Letter from the General Directors of the Legion & the Consecrated Branches of Regnum Christi
[English translation of Spanish original]
Prot. DG-RC 349-2016
October 12, 2016
To the Consecrated Women of Regnum Christi
To the Lay Consecrated Men of Regnum Christi
To the Legionaries of Christ
To all lay members of the Movement
Dear friends in Christ,
On this day in several countries the Church commemorates the Blessed Virgin Mary under various titles, each involving lovely expressions of popular piety. Under her maternal gaze, we turn to all members of Regnum Christi to look back at the path we have taken in recent years in the course of drafting the General Statutes of the Movement. We also want to look at the steps still to be taken in the coming months and suggest some basic attitudes to help us take advantage of this period, which can help us grow in personal holiness and as a Movement offer fruitful service to our brothers and sisters and to the Church.
- The path taken
The general assemblies of the consecrated branches, which took place in November and December of 2013, and the General Chapter of the Legion of Christ, held in January and February of 2014, all expressed their awareness that they form part of the Regnum Christi Movement, and as such participate in the same charism and share the same spirituality and mission with the Catholic lay people who live it out according to their own specific vocation. The complementarity of the different vocations was seen as a special strength of the Movement in terms of evangelization. Likewise, the General Chapter recognized “the self-government of the consecrated branches as a step forward for the consolidation of Regnum Christi as a whole” (CCG 2014, 28).
On March 19, 2014, the General Regnum Christi Committee was set up for the purpose of “involving all branches of the Regnum Christi Movement in a coordinated way, through participation and shared responsibility in the evangelizing mission of the Movement” (Government Act No 1/2014). It approved the Framework for Collaboration in the Mission, a “temporary instrument that springs from the need to address in the short term the elements related to coordinating our evangelizing mission” (Letter of March 19, 2014) and that has guided us and helped us to learn how to govern the Movement in common over the past two and a half years.
On July 3, 2014, the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life made official the appointment of Fr. Gianfranco Ghirlanda, SJ, as pontifical assistant, with the special task of helping us with his advice and support to find “a suitable canonical formulation for […] Regnum Christi and a fitting structural relation among the different vocations that compose it” (Letter from the General Director to the Legionaries of Christ, July 3, 2014).
On October 2, 2014, the process of preparing the General Statutes of Regnum Christi formally began. The Statutes were to offer a description of its charism and spirituality, as well as “the most appropriate legal structure to foster communion in mission” (Letter from the General Director to members of the first and second degree of Regnum Christi, October 2, 2014). In the first stage of this process the lay members of first and second degree were supposed to express their particular way of living the charism of Regnum Christi, analogous to what the general assemblies and the General Chapter had done for the other branches respectively.
All members were invited to participate in this process. The celebration of the various territorial conventions during the first months of this year marked an important milestone. Some Legionaries and consecrated members also participated in these conventions, bringing to the discussions their experience of service and support to the Movement over the years. At the territorial conventions delegates were elected for the international convention of lay members, to be held in Rome around the celebration of the Solemnity of the Sacred Heart, the conclusion of the Jubilee Year for the 75th anniversary of the foundation.
The celebration of the international convention in Rome marked the end of the first stage. On June 4, the General Director shared the most important conclusions reached by the Regnum Christi lay members. These included the ratification of the essential elements of the identity of the Regnum Christi member, namely, spiritual life as a progressive development of divine life in the person, leading to configuration with Christ; integral formation; the apostolate as a response to the inner call to evangelize; personal accompaniment; and team life. The lay members ruled out the option of becoming a separate legal entity and opted instead to form an entity linked to Regnum Christi as a whole, though not to any of the consecrated branches in particular. As bearers of the charism of the Movement, they expressed their willingness to participate actively and responsibly in common governing bodies of the Regnum Christi Movement at various levels and particularly in decisions that affect their particular way of life.
