An Idea is born
European Assembly, summer 2002, Issoudun, France
The idea of a new pilot project first surfaced in 2002 at the First European MSC Assembly which was held in Issoudun, the place of our Congregation’s foundation. The theme of that Assembly was “A Heart for Europe” and in the course of the sharing, discussion and planning the concept of a new inter-provincial project was raised. At that time there were two distinct aims; an effort at inter-Provincial co-operation in Europe, and to face together as European M.S.C.s the challenges of the new face of Western Europe by undertaking a new, non-traditional ministry in the heart of a European city. This was to be a new community rooted in our Congregation’s charism and spirituality, alongside the poor, in a major crossroads city of Western Europe.
Drawing on the vision of the younger generation
European Young MSC Conference, Summer 2003, Tilburg, The Netherlands
The following summer the Young MSCs of Europe (those 10 years finally professed and less) gathered in the great old Mission House in Tilburg. During their discussion of the idea they named the following aims or goals for the project:
To engender new hope in our current MSC reality of ageing and disengagement from traditional ministries
- To provide good community living
- To model a prophetic life-style that promotes integration in our European culture of fragmentation
- To discern local needs and respond in a prophetic way that increases solidarity, empowerment and networking
- To develop ministerial outlets beyond the conventional parochial context
- To provide a supportive and discerning space for people exploring ministry or vocation in the context of the MSC charism
- To be a pilot scheme for possible future European MSC Partnership
The meeting also made two concrete proposals: that the project should not be located in a capital city, but rather a poorer, less well-serviced major city, and that it should be in an English-speaking country (since most of the younger generation of MSCs all speak English). The gathering suggested Birmingham, Manchester and Liverpool, all in the UK, as possible locations for the new community.
Assessing the Possibilities
Meeting of the Provincial Superiors of Europe, October 2003, Rio de Janeiro
In the autumn of 2003 the European Provincial Superiors met in Rio de Janeiro during the course of the General Conference of all Provincials throughout the MSC world. They discussed the recommendation of the European Assembly and the suggestions made by the Young MSCs. With some reservations about how to find personnel for the project, there was nonetheless a good deal of enthusiasm for the idea and a small working group of Carl Tranter MSC (England), Juan Molina MSC (Spain) and Dirk Milio MSC (Belgium) was appointed to look at the possibilities in greater detail and report back to the next meeting of the European Provincials the following spring.
Drawing up a Plan
The Working Group, January 2004, Princethorpe, England
Carl, Juan and Dirk met in January 2004 at the English MSC Secondary School, Princethorpe College in Warwickshire. They worked at drawing up proposals for a step-by-step preparatory process, beginning with the nomination of the community members, then the establishment and building of community, followed by discernment and choice of a city, then acquiring a community residence in the city, immersion in the life of the neighbourhood, and finally the discernment of ministry. They also recommended that a final decision on the project should be taken and the community members appointed before the end of 2004. In 2005 many Provincial Chapters would be taking place in preparation for the General Chapter in September 2005. Also during the course of 2005 some of the Provincial Superiors would be finishing their term of office. They suggested that the new community should be ready to come together in September 2005.
Wanting to say “Yes”, but…
Meeting of the Provincial Superiors of Europe, April 2004, Rome
The Provincials considered the report from the Working Group with enthusiasm. But still serious questions remained. Was it really going to be possible to find and release three or four members for the project? How would the new venture be financed – and was there the possibility of the project ever becoming self-financing? What sort of ministry might be possible? While being realistic about needing to address these questions, still there was a desire to progress the matter further and so it was decided that two of the Provincials would meet the Working Group and, in dialogue with the other Provincials, see if it could be possible to make a concrete decision before the end of the Second European Assembly in the summer. Accordingly Provincials Ton Zwart MSC (Netherlands) and Ciaran MacCarthaigh MSC (Ireland) were delegated to meet with Carl, Dirk and Juan.
Getting the Green Light!
Second European Assembly and European Provincials’ Meeting, July 2004, Issoudun
The days of the Second European Assembly were fraught will all sorts of emotions; expectation, excitement, nervousness, fear, hope… Three names had been suggested as possible candidates for the new community, it having been decided that three would be the minimum needed to start the project. Two MSCs had already been released by their Provinces (Mark and Carl), but now it appeared that the third intended member would not be free for another couple of years at the earliest. It looked as if the project would not even get started. Our Founder’s words came to mind: “If God wants something done, obstacles for him are means.” In the crypt of the Basilica in Issoudun, at the tomb of Fr Chevalier, the Founder of the MSCs, we prayed for the future of the project. Courageously, in stepped Ton Zwart, the Dutch Provincial who was about to finish his twelve year mandate in leadership and who had long been a keen supporter of the idea. So as to allow the community to begin, he generously offered himself as a third member. Amid much celebrating plans were immediately being drawn up for a preparatory process for the next twelve months, and a decision to begin the project in September of 2005. At the end of the Assembly, the European Provincials had a half-day meeting and confirmed the appointment of Mark, Carl and Ton, entrusting the further planning to them. Read on to find out more about the twelve month period of remote planning.