By Anne Walsh
Taking advantage of a brief lull after preaching the Archdiocesan Lenten Mission in St John’s with the Redemptorist Adult Faith Formation Team – Tony Bidgood, CSsR and David Louch, CSsR and myself – I thought I’d offer you a glimpse into what’s been going on with the other aspect of my work, which is Partnership in Mission in our Province of Canada, in the Conference of North America and our Redemptorist World.
On the level of our Province of Canada, we have formed a Commission for Partnership in Mission comprised of representatives from all three regions — Edmonton-Toronto, Ste-Anne-de-Beaupré and Yorkton. Each region came to the table with unique histories of, and approaches to, Partnership in Mission. Therefore, the members of the new commission decided to spend time getting to know each other, sharing our stories, building relationships and studying some of the key documents that have been created to guide us. We focused, in particular, on the Directory for Partnership in Mission, which was approved by the General Government in March 2020 for use ad experimentum in all units. The Covid-19 pandemic and our migration to digital means of communication offered us a gift; we have been able to meet every month or even more often.
I also serve as coordinator and resource person for Partnership in Mission for the Redemptorist Conference of North America. In that capacity, I serve ex officio on the conference Secretariat for Partnership in Mission, on which there are representatives of every unit in North America. As with our Canadian Commission, the North American Secretariat has been meeting more often than we would in ordinary times, and this has enabled us to move forward a number of collaborative projects. During Advent, we offered two online retreats by Zoom. Over 90 partners in mission from all over North America took part in these two days of reflection on Advent in the desert of the pandemic, engaging some Redemptorist companions and guides – St Alphonsus, St. Clement Hofbauer and Blessed Francis Xavier Seelos. The circle of Redemptorist Associates at Our Lady of the Desert in Tucson, Arizona, also asked me to facilitate an Advent Retreat by Zoom, at which about 30 took part. I’ve been invited to lead sessions for Redemptorist Associates in St. John’s, Toronto, Philadelphia and Tucson. Of course, we continue to publish our monthly PIM newsletter, Together for Mission, and to issue PIM Updates as often as needed through the pandemic. Each unit in North America now has its own commission or working group coordinating Partnership in Mission, and all share common guidelines for circles of Redemptorist Associates.
But wait! It’s not finished yet! Following the XXV General Chapter, I was appointed to the “Office” of Partnership in Mission for the Redemptorist world, appointed to membership on the General Secretariat for Evangelization, and made chair of the General Commission for Partnership in Mission. The General Commission was tasked with developing and supporting structures to foster Partnership in Mission, and with developing two documents: a General Directory for Partnership in Mission and a Ratio Formationis for Partnership in Mission. Every Conference now has some structure – a working group, commission or secretariat – supporting and resourcing Partnership in Mission. As I mentioned earlier, the Directory for Partnership in Mission was approved in March 2020 for use ad experimentum in all units. With that approval, the General Commission turned our attention to the development of the Ratio Formationis. We worked in collaboration with the General Secretariat for Formation on this draft, which has now been circulated for widespread consultation. The Commission will meet on March 16 to review the feedback received and begin the process of revising the document in view of the feedback received.
Developing guiding documents is necessary, but it isn’t the heart of Partnership in Mission. The heart is supporting and resourcing Partnership for Mission. To that end, every day is a trip around the world from my desk or couch, through e-mails, WhatsApp, Zoom and Facebook! In three sessions between October 2020 and January 2021, I facilitated a visioning process offered by the Redemptorist Conference of Europe, engaging over 30 Redemptorists and Partners in Mission in five languages in prayer, reflection and deep sharing. It is our hope that the working group of the conference can create a document that will inspire and guide Partnership in Mission in the Conference. I’ve been able to accompany the Redemptorist Lay Associates of the London Province for their Lenten Retreat, and to join the partners in mission in the Dublin Province for their pandemic outreach project, “Thoughts from a Distance,” and their Lenten daily Night Prayer. I’ve been able to work closely with the Working Group for the Baltimore Province in their monthly meetings and their daily audio reflections, as well as several other outreach projects.
In short, Partnership in Mission in the Redemptorist family is alive, well and growing, and every day brings this more sharply, clearly and delightfully into focus. I ask you all to continue to pray for a growth of vocations to all forms of partnership in mission, and to the vowed life.