Mixing the soil of three provinces…

Official and Solemn Establishment of the New Province: Saint Vincent de Paul (Spain)

Celestino Fernández, CM writes…

Gratitude, hope and communion.  Those three words form the background of the event that was celebrated in our house in Santa Marta de Tormes (Salmanca) on Wednesday, January 25th, 2017, the feast of the conversion of Saint Paul.  The process of reconfiguration, that was begun some four years ago between the Provinces of Barcelona, Madrid and Salamanca, has now given birth to a new province, namely, the Province of Saint Vincent de Paul (Spain).  Such is the good news that was proclaimed on this historical day.  The establishment of this new province in the Congregation of the Mission in Spain took place in accord with a program that had been previously agreed upon, a well-prepared program in which solemnity was combined with simplicity, reflection with fiesta, and gratitude for the past was combined with trust and hope for the future.

About one hundred confreres from almost every local community of the three provinces gathered together in the house at Santa Marta Tormes (Salamanca).  Also present was the Visitor and two other confreres from the Province of Zaragoza, the Visitor of Slovakia, the Visitor of Portugal, a representative from the Province of Paris and from the Province of Lebanon, the seven Visitors from the seven provinces of the Daughters of Charity and representatives from the various lay branches of the Vincentian Family.  The presider at this event was Father Thomaž Mavrič, CM, Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity, who was accompanied by Father Javier Álvarez, C.M. (Vicar-General) and Father Aarón Gutiérrez, CM (Assistant General).  The celebration began with Vespers on Tuesday, January 24th and what followed could be described as a work of five acts.  The first act was a prayer service based on the biblical text of Matthew 26:6-16 (the anointing at Bethany).  The prophetic gesture that is referenced in the gospel is to become our prophetic gesture  … the new province is preparing for this time of new life.  The second act was the prayerful recitation of Morning Prayer on January 25th.  As one would expect, the psalms sounded a joyful note and were prayed in a powerful manner.  The Te Deum, with which we began this prayer, seemed to provide us with the element that bound the whole celebration together.

The third act took place in the community room and was somewhat informal.  Animated by Father José Manuel Villar, CM various persons spoke.  First, the superior general outlined the history of the Congregation in Spain, highlighting its various ministries and expressing his gratitude for the labor and the holiness of so many missionaries.  He focused his attention on a promising future.

Then the three Visitors, whose term of office had concluded, expressed their gratitude to those who had gathered together for this event.  Father Alagarda underlined the fact that today we are leaving a land that had been our own.  Now, with the help and through the intercession of Saint Vincent de Paul, we begin a new mission and a new phase in our life together.  Father Joaquín González stated that we are writing a new page in our history; we carry in our backpacks the gospel and charity and like Saint Vincent, we know what the Congregation has been up to the present time but only God knows the future.  Father Juan de la Rosa referred to three basic attitudes that all should cultivate: a profound Vincentian identity, apostolic zeal and availability … from today forward, the new Province will be our home.

The central aspect of this third act occurred at the time when Father Javier Álvarez read the decree that established the new Province of Saint Vincent de Paul (Spain).  The public reading of this decree was accompanied by two very symbolic acts: handing over to the Superior General the three seals of the former Provinces and placing in the hands of the Superior General bowls that contained soil from the various places where the confreres are currently ministering.

Finally, the superior general read the letter in which Father Jesús María González Antón, CM was appointed Visitor of the new Province.  Father Jesús made a profession of faith and took the oath of fidelity to our Constitutions.  Father General then gave Father Jesús the seal of the Province.   In turn, Father Jesus briefly spoke about the various gifts that the Missionaries can contribute to the New Evangelization.  Then, with a spirit of humility and trust in providence, he stated: I am aware of my limitations, but I trust that God will provide me with those graces necessary to fulfill this mission.  Father then announced the appointment of Father José María Nieto as provisional secretary.

This institutional act concluded with a very symbolic act: Father Jesús planted a tree in the soil  that had been given to the superior general from all the places where the missionaries were ministering..

The fourth act was comprised of the Eucharistic celebration which was presided by the superior general.  In his homily, Father highlighted the conversion of Saint Paul and the fact that Paul’s conversion demands that we also enter into a process of conversion and renewal.  He concluded with the words: let us continue to dream together so that our dreams become a reality.

 The fifth act began shortly thereafter … a shared meal.  That meal became an opportunity for communal encounter and sharing and at this time we pray that the three words mentioned at the beginning of this news bulletin (gratitude, hope and communion) might become a guide for the members of this new Province.

Translated: Charles T. Plock, CM