The Association of the Miraculous Medal
by Charles Shelby, C.M.
International Coordinator of the AMM
1. Purpose of this Presentation
1.1. Clear understanding of the AMM
The first purpose of this presentation is to offer a brief, clear understanding of what the Association of the Miraculous Medal, the AMM, is. Many of you know the AMM as it is organized in your own country. But what is the essence of the AMM? It is simply to wear the Miraculous Medal. Anyone who wears a blessed Miraculous Medal is a member of the AMM. Only God knows the number of members!
1.2. International context
The second purpose of this presentation is to set the AMM in an international context. The AMM is an international association. The Vatican has approved its statutes. In this context of an international association, the AMM is organized in different countries. In an international meeting like this, I will limit my presentation to the international AMM. You are welcome to share informally about the AMM in your country if you wish.
1.3. Vitality of the AMM
The third purpose of this presentation is to assure you that the AMM is alive and well. In the stages of organizational development that are the themes for these presentations on the branches of the Vincentian Family, the AMM is in the midst of a powerful renewal. These are exciting times for us.
1.4. Direction of the AMM
The fourth purpose of this presentation is to glimpse into the future and see what the new directions are for the AMM. Last October, the leaders of the AMM from around the world met in Rome. We produced a set of Convictions and Commitments that set our direction, and we made some requests of the Director General, Fr. Robert Maloney, C.M. One of those requests has led to my presence here today.
2. Short Outline of the AMM
Let us begin with an overview of the AMM. We all know the story of the Miraculous Medal and the apparitions to St. Catherine Labouré. They happened just a few meters from here. As you know, from those apparitions came the Children of Mary, now the Vincentian Marian Youth, or simply Marian Youth. And later the AMM gradually developed.
The AMM is an ecclesial, Marian, Vincentian association of the Christian faithful. However, it is not exclusively a lay association. Any member of the Christian faithful may be a member, including the clergy.
There are countless people who wear the Miraculous Medal. According to the statutes approved by the Vatican, all of them are members of the AMM. A much more useful concept is the number of members registered in the AMM where it is organized. There are perhaps 7,000,000 members registered in the different countries where the AMM has been established.
The AMM is always engaged in an apostolate. The exact nature of the apostolate varies from country to country.
3. Renewal of the AMM
3.1. Foundation — First International Statutes of the AMM
In preparation for this presentation, the speakers were given an outline of the five stages in the life of an organization. They are foundation, expansion, stabilization, breakthrough, and transition-renewal.
The first stage is foundation, and for the AMM, this stage can be summed up by our first international statutes.
a. Structure of AMM in the First Statutes
The AMM officially began with its statutes of 1909. These statutes seem to envision the AMM as something like a parish sodality. It stated that the purpose of the association was the sanctification of the members and participation in an unspecified apostolate.
b. Role of the Director General
In the AMM, the statutes have always placed the highest leadership in a Director General, who is the Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission and the Daughters of Charity. Originally, there were no specific duties, but he was the ultimate authority for the entire AMM.
c. Diocesan Structure
The 1909 statutes envisioned a diocesan director, appointed by the bishop, and responsible for the association, canonically erected in the diocese by the bishop. In each diocese, the AMM could have its own “spirit, laws, and customs.”
3.2. Expansion — National Differences
The second stage in the life of an organization is its expansion. After the original statutes were promulgated, the AMM was able to expand around the world. The first expansion was very rapid. During its time of expansion, the AMM developed national differences. Here are the most significant examples.
The AMM in France was the original, even before the statutes of 1909. It now has the missions of the Congregation of the Mission in France as its apostolate. The chapel here in Paris is the center of prayer for the AMM in France.
In Spain the AMM began in 1911. It is centered in the parish, renewing the family and assisting the poor.
In the early years, the AMM was founded at two places in the USA, corresponding to the two provinces of the CM in that nation. The first foundation was at Philadelphia in 1915, called the “Central Association of the Miraculous Medal,” and located on the east coast. The second was at Perryville in 1918, and it is called the “Association of the Miraculous Medal,” located in the center of the country. This is an accident of history and, to my knowledge, has no logical explanation.
