Animation Plan 3rd Phase

​Spiritan Community Life

As you are aware, we have now reached the mid-point in our Congregation-wide programme of animation requested by the Bagamoyo General Chapter. Over the past three years or so, we have reflected, shared and prayed together on our Spiritan vocation and identity, and the role of the Holy Spirit in our life and ministry. The recent Enlarged General Council, which took place here in Rome, reviewed the implementation of the animation plan to date and re-emphasised its vital importance for the renewal of the Congregation. It also suggested practical ways in which its effectiveness can be improved as we go forward. 

From the experiences shared, it is clear that some circumscriptions and communities have entered enthusiastically into the process, availing of the various videos and documents circulated by the General Council and developing their own methods of animation; for others regrettably it has been a marginal exercise, often lost in the myriad of other activities that shape their busy lifestyle. 

As we in the General Council explore more creative ways to implement the plan, let us all recommit ourselves to entering as fully as possible into the process in the knowledge that, in a very real sense, the future of our Spiritan life and mission depends on the extent to which we do so.

Over the next sixteen months, beginning October 2nd, our focus will be on our Spiritan community life. Community life is an essential element of the Spiritan way of life, states the Spiritan Rule of Life [SRL 28]. For Francis Libermann, community living was central to his vision for the missionary Society he founded; he would insist on community life as an essential condition for the fusion of his Society with the Congregation of the Holy Spirit. The Congregation has adopted life in community as its founding principle, states the revised Rule of 1849, Its members shall all live in community at all times (ND X, 454). Those who were unable or unwilling to live the common life were not to be accepted in the Congregation: Those who have not the necessary dispositions to practice faithfully the rule to live amongst their confreres with the piety and charity that community life demands…are to be sent away [ND X, 457]. He adds that a Spiritan does not make his commitment with a bishop but with the Congregation …and so the superior cannot give subjects to a bishop except on that condition (community life) [ND IX, 99, 188]. Although he acknowledged that for pastoral reasons confreres could be called upon to exercise their ministry alone, he insisted that this should only be for a short time and that only exceptionally and for very grave reasons will the communities accept parishes, and always on condition that the members who are in charge will live in community and observe their rule [ND X, 455, 469].

Libermann explains himself why he considered community life so important: When one lives in community and is directed in everything by the same superior, the good that is done is incomparably greater than if each worked in isolation from the other…Things are done with greater energy…everything is thought out better and properly put into effect…Since everyone is employed in the work for which he has the most aptitude, everything is carried out in a better way [ND II, 71]. More fundamentally he saw community life as essential for the stability and the extension of the works of the Congregation and for the personal holiness of each of its members upon which the effectiveness of the missionary task of the Congregation depends [ND X, 454]. However, he insisted that community life was not simply a physical coming together of people for greater effectiveness but a ‘union of minds and hearts for a common purpose’[E.S. 141] and, towards the end of his life, he decried the tendency of some of the members of the Congregation to abandon community life for the sake of the apostolate, seeing it as an obstacle to mission, a practice which he considered to be a false missionary zeal ultimately undermining the unified missionary vision of the Congregation [ND XIII, 293-294]. 

Among the most inspiring texts produced by recent General Chapters are certainly the pages relating to Spiritan community life. Community building can never be the responsibility of just one person, stated the Maynooth Chapter. Confreres should frequently remind themselves that, far from being a simple arrangement of convenience, community life is an essential source of inspiration for the fulfilment of their mission. We strengthen ourselves and each other through personal and communal prayer, faith sharing, friendship and support (3.8). Confreres will take a genuine interest in each other’s work and those working together will do so as a team and not as individual. The community is where we reflect and discern together on our mission…Above all it is a place for mutual encouragement, especially for those confreres who are going through a difficult period (3.9). Any structures will remain empty and lifeless if each member of the community is not prepared to give himself fully to the spirit and ideal that lie behind such structures. It demands no less than a daily conversion (Introduction 4.9).

Perhaps most importantly there has been a growing realization in our Congregation of recent years that the increasingly international and intercultural character of our worldwide community is integral to our mission as Spiritans in the contemporary world and not simply an inevitable consequence of the geographical spread of our commitments. In a world where conflict, racialism and the cult of the individual are all too prevalent “by coming together from so many different places and cultures, we are saying to our brothers and sisters that the unity of the human race is not just an impossible dream. In this way, our community life is an integral part of our mission and a powerful witness of the Gospel” [Maynooth, p.117]. International community living is a “response to the call of the Holy Spirit to all of us, to witness to a new quality of human solidarity, surpassing individualism, ethnocentrism and nationalism” [Torre d’Aguilha 2.1]. 

In a similar way, the witness of our retired and ill confreres living in community is integral to their mission in the twilight of their lives; it is simply a continuation of their missionary life in a new and perhaps more profound way [Maynooth, Introduction 4.16; Torre d’Aguilha 5.4.4]. In the contemporary world, where human beings tend to be measured and valued by their ability to produce and consume and where the elderly are often isolated and forgotten, the importance of the witness of our elderly and sick confreres living in community and accepting their limitations and sufferings with joy, dignity and grace cannot be overstated. 

