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XXVI GC: Rooted and audacious to govern, humble and blessed to serve (August 30, 2021)

Nemi, Italy. August 30, 2021. Incumbent Father General, VR Fr Mathew Vattamattam, re-elected. A joyful and memorable day. The chapter community continues its journey. A chapter can be understood in many ways. Those participating in this XXVI General Chapter of our Congregation have tried to discover that every moment has its importance, from the most seemingly secondary to the supposedly principal. Today was not just any day: the calendar marked it as the date of the election of the Superior General.

As on other days, around six o’clock in the morning, the chapel already welcomed several capitulars. A little later, when the Blessed Sacrament was exposed, the number of capitulars was growing little by little. At seven o’clock the votive Mass of the Holy Spirit began. As always, the white of the albs mingled with the joyful presence of the capitulars who are Missionary Brothers.

The chapter had much to celebrate. Together with Fr. Ronaldo Mazula’s (Brazilian capitular) birthday, it was joyfully announced that after two years of visa procedures two students from India were traveling today to their new mission countries. Added to all this was the joy of seeing five confreres from India, who have participated in the Chapter from the very beginning, leave the mandatory quarantine and finally arrive in Europe and, after a few days of quarantine in Nemi, join the great assembly for the first time.

Fr. Mathew Vattamattam, President of the Chapter, presided at the Eucharist, which, like all the liturgy of the day, was animated by the Prefecture of Formation. The assembly asked for the light of the Spirit in various languages.

With the punctuality that has distinguished the entire assembly, the capitulars began their session at nine o’clock. A text from the Gospel according to John (chapter 21) resounded for the first time during the day. The facilitators encouraged the delegates to tune into the deep will of the Spirit and to dialogue with transparency and openness, questioning possible pre-judgments and unfocused interests. The free and confidential conversations, in pairs, were also held in the chapel and in a prayerful atmosphere.

After half an hour of rest and another half hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, with only those present in the chapter hall who had the strict right to do so, the pertinent numbers of the Constitutions and the Directory of the Congregation were read, and the vote was taken according to the instructions received from the Holy See. Two capitulants, who could not leave their countries or send their vote by post, formally renounced to exercise it, so that the number of voters was established at 76. The capitular secretary, accompanied by two capitulants as witnesses, collected the votes of the two brothers who are in quarantine in their rooms. Mathew Vattamattam, Superior General from 2015 to 2021, was re-elected to this service after obtaining a majority in a first ballot.

Having complied with the established procedures, Fr. Gonzalo Fernández, vice-president of the Chapter, asked the elected superior general if he accepted the wishes of the confreres. After asking for a moment of silence, Fr. Mathew answered yes, alluding to the call to be rooted in the Lord and in the charism received and bold in the response, accents very much emphasized in the chapter journey, and entrusted himself to the help of the Lord and of the confreres. The assembly welcomed his words with warm and grateful applause and, once the election was declared official and legitimate, all showed their respect and gratitude to Fr. Mathew, dispensing with the hugs that are usually given (for prudence covid) but greeting him from the heart.

It took only a few minutes for networks and telephones to congratulate the new Superior General and the Congregation. The greetings, full of affection, came from all over the world and from the whole Claretian family. The inauguration, also profound and moving, gathered the entire chapter community in the chapel, where Fr. Mathew led a time of prayer and asked for the blessing of the assembly.

After a sober meal, but in a clearly joyful atmosphere, the capitulants resumed their work in the classroom, giving themselves an extra half hour’s rest. In the afternoon session, at the request of Father General, they discussed the structure that their government should have in the coming years, to which they will dedicate the next few days.

The celebration of Vespers and the happy outcome of the evening covid tests given to all the capitulars ended an intense, but above all joyful, day. The Chapter community, together with thousands of men and women from all over the world, say today: Magnificat!

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