From June 28 to July 1, the second plenary session of Regnum Christi took place in Rome. The members of the general governments of the consecrated branches and some lay members participated. As the Director General mentioned in his letter dated July 2, the contributions of the General Chapter and the general assemblies were looked at again, in addition to the contributions of the international convention of the laity. It helped us to get acquainted with other ecclesial organizations that, like us, have a common charism lived out in different forms of life. It was especially helpful to hear about their current canonical configuration, how they had reached this point and how they lived it out in practice in light of their mission.
The Central Commission presented various criteria to guide the preparation of the General Statutes and these were approved.
The different options that canon law currently provides for structuring the Movement were presented. We looked at the relative advantages and disadvantages of each, trying to understand what each implied on the practical level, so as to make an informed choice about which of them could best express, preserve, guard and promote the charism of the Movement. As we reflected on the possible forms of government and of administration available, the main guiding criteria was to look for what would best foster communion and collaboration in the mission, participation in and responsibility for the charism and the autonomy of the internal life of each branch: the Legion, consecrated lay men and consecrated women. It was these considerations, more than any purely organizational ones that drove the discussions.
In September, at the assembly of the territorial directors, we tried to offer them a concentrated experience similar to that of the second plenary session of Regnum Christi and get their feedback. Together we reflected on the identity and mission that the Lord has given us for the good of the Church and how these can best be reflected in the General Statutes, which should “protect more faithfully the vocation and identity” of the Movement, which contain “fundamental rules about the government […] discipline […], incorporation and formation of [its members] “(c. 587).
Since this process does not spring from purely theoretical considerations, but from a lived history, Salvatore Bonventre of the General Historical Archives, gave a presentation, based on the source material, of the evolution and various modalities of the relationship between the Legion and the Movement over time.
The territorial directors approved the criteria for the drafting of the Statutes proposed by the attendees at the plenary session. They had time to study and discuss various models of administration and governance of the Movement, as well as the canonical options currently available. All agreed that this theme still requires more prayer, reflection and analysis.
No decision has been taken for any of the options that canon law currently provides since that corresponds to the General Assembly of Regnum Christi, and to the extraordinary General Chapter of the Legion and the extraordinary general assemblies of the consecrated members that precede it. However, looking at what we discovered during the process of renewal, our history and what we have learned over the past two and a half years, the structure that seems best to reflect our reality from the legal point of view would be that of a federation composed of three consecrated branches, which lay people would join directly as individuals.
This canonical configuration seems to be the one that best ensures the unity of the Movement and its apostolic effectiveness through joint bodies of government in which everyone can participate, as well as the legitimate autonomy in the internal life of the Legion, the consecrated women and the consecrated men. This scheme allows each of the branches to have their own patrimony that will permit them to work towards their own specific ends as they are reflected in the Constitutions and Statutes.
We general directors and our councilors are aware that, as is usual in the case of anything new, some might feel a bit worried or resistant when they hear that Regnum Christi could be set up as a federation. Before jumping to conclusions that can cause uneasiness, we should all make the effort to inform ourselves well about what this does and does not mean, so that questions and concerns that arise are based on solid information. When the draft version of the Statutes are presented, the reasons will be given for which proposals seemed best.
Clearly both the scope and characteristics of an eventual federation still have to be studied. Still to be defined are what is common to all branches, what is specific to each and what the configuration and powers of the governing bodies will be. In all of this, the draft proposal will have to protect and ensure the possibility of the communion typical of our charism and mission. It will also have to preserve everything we have gained in the renewal process.
- The way forward
The second stage of development of the General Statutes, as proposed by the Central Commission, began with the conclusion of the international convention of the lay members held this past June. This stage aims at preparing a draft of the Statutes that contains all the convictions gathered up until this point according to the criteria we just laid out.
It is undeniable that the process of drafting the Statutes and the experience of governance in each of the consecrated branches are closely linked. For this reason, and following the recommendation of the members of the Central Commission for drafting the Statutes, and after consultation with the Regnum Christi General Committee, the General Director has dissolved the Commission and transferred its functions to the Regnum Christi General Committee itself. The draft, therefore, will be prepared by the General Committee, which will be advised by the pontifical assistant and supported by an editorial team under the leadership of Fr. Sylvester Heereman. We want to publicly thank the commission members for the quality work and the sincere commitment and sense of responsibility shown during this time.
