Dear Brothers, Easter 2014
“Carry to all the joy of the Risen Lord.” (the Sacred Liturgy)
It is with this concluding sentence of the Liturgy of the Resurrection that I want to express my most sincere brotherly wishes for a Happy and Holy Easter, as well as those of the General Council and Administration.
I hope that the Lenten journey just concluded has engaged all of us in a deep spiritual renewal, both personally and communally. For many of you this journey has been undertaken together with the lay faithful who regularly attend our parishes or with those whom we may have had the fortune of meeting as we engaged in preaching Lenten missions.
Together let us thank the Lord who again this year has invited us to conversion so that we may conform our lifestyle ever more to that of Jesus. In so doing he has offered us a providential opportunity, as Pope Francis says, of “reawakening, of bestirring ourselves from the torpor and from the risk of moving forward passively.”
The announcing of the Resurrection, if heard in faith, fills up our life and our religious history in a real sense. Only if one has had the difficult experience of the purifying journey of Lent, can he taste the newness, the beauty and the joy of this announcement.
To celebrate Easter then means, in light of the Risen One, to put a renewed purpose of trust and hope in ourselves, in community life and in our ministry; to be ready to be freed, not only from the routine which often renders our days insignificant, but to the point of engaging in conversion of the heart, becoming credible witnesses of the new life inaugurated by Christ.
Full of Easter joy, then, I would also like to share with you the joy of the celebration of some events which have marked the life of our Congregation in recent times:
On March 19, the Feast of St. Joseph, the district of Switzerland celebrated the 90th anniversary of the School of Untere Waid, opened in 1924. As an “Apostolic School” for many years, it welcomed and accompanied in their formation dozens and dozens of youths wanting to become Missionaries of La Salette. Having ended its days as a seminary, it opened its doors to both boys and girls and became a modern high school, renowned and appreciated throughout the city of St. Gallen and its environs. This instrument of evangelization and of human advancement also became over time a privileged place for diffusing the message of La Salette and promoting the charism of reconciliation. My sincere thanks, and that of the Congregation, forms an unceasing prayer that the “La Salette Gymnasium,” which has so well served young people up to the present time, will always remain faithful to its charter by furthering the common purpose of the La Salette community present there and the local church.
On April 7, our confrere Fr. Robert Harder, M.S. (of the district of Switzerland) turned 100! He is the first Missionary of La Salette to reach this venerable age. Even though challenged with so many years and with understandable ailments, he continues to live in the community of Untere Waid, still on his own feet, supported by the affection of his confreres. He spent all his life in Angola where he arrived in 1946 with the first group of La Salette Missionaries from the Swiss Province. His religious life and priesthood were identified with the mission. In 1975 he founded the “Congregation of the Sisters of St. Catherine.” Founded for the evangelization and the human and spiritual well-being of young women, they are active today in Angola, Spain and Italy. A man of prayer and genuine spirituality, Fr. Harder willingly speaks to anyone who asks about his missionary experience in Angola. Even though he is living in Switzerland these days, his heart is always in the land of Africa. Along with him, we want to give thanks to the Lord for the gift of such a long life, as well as for all the good he did as a missionary in the midst of the Angolan people for so many years. “Ad multos annos,” dear Fr. Robert, and may the Virgin of La Salette continue to watch over you!
From March 29 to April 5, along with Fr. Adilson, I was supposed to go visit Mons. Claude Rault, bishop of the Sahara (Algeria) as requested by decision # 15 of General Chapter 2012. But once again, as happened last year, our request for a visa was not successful. In view of the fact that Mons. Rault will be here in Rome at the end of June, I will take that occasion to meet with him and speak with him concerning a strategy for obtaining entry into his country. I will keep you up-to-date on any developments concerning this delicate situation.
As you have seen from our monthly bulletin from March, Father Efren and I were in Tanzania at the invitation of Mons. Methodius Kilaini, the auxiliary bishop of Bukoba, to study the feasibility of establishing a La Salette presence in that diocese in the near future. Shortly I will have completed an account that will be sent to the Provincials and thus to the whole Congregation. I invite you to pray that the Holy Spirit enlighten the General Council so that we pursue only those things that God and the Virgin of La Salette intend for our Congregation.
A final reason for our joy is that we have learned that in Haiti, where three of our confreres from Madagascar are working, there are some young men looking to become a part of our religious family. General Chapter 2012 (Decision # 14), although not excluding a priori recruitment in this country, did not provide any “concrete” criteria to put this recruitment into action. Even though the situation is attractive and there is a lot of enthusiasm, a little prudence accompanied by serious discernment will serve us well. I invite the concerned provinces, Madagascar and North America, to consider this problem together in all its aspects (recruitment, sites, formation, personnel, finances). On my part, and that of the General Council, there will be the greatest attention given to this, and our collaboration will not be lacking. We also confide this “project” to the maternal care of Mary, our Mother. She does not neglect making known to us the way to work together as a Congregation in service of the Church and the world today.
April 13, Palm Sunday, we will begin the 2014 PPP. The entire General Council will be on the Holy Mountain for a month in order to present this program. There will be 16 participants. We are very happy that this number includes three Sisters of Our Lady of La Salette. We ask all of you to join with us in prayer.
Along with the General Council and the other members of the General House, I extend to everyone of you – postulants, novices, seminarians, religious of all ages, whether ill, in crisis or whatever – wishes for a Happy and Holy Celebration of the Resurrection. I also extend these wishes to all the groups of “La Salette Laity” who share with us in the task of joyfully announcing the Gospel in light of the message of reconciliation of the weeping Virgin of La Salette.
I bless all of you in the Risen Lord.