As we re-read these texts we realize that our lived reality often falls short of the vision we profess in our documents. Many of us live alone with minimal links to the Congregation, not very different to our diocesan counterparts. We give priority to diocesan meetings and events over those of the Congregation. Where we reside under the same roof, we sometimes live parallel lives with little interest in the work or struggles of the confreres with whom we share a home. Community meetings, where they exist, are sometimes simply moments to share information rather than occasions for profound reflection on our life as Spiritans and for discernment in regard to our missionary commitments. Community prayer is sometimes merely a formality rather than a source of inspiration for our life and ministry.

As we enter into the third phase of our plan of animation let us simply ask ourselves what we can do to bridge the gap between the reality that we live and the vision we present to others in our Spiritan Rule of Life and our Chapter documents. In doing so, let us recall the challenge addressed to us by the Congregation for Religious during the year of Consecrated Life: Community is the first and most believable gospel that we can preach [Rejoice, no. 9].

John Fogarty, C.S.Sp (Superior General)

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 3, 2016 in Spiritan Mission


Renewal of vows and Final Profession 2016














Leave a comment

Posted by on August 19, 2016 in Spiritan Mission


Heralds of Hope: Closing Homily at EGC2016

God bless Spiritans! “Quidquid initum habet, finem habet” (Whatever has a beginning has an end) so muses the Latin sage. Our Enlarged General Council 2016 held in Rome ended rightfully with the Holy Mass on July 2, 2016.

The Homily, entitled “Called to be Heralds of Hope” was well articulated and delivered by Fr. Bede Ukwuije, CSSp
(1st Assistant Superior General).


Below is the full text.
In today’s readings, we are called to be heralds of hope. In order to be heralds of hope, we have to be ready to embrace God’s newness.

Hope is God’s gift. The initiative belongs to Him. In the midst of exile of the people of God, when all hope seems lost, prophet Amos 9, 11-15 calls on the people to contemplate God’s work of renewal. The vocabulary is very concrete: Restoration: God promises to restore Israel. Reparation: God promises to repair the ruins. Reconstruction: God promises to reconstruct Israel and bring back the exiled people. The ruins will be replaced with new life, new cities, new vineyards, fresh fruits. God’s work of recreation finds echo in Revelation, “Behold I make all things new” (Rev. 21:5).

In the Gospel of Matthew 9:14-17, Jesus poses radical renewal as condition for the success of mission: “New wine, new skin”. Newness here has nothing to do with age. It is a question of attitude, an inner disposition, the fruit of conversion of heart, conversion of vision. The old vision distinguishes between yesterday and today, the one who sows and the one who reaps, the young and the old, the rich and the poor, North and South, older circumscriptions and younger circumscriptions, hard times and good times, success and failure. These distinctions cause competition, class struggle, intergeneration conflict, Jealousy, despair and disenchantment. In the new vision proposed by Amos and Jesus, the one who plants and one who reaps are walk side by side. Men and women who acknowledge their common humanity work together to make the world a better place. God’s presence is recognized and celebrated in good as well as difficult times.

The Enlarged General Council has helped us to evaluate where we are at in the implementation of the decisions of the General Chapter of Bagamoyo 2012.

One great fruit as was expressed in the final message to confreres is our renewed hope in the future of Spiritan mission.

This renewed hope is what we need to offer to the contemporary world.

Many people are discouraged by the culture of violence and the increasing number of deaths in our streets and cities. Many are not sure of their next meal not to talk of having access to medical care. Unemployment and juvenile delinquencies have become part of daily life. Think of the number of people who drown every day in the ocean while trying to cross to Europe for greener pastures. The misery and inhumane treatment they suffer in the hands of human traffickers is unimaginable. Many of them are literarily sold into slavery where they are used like objects or animals and discarded when they are no longer useful.

In the midst of all this chaos, we are called to be heralds of hope. The greatest service that missionaries can render to our society is to repeat in season and out of season that life is possible even when everything seems to go wrong. Missionaries cannot take part in the ongoing collective depression. In the footsteps of Amos and other prophets we must rebuild hope in the minds and hearts of people. In the footsteps of our Founders, Fr. François Poullart des Places and Fr. François Libermann, we must invite our contemporaries to contemplate the actions of God in the salvation history; how God makes life spring up in the desert of hopelessness.

Many Spiritans are involved in this work of reconstruction. This is what we do when we undertake new initiatives in Education ; when we open new missions in Europe, Bolivia and Asia ; when we explore new development projects ; when we dare into zones of conflict like South Soudan. We reconstruct the ruins of humanity when we undertake JPIC work in prisons and commit ourselves to the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.

I was privileged to celebrate Easter 2016 with the Spiritans in Durban South Africa. The summit of the celebration for me was the stations of the cross in the Female prison in Durban, where our confrere Fr. Peter Sodje, CSSp works as chaplain. One of the inmates who became the catechist, serving long term sentence, during the vote of thanks said about the chaplaincy: « This is the only place where we are not considered as offenders ». The chaplaincy planted in the heart of the prison contributes to the reconstruction of broken humanity.


