognize the changing attitudes in our modern society
WHAT DO WE WANT FOR THE FUTURE?
On the anniversary of Benedict XI’s Bull Dum Levamus (the definitive approval of the Order) the Prior General, Fra Ángel M. Ruiz Garnica addressed a letter to the entire Servite Family, “A family with a future after 700 years of life.” The letter discusses our present-day problems but at the same time it encourages our friars to look to the future with confidence. It states that our identity is something more than an abstract idea – it is our very way of living and loving.
THE CHALLENGES WE ARE FACING
- The fact that the Order has spread to so many nations and continents has been a blessing. It enables us to know firsthand, from the experiences of our brothers, the complexity of human life, the wide diversity of situations, the riches of other religions and cultures, the variety of natural resources and life-styles, the diversity of political situations, and the evolving presences of pluricutural and multicultural communities, etc.
- In recent decades we have witnessed a gradual decrease in the number of friars in the long-existing communities of Europe and North America along with the aging of friars in the same areas. The Order is changing its physiognomy. From an ethnic and cultural perspective we are facing something never encountered before in the Order’s long history. New demands and problems confront the Order today.
- The fast and ever changing scientific-technical innovations revolutionize the way we live. The computer technology changed radically the way we handle information and communication.
- In his conference at the 2001 General Chapter, Fra Clodovis M. Boff spoke about existential disorientation, global poverty and the logic of violence. Twelve years later we face a secularized world with an enormous void at its center.
- Consecrated life is undergoing a time of transition and we cannot ignore the fact that we are in a period of frequent and radical change. The first challenge we must confront is tounderstand the current status of consecrated life.
- The Challenge of New Evangelization. Pope Benedict XVI called for the re-proposing of the Gospel “to those regions awaiting the first evangelization and to those regions where the roots of Christianity are deep but who have experienced a serious crisis of faith due to secularization.
In this emerging sociological, historical, religious and cultural framework, there is an urgent need to recover the identity of our charism, to understand the prophetic dimension of our mission and to create the conditions necessary to achieve it.
- Given the diverse and complex situations in which we live,are we capable of reading the signs of the times?
- What new elements can we discern in our lives as Servants of Mary that shed light on our times?
- Using our charism as a point of departure how can we meet the challenges of today’s Church and society?
Our world is a tapestry of many strands, many colors, and many patterns. The threads woven into the fabric of our lives create a beautiful tapestry.Other threads are interwoven throughout our own fabric, adding depth, meaning and splendor to the fabric of our lives.Our first fathers have begun the first few threads of the tapestry of our Order. They have followed radically the intricate design of the Lord’s pattern.There is a time and a season and a purpose why He has gathered all of us.This is the opportune time and place.
We are called to be weavers of the tapestry of the Order and the world today We are called to weave the present fabric of our history. We represent the NOW.We must pull the yarn, tie the knots, and cut the strands.We begin by acknowledging the many colors and patterns of our lives, of every friars in our communities, and of the richness of our cultural and historical diversity
As we begin to embark another milestone in our history as an Order, the celebration of the 213° General Chapter is asking each one of us today to celebrate our fraternal communion, to listen to the Word of God and promptings of the Spirit in the present time, ascertain the possibilities and take collegial decision to create ashared future, based upon our common vocation in all its diversity
fr. rhett m. sarabia, osm