Both groups are very similar, enrolling members throughout the country at the choice of the member. As their principal apostolate, they support the province of the Congregation of the Mission where their offices are located.
The AMM in Mexico was founded in 1925 as a union of the associations in several dioceses. Like Spain, it is centered in the parish, with apostolates engaged in renewing the family and assisting the poor. It also has a strong catechetical character.
A Spanish Vincentian who was educated in the United States established the AMM in the Philippines in 1957. This association combines features from the AMM in both Spain and USA.
That is not the end of the expansion. These are just some of the earliest or largest examples. The AMM has been founded in many other areas and countries. Usually it has spread from Spain or follows the model of the AMM in Spain.
3.3. Stabilization — Some Growth, Few Changes
Stabilization is the third stage in the life of an organization. After the AMM was established in a country, it settled into a stable pattern. Numbers increased gradually. There was little innovation necessary since the AMM was accomplishing its purpose as described in its statutes.
In the stable AMM, people were concerned with their own sanctification, and they participated in the apostolate of the AMM in their country. This period of stabilization lasted through Vatican Council II to 1997. The AMM never experienced a significant decline. This is not surprising since the Virgin Mary is in charge.
4. Breakthrough — Meeting in Rome, December 1997*
a. Share who we are, history, mission
The breakthrough in the renewal of the AMM was quiet, but to those of us who were there, it was an exciting and historic event. The Director General called together six leaders of the AMM from France, Spain, the USA, Mexico, and the Philippines. Our first task was to get to know each other and share the stories and reality of the AMM that we were leading. It was overwhelming to see how Mary had reached out to her children so effectively in so many different ways. Our differences could not hide the common themes, shared values, and real sense of mission we held in common. There was no jealousy, only a celebration of the good work all of us were doing for the gospel, the Church, and the poor. This was truly a moment of grace.
b. Examine statutes
Our second task was to examine the International Statutes and determine whether we should propose any revisions. Providentially, there was a canon lawyer among us, and someone who could write reports and documents. Much to the delight of the Director General, we emerged from our meeting with a polished set of new International Statutes in Latin, English, and Spanish — ready for approval by the Vatican.
c. Consider collaboration
Our third task was to consider possible ways to collaborate. This was by far the most difficult task, since there was — and never had been — an international structure. We did not see the need for a complex centralized organization, but we recommended a secretariat to encourage communication, correspond with the different countries, and serve as a center for approving new particular statutes. Since the Director General already had a crowded schedule, this work fell immediately onto the shoulders of the newly named Vincentian Family Delegate, Fr. Benjamín Romo, one of the participants in our 1997 meeting.
3.5. Transition — Renewal
Emergence of Coordination
The final stage of renewal of an organization is the transition to the renewed form of the organization. This takes us into the present and the future, as I promised when I began. For the AMM, this phase has two areas that I would like to share with you. The first is particular statutes, which are the entry into the renewed AMM and the means by which it is organized. The second is what came from our international encounter last October.
4. The Expansion of Renewal
4.1. Particular Statutes
Time does not allow me to go deeply into the issue of particular statutes. However, it is important that you understand how they are at least as essential to the mission of the AMM as the International Statutes.
4.2. Purpose of Particular Statutes
The purpose of particular statutes is to define the AMM in a specific location and to adapt it to the local culture and society. In this way, the AMM becomes a living, acting force for the gospel and the poor.
5. The First International Encounter, October 2001
Coming from 28 countries on five continents, 70 leaders of the Association of the Miraculous Medal met in Rome for our first international encounter last October. Note that our statutes do not provide for an assembly; however, we can have an encounter or meeting.