As we go back to our respective communities, we need to ask ourselves these questions: Are we open to welcome the new things God does in our lives? Are we ready to allow God to renew the world in Jesus Christ, our future? Are we ready to make ourselves available so that God may use us to transmit his surprises to our society?Our response to these questions will determine the possibility of our being heralds of hope in the deserts of the human family held hostage by violence and despair. Our response to these questions will determine our capacity to welcome the God of life who comes in the daily events of our life.

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 4, 2016 in Spiritan Mission


Enlarged General Council 2016

Message of the Enlarged General Council 2016 to all Confreres Worldwide

We, members of the Congregation of the Holy Spirit, participants in the Enlarged General Council, which took place at the Casa di Esercizia of the Passionists in Rome from 19th June-2nd July 2016, return to our missions with an enormous sense of gratitude.


We thank the merciful God for the gift of vocation and the strength of the Holy Spirit, which impels Spiritans to go forth throughout the world to announce the Good News of Justice, Peace and solidarity(Cf. Luke 4:18-19)

The purpose of the Enlarged General Council was to evaluate how the decisions of the General Chapter held in Bagamoyo, Tanzania, 2012, are being implemented. Therefore, through plenary sessions and commission meetings, we shared, reflected and made some suggestions on how to further our activities in areas such as the animation of the Congregation, mission appointments, finance, the safeguarding of minors, education, confreres in irregular situations, Justice and Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC), Lay Spiritan Associates, the Organization of the Congregation and Unions of Circumscriptions.

There was also time to listen to a number of significant experiences from confreres working throughout the world: Spiritan mission in Asia (Vietnam), Bolivia, Europe and North America. We also listened to a testimony on a Spiritan mission initiative in South Sudan and new initiatives in Education in Nigeria. We also marveled at the new frontiers opened up through the world of development.

The day-to-day work at the Enlarged General Council was offered to God in daily liturgical celebrations, accompanied by the melodious sound of the Senegalese Cora. In this regard, the celebration of the 50th anniversary of the General Administration in Clivo di Cinna and the participation at the Solemnity of SS Peter and Paul at the Vatican with Pope Francis deserve special mention. The Golden Jubilee of the Generalate offered the opportunity to bring together past Superiors general, general councilors and workers who served there.

Though Bagamoyo 2012 was our reference point, nevertheless, we spent some time discussing issues related to the next General Chapter in 2020.

We are very grateful to all the confreres of the Congregation for participating in the preparation of the Enlarged General Council and for accompanying us with their prayers.

We thank God, the Father of our Lord Jesus Christ for the road already travelled and for our renewed sense of hope and confidence in the future of Spiritan Mission.

We pray that the Holy Spirit, through the intercession of the Blessed Virgin Mary and our Founders, Claude Poullart des Places and Francis Mary Paul Libermann, may keep us joyfully and boldly committed to the mission He has entrusted to us.

Rome -1st July 2016

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 4, 2016 in Spiritan Mission




One of the characteristics of the times in which we live is that we are called on to attend seemingly endless meetings. Whatever the nature of our ministry – and even in retirement – there are so many issues that call for our participation in group discussion and community discernment whether at level of the diocese, the particular institution or organization we serve, the Congregation, the circumscription, or the local community. Often these meetings compete with each other for our limited time, interfere with our already busy schedules, and appear to be an unwarranted waste of time and energy. We wonder whether, in fact, such meetings are effectively changing anything and if life would be any different – other than more relaxed and pleasant – should all these meetings cease and we simply gave ourselves wholeheartedly to the work with which we have been entrusted. When we are tempted to grow tired, discouraged and cynical about the various meetings we are asked to attend, however, it is important to remind ourselves that Pentecost, one of the central events that shaped Christian history and indeed history in general, happened not to an individual praying alone but to a group gathered together in a common room: “

Pentecost happened at a meeting and it happened to a community, to a church congregation assembled for prayer, to a family of faith gathered to wait for God’s guidance…

In Christian and Jewish spirituality there are two non-negotiable places where we meet God, alone and in the family. These are not in opposition but complementary …We need to spend time together waiting for God, waiting for a new outflow of heavenly fire that will give us the courage, language, and power we need to make happen in the world what our faith and love envision.” [Fr. Ron Rolheiser OMI, Pentecost Happened at a Meeting]

From June 19 to July 2, 2016 a meeting vital to the life and mission of the Congregation – the Enlarged General Council – will take place at the Passionist Retreat House in Rome. This gathering will bring together the General Council with 23 representatives and 2 Lay Spiritan Associates from the different Unions and circumscriptions that comprise the Spiritan world for essentially a threefold purpose: To evaluate the implementation of the Bagamoyo General Chapter, to look at new means of strengthening and bringing about the Congregation’s objectives and to reinforce collaboration between the circumscriptions, the Unions and the General Council.

