The Historical Commission informs…
Rome, Saints John and Paul, 13-14 October 2016
All members were present: Fr. Alessandro Ciciliani (President, MAPRAES), P. Robert Carbonneau (Member, PAUL), Fr. Andrés San Martin (member, SCOR), P. Lawrence Rywalt (translator, PAUL), Fr. Pablo Gonzalo (member, SCOR).
Work began on Thursday, October 13, at 9:00 a.m.. Fr. Joachim Rego, the Superior General, offered an introductory prayer, basing it on St. Augustine’s prayer to the Holy Spirit.
Words of the Superior General, Joachim Rego
Father General’s presence was, first of all, an encouraging support for the work which the Historical Commission is doing.
Father General mentioned the important contribution just provided to the Formators’ Course; not only did the commission recall our history, but it also explained and applied it to our present day.
The Enlarged General Council was recently convened here in Rome; the Presidents of the Configurations took part. Father General spoke to them about identifying those persons who could study history in order to provide this service to the entire Congregation. With reference to this collaboration, Father General spoke not only of Passionist Religious, but also of members belonging to the Passionist Family: Sisters and laity. An ongoing challenge, for the General Council also, is the need for translations. We are always looking for persons who can do this work; there are few who can do this work, and it is very expensive to hire translators from outside the Passionist Family.
Fr. General has asked, therefore, that the Presidents of the Configurations consider the possibility of having religious study as needed to provide this service. He considers it important to connect history with our spirituality today, in our own time. History does speak of the past, which makes it very important for our identity today.
Fr. General suggested a small project: that whether individually or as a group (the Historical Commission), we can consider this question, and write a small article for publication in the BIP or on the internet, so that all the religious might receive it. The article would deal with this topic: “The importance of history; how history helps us to understand the present reality.”
Fr. Robert intervened in order to present a hard-disk with 191,000 files, both letters and photographs related to the presence of Passionists in China, which he will leave as a gift to the General Archives.
Father Pablo has also presented a petition to the Superior General in preparation for the anniversary year of 2020. The project which he would like to place under the patronage of the Superior General is to translate the literary sources having to do with St. Paul of the Cross; it would mean the translation into the three official languages of the Congregation the five principal source materials. There is a significant weakness that we historians notice among our young men when we speak to them of St. Paul of the Cross. These sources are the Letters, the Rule, the Annals, the first biography of the Founder written by St. Vincent Mary Strambi, and the canonization Processes. There would certainly have to be a budget provided in order to pay the translators. These are the principal sources needed in order to correctly approach the figure of St. Paul of the Cross.
Father Pablo volunteered to do the translation of these sources into Spanish. If we could have these sources in our libraries by 2020, available especially for our students, we would have a record of the founding years of our Congregation, which means a first hand access to the origins of our vocation.
Fr. General has said that this is a fascinating project, and it should be researched with information channeled to the Commission so that the tasks required be effectively organized. The work done to produce the Dizionario della Passione is an excellent example of collaboration in producing the translation and determining the financing of the book.
Fr. General ended by encouraging progress on the proposal to realize something that would be very useful for all of the Congregation. It is a project which involves all of the Passionist Family including the Sisters and the laity.
Report of Fr. Alessandro and Discussion
Fr. Alessandro read his report.
Digitalizing books and e-books
The subject of digitalizing our volumes of the history of the Congregation was discussed. The history could be produced as an e-book; but other books on our spirituality could also be considered for e-publication, so that they might be in circulation, and at the same time even produce a financial profit. Father General and the General Econome are in favor of our acquiring a high-quality scanner in order to digitalize our documents and books.
Booklets in the Series: Studies in Passionist History and Spirituality
Regarding the booklets in Studies in Passionist History and Spirituality, Fr. Robert asked what would be the topic of the booklet he should prepare for the next year.
Fr. Alessandro replied that the topic should be the same as that of the present year: a continuation of the story of the Passionist presence in China and in the Philippines. This is the second part of the booklet which he had already written some years ago. The booklet should be written by September. The span of years it should cover would be from the time that the Passionists passed from China to the Philippines in 1958, up to the canonical erection of the new Province around 1972-73.