That wonderful week provided the first real opportunity for the leaders of the AMM around the world to come together and experience real sharing, discovery, and affirmation of the good work God is doing in our midst. It led to a series of convictions and commitments, which you can find in the book published after the encounter, Asociación de la Medalla Milagrosa: Una nueva Imagen para un nuevo Milenio. There were also five recommendations to the Director General. The most important for us are the requests for an international organization, formation materials, and an information bulletin. A very brief outline of the encounter and the Final Document can be found in Vincentiana.*
6. The Period after the Encounter
6.1. New status in the Vincentian Family
It has been only eight months since the encounter. Because of the encounter, our place as AMM within the Vincentian Family has become clearer. We are the largest organization in the Vincentian Family. We in the AMM realize the wealth to be found in our diversity as together we work toward our common mission. We have a renewed dedication to serve the abandoned poor in the spirit of St. Vincent, and we recognize that this mission comes to us from the Virgin Mary, who herself was poor and served the poor in her life. With the rest of the Vincentian Family, we seek greater formation resources. We are quite at home here in this encounter, Vincentian Month 2002.
6.2. International Coordinator
The Director General was “creative to infinity” in responding to the requests of the AMM International Encounter. He recently named an “International Coordinator” to serve as his delegate in carrying out the function of Director General. The Director General added a “Coordinating Council” to assist his delegate. In this way he suddenly formed the “international structure” that was requested of him. Since he put me in that position, I now come before you to give this presentation. The task of the International Coordinator is not a full-time job.
7. The Future
I have been the International Coordinator for less than three weeks. You are the witnesses to the birth of a new service. Nothing is ready yet; everything is just beginning to be planned. Since this job is not full-time, I must still maintain my primary mission at the AMM in Perryville, Missouri, USA. A few things will emerge in the next few months, and I hope there will be something of value to the AMM everywhere by the start of 2003.
The first task of the International Coordinator is communication in the AMM. In order communicate to the AMM as widely and as quickly as possible, much of this task of the International Coordinator will be done electronically. The Internet is a fast and inexpensive way to communicate. Personal communication can easily occur through email. General communication can be done through a web site.
a. General Features of the Web Site
The web site will be in English, French, and Spanish. It will include a calendar of events and a document resource library. I will begin work on the web site when I return from the Vincentian Month. It usually takes a few months to launch a web site.
b. Electronic Newsletter
In order to reach the AMM everywhere in the world as quickly and easily as possible, the international bulletin will be part of the web site. It will be quarterly. There will be messages from the Director General and the International Coordinator, features on the AMM in the different countries, announcements submitted by the countries, and links to new formation materials on the site.
c. Practical Assistance for Leaders
The web site will also have information to help the AMM leaders serve their members. Besides the documents resource library, there will be a section of formation materials of whatever kind we can gather. And there will be materials to help in the development of new groups of the AMM in the countries where it is not established or not fully organized.
a. Sharing of existing materials
There are AMM formation materials available in different places. I hope to be able to gather them in a form that I can publish on the web site and, in that way, make them available as widely possible. As a service, I hope to prepare translations of the materials in the three languages of the site. Collecting and translating the existing formation materials will itself add to our supply of formation materials.
There are also formation materials in the other branches of the Vincentian Family. With their permission, we can adopt them in the AMM and adapt them to our unique mission. In a similar way, our own materials may be useful to the other branches of the Vincentian Family.
b. Development of new materials
As time passes, new materials will appear. If I learn about them, I can post them on the web site for everyone. And if there are enough requests for a particular type of material, I can serve as a contact point for the request.
I hope to add a section to the web site where leaders can sign in and carry out interactive discussions. This would also be a way to show interest in some new formation topic. If enough leaders want a resource, someone may be willing to produce it.
I know from my own experience that leaders are busy people. Email will be a simple way to communicate. And I can use email to send announcements and reminders occasionally. My style is to send a simple message and refer to a page on the web site for full information, available when it is convenient.
b. How can we work together?
Collaboration means working together. I want to work with the leaders of the AMM and meet their needs so they can meet their members' needs. Please contact me with your ideas and hopes. We can discuss them together and work together to make our dreams become a reality.
My job title is “International Coordinator.” The words do not mean that I do everything. Rather, I work to bring together people and resources so the Virgin Mary's work can be done. The AMM is an association of us all. To borrow an expression, together we can do more than we can ever do separately.
That is a brief glimpse into the future of the International AMM. I hope you find it as interesting and exciting as I do. Thank you for your attention.
* In Vincentiana 42 (1998) 24-29.
* In Vincentiana 42 (1998) 79-82.
* Vincentiana 45 (2001) 472-478.
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