Interestingly, the meeting will take place in the context of the 50th anniversary of the transfer of the General Administration from rue des Pyrénées, Paris to Clivo di Cinna, Rome in 1966. Monsignor Marcel Lefebvre, the Superior General at the time, saw this geographical transfer as symbolic of the need for an increasingly international Congregation to reposition itself in the contemporary world, a perennial challenge if we are to be true to our charism and to respond creatively to the needs of evangelization of our times.   The event will be marked by a special liturgy on Sunday, June 26 attended by the members of the EGC, several of the members of former General Councils, 31 of whom are still alive, including three Superior Generals, and present and former lay personnel. We will also be united in spirit and in prayer with the other 45 surviving confreres who served in various capacities at the Generalate during the past 50 years and in so doing made an invaluable contribution to the life and mission of the Congregation.

Inter alia, four important documents requested by the Bagamoyo Chapter will be presented for discussion at the Enlarged General Council: a Guide for Spiritan Education, a Guide for Lay Spiritan Associates, a Guide for Financial Management and a revised Directory for the Organization of the Congregation.  In many ways these documents encapsulate our collective efforts to ‘reposition ourselves in the contemporary world,’ to respond creatively in the light of our charism to the evolving reality of the Congregation throughout the world and the changing circumstances in which we exercise our ministry at the service of the contemporary poor. We will also revisit the vital issues of safeguarding policies for children and vulnerable adults, the coordination of second cycle formation throughout the Congregation, funding for contemporary mission, and the strengths, weaknesses and challenges of Unions of Circumscriptions.

However, at the heart of all our discussions and deliberations will be an evaluation of our progress in regard to the two central challenges of the Bagamoyo General Chapter: a greater authenticity in our Spiritan life and mission in fidelity to the charism of our Founders and a more inclusive Spiritan family marked by a true sense of belonging and a collective ownership of our missionary commitments and our common future. Conscious of the perceptible gap between the vision expressed in our documents and our lived reality, the Bagamoyo Chapter requested the General Council to initiate an eight-year animation plan to address this deficiency and to build and strengthen our Spiritan identity. A focal point of our EGC reflections will be an assessment of the impact of this animation plan to date and the identification of possible ways in which its effectiveness can be improved between now and the next General Chapter.

At this point in our mandate, the abiding question with which we grapple as a Council is how change can truly be effected in an institution. There has been an increasing call at recent General Chapters for a more centralized authority at the level of the General Council. Libermann was opposed to excessive centralization in the Church; he saw it as a dangerous tendency, contrary to the spirit of the Gospel and an obstacle to the action of the Holy Spirit [Letter to Schwindenhammer, N.D. XI, pp 97-98]. Genuine and lasting change cannot be imposed from outside; it begins in the heart of each individual member. “Transformation begins in our hearts, in our attitudes,” wrote Richard Holloway. “My belief in the Resurrection means that I must commit myself to the possibility of transformation and, however I feel, take the first faltering step towards personal change. Resurrection is refusing to be gripped forever by the fingers of winter, whatever our winter may be.  If we say we believe in the Resurrection, the claim only has meaning if we believe in the possibility of transformed lives, transformed attitudes and transformed societies…(if we see) stones rolled away and new possibilities rising from old attitudes.”

Perhaps the problem with adults is that, unlike children, we let go of our hopes and our dreams; our experience of the harsh reality of life erodes our capacity to believe in a better future. Louis Evely, the well-known American writer, saw the refusal to believe in the possibility of change as the fundamental sin against the Holy Spirit:  “Sinning against the Holy Spirit means no longer believing He can change the world because we no longer believe He can change us. The genuine atheist isn’t the person who declares, “God doesn’t exist,” but the one who maintains that God can’t remold him or her and denies the Spirit’s infinite power to create, transform, and raise him from the dead. This is the type of person who, whether sixty years old or just fifteen, goes around announcing, “At my age, I can’t change any more: I’m too old, too weak, too far gone. I’ve tried everything, and it hasn’t worked. No, there’s nothing to be done for me!”

As we approach the feast of Pentecost let us make our own the words of the Psalmist for our forthcoming Enlarged General Council and for our Congregation:
“Send us Your Spirit  and we shall be created, and You shall renew the face of the earth!”
[Ps. 104, 30]

John Fogarty, C.S.Sp.
Superior General

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 5, 2016 in Spiritan Mission


Superior General Pentecost 2015 Message


The Holy Spirit comes to help us in our weakness… (Rom. 8,26)

The American theologian David Tracy once wrote that “there is never an authentic disclosure of truth which is not also transformative.” In other words, we cannot truly encounter God – whether in prayer, in the faces of the poor or in the events of our own life – and remain unchanged. In the final analysis, it is personal transformation that is the test of the authenticity of our encounter with God.

A fascinating example is the present Pope Francis. Paul Vallely, in his intriguing book, Pope Francis – Untying the Knots, traces the remarkable evolution of Jorge Bergoglio from a politically and religiously conservative priest, who initially actively resisted both the radical changes sought by Vatican II to revitalize the Church and the prevailing Liberation Theology in Latin America centered on the option for the poor, to the Pope that would systematically challenge the complacency of an introspective Church and champion ‘a poor Church for poor people.’ Vallely attributes this radical transformation to the lengthy hours of personal prayer that became an integral part of Fr. Bergoglio’s day after a difficult period in his earlier life as a Jesuit. He sees in him “a man who has undergone, if not a religious conversion, then at any rate a deep inner transformation which has wrought a profound and long-lasting change in both his personal and political vision…a man who has become aware of his own frailties and devised, through prolonged prayer, a strategy to handle them.”

