Day Three, Monday May 20, was our day to complete the work. That morning, we received the draft document, ‘Identity and Structures,’ as prepared by the writing committee. In our working groups, we debated the propositions. Our instructions were to reach consensus on proposed additions or modifications. The lively debates were a testament to the commitment of each participant: no detail was too small to let slide.
Just before lunch, these motions were submitted to the hard-working writing committee. While we enjoyed our lunch and the obligatory siesta, they considered the submissions and prepared a second draft document.
When we came back in the afternoon, we met in our country groupings and considered how we could bring the work of the Congress alive in our area. Again, the ideas flowed with an energy that carried us all. There was real excitement and hope that something new was being born.
The final plenary followed and we all sensed the importance of it. The second draft was distributed; debate ensued. Further amendments and motions were offered. Then, ably led by Father-General Zago, we ratified the document, paragraph by paragraph, with amendments as offered.
We ended the session, tired but elated, our spirits buoyed by a sense of accomplishment, and Father General Zago’s closing remarks lifted us even higher. Thanking us for our work, he affirmed its importance in the life of the congregation, evidenced, he noted, by the presence and participation of the General Administration. He assured us that the Congress’s work would be actively promoted among the Oblates and a special edition of the Oblate newsletter devoted to it.
He also pledged his full support, saying, “The Administration is committed to making all aware that the reality of lay association is a response to the signs of the times and the reality of today.” Lay people, he noted, would have a great part in its implementation. “Follow life,” he exhorted us, “The structures must support life.” He expressed his hope that the Congress would be a turning point in the life of the congregation and asked for prayers that we might recognize God’s will unfolding.
It was his final comment, however, that left us all profoundly moved. “We are simply poor men trying to live the charism of the Founder; don’t be afraid to join us,” he said. And with that, spirits soared: the division between cleric and lay, vowed and non-vowed, was erased. The invitation had been made: we were to be one in Christ and the charism.
Our day ended fittingly with a celebratory Eucharist, a festive dinner, and a final courtyard soiree, this one attended by local Associates. As an added fillip, we were eagerly anticipating the next day. It was May 21, De Mazenod’s Feast Day and the formal end of the De Mazenod year and the Congress organizers had a special treat planned. We were going to, ‘walk in de Mazenod’s footsteps,’ and we couldn’t wait.
Sandra Prather, HOMI