Fr. Alessandro reminded the group that the next year’s booklet in the series of Passionist History and Spirituality would be the booklet by Fr. Robert, while he would write the book on the Popes and the Congregation.
Fr. Pablo mentioned that next year will be the anniversary of the Spanish Civil War, and this could be a topic to develop in the series of Studies in Passionist History and Spirituality, also with the use of collaborators.
An article on this same subject could also be published in the Passionist International Bulletin (Bollettino Internazionale Passionista–BIP). Fr. Alessandro mentioned that all of the members of the commission are invited to collaborate on behalf of our official Bulletin.
Fr. Robert made the proposal to publish as part of the series “Studies in Passionist History and Spirituality,” in English, a brief historical narrative covering the American province of St. Paul of the Cross.
Articles for the Passionist International Bulletin
Fr. Alessandro mentioned that for the next year, in regard to articles in the BIP/PIB, the following articles were anticipated: one for the 150th anniversary of the canonization of St. Paul of the Cross; and another on the Spanish Civil War and the Passionists. Furthermore, since it is the centenary of the Marian apparitions in Fatima, there could be an article touching on Marian devotion in St. Paul of the Cross related to the message of Fatima, e.g., penance.
Fr. Alessandro proposed the continuation of the translations of the booklets in the series “Studies in Passionist History and Spirituality” into Indonesian. However, it would be more difficult to do so in Polish (perhaps with the aid of a cloistered nun) and German.
Lectures in the history of the Congregation
Regarding the history lectures offered in the formation houses, Fr. Alessandro said that during 2016, he had presented some lectures on the history of the Congregation to the novices at Monte Argentario.
Fr. Alessandro said that they should be bold in this regard, that is, take up the challenge, since the scope of work to be done is enormous. Across the Congregation there is a lot of work to do among so many young men in formation, novices, and students. Courses and lectures conducted by members of the Historical Commission will bring these men in formation into contact with the history of the Congregation.
Their participation in the course for Formators was a visible statement to the Congregation that there is a Historical Commission and that it is at work. These lectures to the Formators were important for the visibility of the Commission.
On this subject, Fr. Pablo said that next year Spain will have 13 or 14 novices, and thus this meeting could be held in Spain, at the novitiate, with a dual purpose. One is to hold our meeting, and the other to give history lectures to the novices. According to him, it is possible to join the two issues. At Daimiel there are also some religious who speak both Italian and English well, so there would be no problem with translation.
Every year, therefore, we should plan for our meeting to take place in different areas of the Congregation. It would be a history course offered by members of the Historical Commission.
According to Fr. Pablo there is a very good chance of successfully conducting this course in Spain next year. In the following year, another area of the Congregation would be chosen, so that there would be a continuity created. Thus, the Historical Commission would offer, each year, in a different area of the Congregation, a course in Passionist history. For example, after Spain, Africa and Indonesia would fill-out the next three years.
It was decided to have the next meeting, the fourth, in Spain. It would soon after the course which will be given the Novices of the SCOR Province.
Fr. Pablo, aware of the rhythm of the novitiate, which begins in January, suggested that the course be offered in October.
PowerPoint on the history of the Congregation
The PowerPoint on the history of the Congregation is still “on hold,” even though Fr. General, at the start of our meeting, has expressed his appreciation for this project. According to Fr. Alessandro, the first reactions were not good; thus the translation work was also paused; since this is the work of Fr. Andres, we need to clarify the situation. Is something to be changed, added, or taken out?, it shall be done. If something is not working, we should know what because this idea came from Fr. General and his Council. It is certainly an optimum idea to be able to send the history of the Congregation, for no cost and at once, to all of the brethren. The bulk of work has been enormous. Remember that the total number of slides is 600. Fr. Andres believes that his idea for the structuring of the PowerPoint was clear, but that the one who took up the project possibly did not understand its intrinsic structure and order.