Despite his busy schedule, Pope Francis continues to devote up to two hours daily to personal prayer which he speaks of in simple terms:

“Prayer should be an experience of giving way, of surrendering, where our entire being enters into the presence of God…This is where dialogue, listening and transformation begin. Looking at God, but above all sensing that we are being watched by him…Sometimes I allow myself to fall asleep while sitting there and just let him look at me. I have a sense of being in someone else’s hands, as though God were taking me by the hand.”

Francis Libermann shared very similar views on the simplicity of prayer, its importance and its transforming power: “Make your prayer as simple as possible,” he wrote to M. Collin in 1845, “Don’t try to bring in too many ideas or to follow the Sulpician method too closely. Your prayer should consist in simply resting before the Lord in humility and peace” (N.D. VII, 37-38). His own personal experience taught him that people cannot be fitted into a fixed system but that the Holy Spirit leads each one of us individually, according to our own personality, our temperament, our gifts and our weaknesses. God has made us as we are and we have to find our own unique path to God, our own unique way of praying. One of his key insights was that God always comes to meet us in the reality of our situation, God always finds us where we are. It is God who takes the initiative in prayer; we simply have to discover the path along which he is inviting us.

Prayer for Libermann can be described simply as loving attention to God. Love is the measure of the quality of our prayer; it is our attention to God that distinguishes our prayer from all our other daily activities.   Although he was aware of the difficulties of climate and fatigue facing his early missionaries in Africa, he nevertheless insisted on an hour of personal prayer each day whatever the demands of their ministry, even if the time spent at prayer seemed of little use: “It costs us a bit to stay a long while at prayer when we are preoccupied with many things throughout the day.  These things invade our prayer; the time for the end of the prayer approaches and we are inclined to say that we have wasted an hour of our morning. I could have spent it much more profitably than battling with distractions, I am tempted to say to myself…but if we think that we are greatly mistaken” (N.D. VIII, 398: Letter to the community in Dakar, 1846).

Libermann was convinced of the value of prayer because he was convinced that prayer gradually changes us, or rather that God slowly changes us through prayer, shaping us to be the person he has called us to be. He emphasized that prayer enables us to see God’s action more clearly in our own lives and in the lives of others, to see ourselves and others with God’s eyes; prayer helps us to overcome our faults and weaknesses, freeing us from our compulsions and from oversensitivity to misunderstanding and contradiction; prayer gradually enables us to accept ourselves and our limitations and those of others with patience, gentleness and peace. All of this Libermann learned from his own personal experience. The foundation and early development of his new Society made enormous demands on his time and energy as he battled with ill-health, with criticism and misunderstanding by others and with his own self-belief as he had to face the reality of failure. There were times when he admitted to feeling overwhelmed by it all. It was his practice of ‘examining everything before God,’ of spending time with God on a daily basis, whatever the demands of his work, that helped him to keep things in perspective and gave him the energy to continue. It was in prayer that he found light, patience, and serenity.

“Prophetic action is the public face of mysticism,” wrote Sr. Sandra Schneiders. “Only a life of ever deepening and faithful contemplation can keep the prophet attuned to the dream of a suffering God for humanity and the earth.” Ultimately the encounter with God in prayer would lead both Jorge Bergoglio and Francis Libermann to a profound love for the poor, to share a worldview seen from the perspective of the marginalized and excluded, and to a deep commitment to create a more equal world where the dignity of all is respected and treasured. “If you are full of the love of God … you will be profoundly touched at the sight of the misery of the people among whom you find yourself; consequently it will be in your thoughts always, day and night; you will be weary to the point of exhaustion. You will pray to God to enlighten you and to touch them; you will look for a way to bring them out of this blindness and without a doubt you will find a thousand ways of procuring the good of these souls…”(Provisional Rule, Chapter 10, Article VIII, Glossary). 

Prayer then is not a peripheral activity for us as Spiritans, relegated to occasional free moments in an otherwise very busy schedule; it is at the very heart of our mission to serve the poor in the footsteps of our Founders.

“Let us cultivate the contemplative dimension, even amid the whirlwind of more urgent and heavy duties. And the more mission calls you to go out to the margins of existence, let your heart be more closely united to Christ’s heart, full of mercy and love,” urges Pope Francis.

May the Spirit of Pentecost come to help us in our weakness when we do not know how to pray as we ought to ; may the Spirit continue to shape our personal and community lives (SRL 10), lead us along new missionary paths (SRL 85) and enable us to hear his voice speaking to us through the Church, through our environment and the world in which we live (SRL 44.1).

Fr. John Fogarty, C.S.Sp
Superior General

Leave a comment

Posted by on May 13, 2015 in Spiritan Mission


Goodbye Bishop ‘Brother Vin’ Ezeonyia


“Quidquid initium habet, finem habet”, whatever has a beginning has an end. In the early hours of the 8th day of February 2015, death brought to an abrupt end the life of our confrere and the only Spiritan bishop in Nigeria, Most Rev. Vincent Ezeonyia, CSSp.  His demise is simply heartbreaking!

