Recently the Superior General wrote a letter to the Major Superiors of the Society outlining the General Administration’s plan for the future of the District of Peru-Venezuela. The district has struggled recently to provide a quality of Marist life in community and suitable formation for its candidates. There have been internal tensions and some divisions that meant it has been difficult to administer the District.
The district of Peru Venezuela was formed from the two regions of Peru and Venezuela in 1990. The region of Peru was established by the then Province of Spain and the region of Venezuela by the then Province of Italy. The Society of Mary has been present in these two nations for more than 50 years.
The personnel of the new District of Peru-Venezuela were simply the Marists who were there at the time of the establishment of the District, plus a few non-Spaniards and non-Italians. As well as those from Italy and Spain, there were a few Peruvians in final vows (one who became the Archbishop of Ayacucho in the Andes). So when the district was formed there was no selection process of the personnel who became members of the district, it was simply an amalgamation of both previous mission regions.
Over the years it became evident that some former members of the respective regions found it difficult to adapt to the new reality and live in a multicultural, multinational group. Some of these returned or were appointed back to their home provinces. Some also remained in the district. Men from other provinces, some who found it difficult and did not last there very long, joined the district for a time.
One of the indications of problems in the District was the high fallout rate among the young indigenous Marists after final vows. Another was the lack of confidence and trust existing between the members of the district. Few district superiors completed their term. The district became in the opinion of some somewhat difficult to govern.
To address these difficulties the Society will withdraw from Venezuela by August 1, 2012.
This will mean
- leaving a large urban parish and the Fe y Alegria – Juan Claudio Colin College.
- Recruitment of new candidates for Marist life will be put on hold until the situation of the District is such that they can be accepted and there are formators who can form them.
- The formation of existing candidates will take place in other units of the Society.
- Marists in the district who come from other units of the Society will be asked to work elsewhere and the works of the Society in Peru will be reduced to a manageable number, centred on the Province of Sullana and the port of Lima, Callao. In Sullana the Society has a large urban parish, San Pedro Chanel College and an extensive rural parish. In Callao the works are a college; San José, a neighbourhood devotional chapel and the district centre house.
- General Councillor, Alejandro Muñoz, has become the major superior of the district from August 1, 2010.
The General has noted in his letter that there was excellent ministry being done by many of the members of the district. There are also good candidates to Marist life in formation. The “reconfiguration” of the district is with a view to allowing it to begin anew on a more healthy and solid basis.
On July 31, Walter Chaupin Marcelino of Peru, made his first profession at the end of his novitiate based at La Jordana, Mexico, along with Luiz Antonio Maciel from Brazil and David Sanchez of Mexico.
Recently Fr Alejandro Munoz has written to the confreres in Peru Venzuela and assured them that he and the General Administration have been pleased to hear the personal and community reactions to these fairly dramatic changes, the ways in which they might be implemented and the perceived consequences of their implementation. Some have made their concerns known and have made suggestions and even offered alternatives to the proposals. Fr Alejandro in his newsletter encouraged this feedback and thanked those who had responded and said that without this dialogue and the confidence shown it will be very difficult to build something new.
Vocation recuitment to the District will be temporarily suspended at the end of the year. Nevertheless, a young man, Alan David Gonzales from Talara who has been accompanied by the Lancones community, and perhaps another couple of pre-candidates will be entering the district in the near future and will study philosophy in Curitiba Brazil. The professed theology students will be in Guadalajara, Mexico while one at the end his academic year in Lima will spend a Pastoral year in Brazil in 2011-2012. Another couple of seminarians it is hoped will join the International novitiate in Belo Horizonte, Brazil.
While Fr Alejandro becomes the new District Superior Tony O’Connor and Michele Palumbo will have delegated authority locally to deal with both civil (visas, tax and various other government issues) and ecclesiastical authorities.
Fr Alejandro has convoked a District Assembly of all perpetually professed members on 25, 26 and 27th January 2011 at the District House in El Callao. The main purpose of the Assembly will be the implementation of the decisions of the Superior General, and he will also report on the outcome of the meeting of Major Superiors with the General Administration in Rome from 27 September to 4 October.
Let us continue to pray for the District of Peru Venezuela and for the Marists who live and work there.
– Tim Duckworth