Local histories and the safekeeping of documents
Fr. Alessandro, following his introductory report, then proposed a discussion on the subject of local history, a subject that would require a significant effort, for example, speaking with the religious now present in a place. No matter that they might be young, and therefore find it difficult to relate a history. What must be done at this time is safeguard the documents and, to the maximum extent, write down the first twenty years of their history; i.e., who were the missionaries who came to their area? Once these years are covered, later years will approximate our times.
Many Provinces, Vice-provinces and Vicariates of more recent foundation do not understand what it means to organize an archive. Therefore, in conjunction with the General Archivist, guidelines should be given on the organization of the archive of a local community and of the Provincial or Vice-provincial offices. What should be kept, what need not be kept?
The Historical Commission, therefore, has the duty of not only writing our history, but also of safeguarding our history in the documents which are protected in the local archives.
In this meeting, some other suggestions were brought forth. One suggestion was to replace the date “MCDDXX” with the words “Historical Commission,” but in Latin – Commissio Historica, and the external rays will be removed. Fr. Alessandro will contact the graphic artist so that the changes can be made, and we can have the definitive design of the logo.
Single volume history of the Congregation
Fr. Alessandro then introduced the subject of the summary history of the Congregation, specifying the different parts which each religious would have to complete.
The single volume of our history should be a creative summary. A synthesis of present works would be adequate, but anyone may continue researching a subject. The work is not necessarily something new but rather a summary, or recapitulation. A new research topic may be pursued, but we must always re-address the objective, which is to have a history that reach more people, beyond the Congregation, with a readable history, and which can serve as a teaching tool.
Fr. Alessandro replied that the complete volume should have a maximum of 300, or so, pages; and every section will encapsulate the book it is derived from. These sections could be the chapters of the book, and have various subdivisions into paragraphs. All of this must be done for the year 2020, for the first months of that year because afterwards the translations must be done.
Portraits of the brethren
Another subject raised by Fr. Alessandro is that of the portraits of our brethren. At this time the matter is in the hands of the General Econome. The Commission has made its suggestions, and now we await the decisions to be made. Fr. Pablo reminded us that Fr. Aita Patxi is now “venerable,” so he should be already present among the saints at Sts. John and Paul.
Third centenary of the Congregation
With regard to the proposals advanced for the third centenary, Fr. Alessandro reminded the group that various suggestions have been sent to a commission, headed by Fr. Ciro Benedettini, whose duty is the concrete carrying out of these initiatives. The suggestion of Fr. Robert with regard to Passionist devotions throughout the history of the Congregation was well-received. Fr. Alessandro has spoken with Fr. Ciro; he said that the members of the Historical Commission are very busy with their own local ministries, and as historians; the Commission has its own projects underway, and therefore would not be able to assume any further projects beyond what is already established.
Commission to safeguard the archives
The final topic treated by Fr. Alessandro in his introductory report was the Commission to safeguard the archives which is a collaboration between the General Archivist and some lay co-workers. Its purpose is the improvement in the conservation of the documents in the archive.
The next point was number 4 on the agenda for the day: the budget for the Historical Commission. Fr. Alessandro said that last year, Fr. Pablo had prepared the budget for the year 2016; it was presented by him in January of this year to the General Council. Some accounts were approved, others were not. Fr. Alessandro presented the expenses from the beginning of the year to the present. Further expenses will be added to the accounting so that Fr. Pablo can made the financial report for the year, and also prepare the budget for 2017.
Fr. Alessandro expects that in 2016 the expenses will be less than in the budget…
Fr. Alessandro returned to a point in his report; he asked for some suggestions regarding the link of the Historical Commission on the website of the Congregation. The Commission site is enriched by publishing the minutes of our annual meeting, and by adding the activity of our members, who can submit photos and few explanatory lines, which will show what is being done to promote the history of the Congregation.
Related to this, Fr. Alessandro asked the members to send him a brief biography, with e-mail address and other forms of contact, in order to include these in a link from the Commission website.
Work was completed at 18:45, Friday, October 14.
Fr. Alessandro Ciciliani
President of the Historical Commission