The soft spoken doctor of the Classics was ordained a Catholic priest on 3rd August 1968. He was elected to be a bishop by Pope John Paul II on 2nd April 1990 with the creation of the Catholic diocese of Aba from Umuahia diocese.

On 1 July 1990, he was ordained a Bishop by Archbishop Paul Fouad Naïm Tablet the Titular Archbishop of Sinna with Late Bishop A.G. Nwedo CSSp and Late Archbishop A.K. Obiefuna of Onitsha Archdiocese as co-consecrators.

“Brother Vin”, as he is fondly called in Spiritan circles, took canonical possession of the Catholic diocese of Aba on 2nd July 1990 in a ceremony of episcopal installation at Christ the King Cathedral Aba.

A man of aesthetics and modesty and a Spiritan to the core, lived strictly by the motto of his episcopacy namely: “to serve with joy.” Until his death, he amiably and joyfully served the people of God in his diocese. With the same joyful spirit, he attends every Spiritan event in Nigeria, wherein he humbly shares pleasantries with all confreres and prefers to be addressed as “Brother Vin”.

We will surely miss him! May his gentle and beautiful soul rest in perfect peace. Amen!

Leave a comment

Posted by on February 9, 2015 in Spiritan Mission


Tags: , , ,

Superior General Christmas Message 2014

Remember the wonders the Lord has done…(Ps. 105,5)



On September 7th this year, I had the privilege of participating in the ceremony which marked the closure of the 150th anniversary celebrations of the founding of the Spiritan ommunity at Chevilly-Larue in France. In 1863 Fr. Ignace Schwindenhammer, with the help of his own patrimony, purchased a hunting lodge on the outskirts of Paris belonging to the nobility of the day and transformed it into a home for future Spiritan missionaries and for the Superior General of a Congregation dedicated to the service of the poor. Written by the lives of ordinary, simple Spiritans, Brothers and priests, and their collaborators, the story of Chevilly is truly a remarkable one. It is the story of successive generations of formators and professors who through their wisdom and witness shaped the lives of some 4000 missionaries who in turn founded, formed and inspired flourishing Christian communities across the globe; more recently it is the story of the evolution of a community, once uniquely dedicated to the formation of young missionaries who left for foreign lands, into a home for them when they finally return due to old age or illness and when their mission takes on a new form, perhaps more important than when they were young and active, that of accepting their limitations with faith, dignity and joy and witnessing to God’s healing and transforming presence in a world in need of hope and meaning.

The 150 anniversary of the founding of the community at Chevilly was but one of a series of similar events that took place in different parts of the Spiritan world in 2013 and 2014. These included the establishment of the Catholic Church on the island of Zanzibar; the opening of St. Mary’s College in Port-of-Spain, Trinidad, and the beginning of Spiritan presence on the island; the founding of Rockwell College, Ireland; the arrival of Spiritan missionaries and the foundation of the local Church in Sierra Leone, West Africa, where the celebrations envisaged for November 2014 have been postponed indefinitely due to the tragic outbreak of the Ebola virus; coincidentally, 2014 is also the 150th anniversary of the death of Blessed Jacques Laval in Mauritius. These various anniversaries reflect a period of extraordinary diversification and international expansion of the Congregation after the death of Francis Libermann and, consequently, the imaginative and courageous decisions taken with very limited resources by his gifted, if controversial, successor, Fr. Schwindenhammer. His period in office (1852-1881) incredibly saw 79 new foundations, 33 of which were in Europe or the United States, 25 in the West Indies and other former colonies, and the remainder in Africa. Several of these new foundations were actually seminaries, colleges or agricultural schools, and many were dedicated to the education and training of underprivileged young people in the society of the day.

It is very important that we commemorate and celebrate these and other significant milestones in our Spiritan history, particularly in the context of our current reflection on our identity as Spiritans. In the first place, memory is essential to our identity as the people of God. “Remember the wonders that the Lord has done,” the Psalmist invites us (Ps. 105,5). The role of the Holy Spirit is precisely to remind us of all that the Lord has done in and through our human story, to help us discover the presence and action of God shaping his plan of love through the fabric of our human history, through the lives and actions of ordinary men and women, despite their limitations and mistakes.

As so many of the Gospel parables tell us, memories of our experience of God’s compassion, love and forgiveness in our own personal lives lead us in turn to be compassionate, loving and forgiving towards our brothers and sisters. Faith and memory are very closely linked; forgetfulness is often at the root of our failures. “Never forget the goodness of the Lord” (Ps. 103,2).

Secondly, as we recall memories of the past and the stories of those who have gone before us, we get in touch once again with our own deepest motivations as missionary religious, with what unites us most profoundly with our brothers and sisters in the Spiritan family, the call and the charism we share in common. We realize how much we owe both personally and collectively to those who have preceded us, to their inspiration, their vision and their courage. We are reminded once again that God can truly do wonderful things through the lives of ordinary men and women who are conscious of their own limitations but open to the power of the Holy Spirit. We discover that human weakness and failure are not necessarily an obstacle to God’s grace or to the effectiveness of our witness; as Pope Francis pointed out in his address to Superior Generals in November 2013, “a religious who recognizes himself as weak and a sinner does not negate the witness he is called to give, rather he reinforces it and this is good for everyone.”(“Wake up the World,” Antonio Spadaro, S.J., p.3).