The plan is to have the draft version of the Statutes ready to be sent to all members in May 2017. At that point the third stage of the process begins. The draft will be studied by the members of all the branches in various modalities.
First, members will study the Statues individually or together in small groups, teams or communities—or even as localities—to become acquainted with the text and reflect upon it. As a next step, territorial assemblies will be held between September and November 2017. Legionaries, consecrated women, consecrated men and lay members will participate with voice and vote. After that, in April 2018, the Regnum Christi General Assembly will take place with the participation of all the lifestyles that make up the Movement. Its mission will be to review and approve the General Statutes and submit them to the Holy See for its approval.
Immediately before the Regnum Christi General Assembly, the Legionaries will hold an extraordinary general chapter and the lay consecrated men and consecrated women will hold their own respective extraordinary general assemblies. These will be convened by the general directors of each branch in accordance with their proper law. In the case of the Legionaries and the consecrated women, this presupposes the prior celebration of territorial assemblies. In this way all Legionaries and consecrated members will be able to express their opinion on the draft of the Statutes through the official organ that is the highest authority in the Congregation and in the associations of the consecrated members.
- How to live this period
As you can see, 2017 and 2018 will be intense years filled with hard work in preparation for the territorial assemblies and the General Assembly. That is why we want to offer some recommendations so that we take advantage of this as the moment of grace that it is, in order to avoid falling into the trap of getting lost in the merely practical elements.
First, we encourage everyone to experience this process with a contemplative and evangelizing attitude. We need to put our faith into practice as we do what the Lord has asked of us through the Church and the signs of the times, to discover in them expressions of his love. Only if we see the gift we have received from a supernatural perspective will we be prepared to be those instruments by which we can help the Regnum Christi charism take on flesh in the “today” of salvation history. From the perspective of faith this process gives us the chance to renew ourselves inwardly and renew our enthusiasm for the mission that the Lord has entrusted to us.
Second, we invite each and every one of you to cultivate a mature outlook that transcends personal points of view. We all have to open ourselves up, as it were, to the “catholicity” of the Movement, which is called to take form in different cultural contexts and historical circumstances. With a good dose of generosity and trust in the Lord, as well as supernatural spirit, a true gift of God, we will in this way be able to detect what is truly essential to the identity and mission of Regnum Christi and to better describe the charism, spirituality, lifestyle and mission of the Movement.
Probably there is no perfect solution for the formulation of the charism and spirituality of the Movement or for our canonical configuration, because language is always limited when it comes to the supernatural. It also does not seem realistic to expect to completely satisfy everyone. However, it is important that instead of looking for what will not work, we constantly ask ourselves what will allow the Movement to function within the boundaries of what is possible at this time. It is understandable and even healthy that there may be some objections to parts of the draft of the Statutes. We invite everyone to try to go deep and understand what is being proposed, taking into account what we have already learned during the renewal process and offering concrete alternative solutions when not in agreement with a certain proposal.
Thirdly, we ask everyone to continue to accompany this process in prayer and by living out the charism, to foster open communication among all and, above all, to promote the experience of giving oneself entirely to the mission and the service of others. Hopefully the process will help us all to rediscover the beauty of our vocation and mission. We can take advantage of this time to sow deeply in our hearts and so to experience the joy of working together that can manifest a little better each day the communion that springs from our common vocation. If we grow in our appreciation and understanding of what each vocation brings to the Movement, and of the beauty of unity in our diversity, our very way of living will be able to help many other people to meet Jesus Christ and become his apostles.
Finally, we invite everyone to take the time to read and study the documents that mark out the path which began at the end of the extraordinary General Chapter and the general assemblies of the consecrated members. By knowing them and living out their content, may we all come to be true “prophets of the New Testament” who know how to discover the Lord’s voice and, like St. John the Baptist, be able to point out his living presence among us.
This is a period of hope that we want to experience with the Blessed Virgin Mary at our side. May she attain for us from her Son the gift of the Holy Spirit so that we do whatever Jesus wants to tell us.
United in prayer,
Father Eduardo Robles-Gil, L.C.