I recently visited the Province of Canada in Quebec which has this intriguing motto: “Je me souviens (I remember).” “This motto has only three words,” explained historian Thomas Chapais, “but these three words are worth more than the most eloquent speeches. Yes, we remember. We remember the past and its lessons, the past and its misfortunes, the past and its glories…(This motto) says so eloquently in three words the past as well as the present and the future,” adds archivist Pierre-Georges Roy. Memory not only concerns the past. The way we remember the past determines to a large extent how we live in the present and actually shapes our future. Just as negative memories of hurt and injustice affect the way we perceive the world, our relationships with others and our capacity for enjoyment, and to a very real extent limit the possibilities for our future, so positive memories of the experience of love, of acceptance, of the inspiration and support of others, equally colour our ability to relate to our brothers and sisters and shape our future in a positive way. “Memories of love make possible all our achievements,” said Mr. William Dietrich, the American philanthropist, as he gave away his vast fortune in 2011 to various educational institutions in Pittsburgh. “They give us the confidence to take risks and reach beyond ourselves.”

Margaret Silf, the British writer, expresses the same conviction in a different way:

“Everything that has happened to and in (this place) has made it what it is today, which in turn is the seed of everything it has the potential to become…our history matters- our collective stories and personal ones. When we listen to our memories, we expose hidden layers of who we are. We have a sacred duty to share our treasure with those who follow. If we don’t, we risk becoming one-dimensional beings with no depth beyond the immediate impulse, no hinterland to lend perspective, and a very diminished sense of who we are. Let us tell our stories. They are our gift to the future.”(Compass Points, p. 208).

In the words of Pope Francis: “Tradition and the memory of the past must help us to have the courage to open up new areas to God” (Interview with Antonio Spadaro, S.J., August 2013). We will shortly celebrate the foundational story of our Christian faith, the coming of the Son of God among us, divesting himself of status and dignity and identifying himself totally with our human condition, thus opening up a new future for humanity. May the commemoration of this extraordinary event deepen our awareness of our call as Spiritans to identify with and share the lives of those on the margins of contemporary society, giving them new hope and dignity; may it give us, as it gave those who preceded us, the courage to open up in our hearts, in our communities and in our Congregation “new areas to God.”

John Fogarty, C.S.Sp.

Superior General

Leave a comment

Posted by on December 10, 2014 in Newsroom


Tags: , , , , , , ,

Remembering Our Great Founder

**Anthony ISAH, CSSp**


The mission and apostolic priority as conceived by Claude Poullart Des Places for over three centuries is the story of thousands of Spiritans; priests, brothers and lay persons who have forgone society’s aspirations to power, prestige, and wealth. Rather, they made and continue to make profound sacrifices to minister to the poor and the disadvantaged. They have crossed economic, social, cultural, racial and ethnic boundaries as they proclaim the Good News in diverse parts of the world.

The Spiritan International Formation community Attakwu (SIFCA) and all her associates have gathered together in solidarity and love to commemorate our 54th Independence Day as a nation as well as the death anniversary of our noble founder whose story and humble beginning cannot be forgotten especially in our context as a nation where the poor are grossly marginalized. The story of this young Breton is key to the mission and apostolic priority of the Holy Ghost Congregation.

History of Claude Poullart des Places
Claude Poullart Des Places (1679-1709) founded the Congregation of the Holy Ghost in 1703, for the purpose of preparing missionaries for the most abandoned souls, whether in Christian or pagan countries. He was a young holy ecclesiastic of noble Breton birth and of brilliant talents, who, three years previously, in the twenty-first year of his age, had given up the bright prospects of a parliamentary lawyer to embrace the ecclesiastical state. From the very beginning of his ecclesiastical studies he manifested a particular attraction for lowly and neglected works of charity. This unique and special attraction for the lowly, the poor and the neglected of the society as manifested by Claude Poullart Des Places constitute the base of our mission priority.

Claude Poullart Des Places became especially interested in poor, deserving student on whom he frequently spent all his own private means and as much as he could collect from his friends. With a dozen of these gathered round him, he opened the Seminary of the Holy Ghost, which afterwards developed into a religious society. The work grew rapidly; but the labours and anxieties connected with the foundation proved too much for the frail health of the founder. When but thirty years of age, in the second year of his priesthood, Father Poullart des Places died on October 2, 1709.

His only concern was how he could best follow Jesus Christ and imitates Him in working, suffering, and striving constantly and single-mindedly for the greater glory of God and the salvation of souls. With great sensitivity to the signs of the times, he committed himself to combat social evils by practicing poverty and renouncing all power, especially the power of money and ambition. He set his missionary service in line with the redemption, promotion and liberation of his neighbour, even at the risk of his own life, thus, continuing in time the saving love of Christ. He felt called to an evangelization of the poor rather than to other forms of ecclesial services.


Our Mission and Apostolic Priority
Mission along the lines defined by the Spiritan Rule of Life no. 4 is central to our apostolic priority, which states that: “The evangelization of the ‘poor’ (cf Lk 4:18) is our purpose (cf N.D. XIII, 170) therefore, we go especially to peoples, groups and individuals who have not yet heard the message of the gospel or who have scarcely heard it, to those whose needs are the greatest, and to the oppressed (cf N.D. II, 241). We also willingly accept tasks for which the Church has difficulty in finding workers.
The evangelization of the poor is our priority; fidelity to this commitment, which is at the heart of the charism we have inherited from our founders, is what truly defines our mission as Spiritans. We take Claude Poullart des Places and Francis Libermann as our inspirations and founding fathers and, together with the institutes they founded, make up the Spiritan Family.

Our way of mission also consists of community life; it is the strongest symbol of who we are,our foremost form of evangelization and of experiencing God (Torre d’Aguila 13.4.2).  Prayer nourishes the life of the community and the mission which it has received. Des Places knew how essential it was to favour mutual understanding, for him “the life of our missionaries is a community life; they must never remain isolated” (ND VI, p. 438). But, he also knew the difficulties due to character and cultural differences. For communities to be “cor unum et anima una”, the import of prayer, which is the point of departure and arrival of all missionary activity was needed. Evangelization is done to generate Christian community; it is the way we do mission. It is by living in community that the Spiritans show signs of the objective of mission and apostolic priority.

Our mission is linked to our identity and our personal and community relationship with the Lord, our relationship to one another as friends in the Lord, our solidarity with the poor and marginalised, and a life style responsible to creation are all important aspects of our priorities as Spiritans. They authenticate what we proclaim and what we do in fulfilling our mission. The privileged place of this collective witness is our life in community, Thus, Spiritan community is not just for mission: it is itself mission.

Our Mission Priority vis-à-vis Our Nigerian Experience
Contextually, we find in many parts of Nigeria, churches where lies, heresy, half-truth are fed to the increasingly spiritually hungry congregants, who are encouraged to depend on the leaders for their spiritual blessings and uplift. The vessel is now the focus, the men of God have become the gods of men and worst still, the people of God often enjoyed being told what they wanted to hear and abhor the very few messages and messengers who tell them what they should hear.

The very people who are to keep the church are the same people who have led the schemes that have brought it down to its knees; the same people who are to help build the church to stop the gates of hell from prevailing are the very ones who have made become the gateway of hell for those who are gullible. The leaders of the church have become the real enemies of the church in our modern time. They have helped build a church that has grown massively in size as much as in ungodliness.

Each time we commemorate the death anniversary of Claude Poullart Des Places, it gives us the opportunity to rediscover our own personal inspiration in re-reading and re-living the stories of the early Spiritan pioneers: Spiritans such as Fr. Allenou, a canon in Quebec who gave everything he owned for the poor and died in the “odour of sanctity”; Bishop Kerhervé of Indo-China, whose Episcopal wardrobe consisted of an old cassock and a worn-out pair of shoes; Fr. Maillard, whose secret of success among the Micmac Indians is ascribed to the fact that he identified totally with the lifestyle of the people he served; Bishop Pottier of China who wrote. “The fewer needs we create for ourselves, the richer we are”; Fr. Lanoë, a missionary in Guyana who stated: “I would like to see us here ‘one heart and one soul’ without that wretched ‘mine and yours’ which causes so many disorders”.

Each of us can certainly add other more contemporary names of Spiritans who have provided personal inspiration to us on our Spiritan journey and who have helped us to remain faithful to our Spiritan mission and apostolic priority.

Finally, one of the ways of re-calling, renewing and re-living our unique Spiritan mission and apostolic priority is by genuinely challenging one another not by much talk and empty criticism but by the quality of our lives, especially our attitude to the poor. There is a need to return to our Spiritan origins and to rebuild anew. Hence, just like Des Places, we are all enjoined to be people of impeccable characters and religious who would be able put their lives on the line for the sake of the Gospel.

Editor’s note: Anthony ISAH, CSSp is a student of theology at the Spiritan International School of Theology (SIST). We thank him for this beautiful piece.

Leave a comment

Posted by on October 3, 2014 in Spiritan Mission


Priestly Ordination 2014

It was July 19, 2014! The priestly ordination of our confrere Rev. Vincent Odili, CSSp took place at Holy Rosary Catholic Church, Utagba-Ogbe, Kwale, Delta State, Nigeria. Ordaining prelate was Bishop John Afareha of Warri diocese.

Present at this glorious event were priest/scholastic confreres led by our able Provincial Superior Fr. Hyacinth Ogbodo, CSSp.

The Odili family, friends and well wishers came out en masse to joyfully thank God for the gift of religious priestly vocation.

To our latest priest confrere, Fr. Vincent Odili, CSSp, we say Congratulations!



God bless Spiritans!

Leave a comment

Posted by on July 23, 2014 in Spiritan Mission