SCOTTSDALE, ARIZONA (August 16, 2017). The annual assembly of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM), whose leaders represent more than 17,000 Catholic religious brothers and priests in the United States, was held August 1–4, 2017, in Scottsdale, Arizona. At the opening event participants heard the first of four spiritual reflections presented by the Brother Stephen Glodek, SM, of the Marianist Province of the United States in St. Louis, MO, who provided daily spiritual reflections on the theme of the assembly, “All Brothers – Mediators of God’s Love.” Beginning with a reflection on the foundational vocation of the Brother as men “abiding in God,” Br. Glodek asserted that brothers serve as doorkeepers of male religious life. On each of the following days, he then referred to brothers as a face of the covenant with God’s people, to the identity and mission directly reflected in the very name “brother,” and to brothers encountering persons at the peripheries of grace who may “appear to us as the foreigner and the enemy.”
In the first of the two keynote addresses at the assembly, Brother John Mark Falkenhain, OSB, a monk of Saint Meinrad Archabbey, delivered a presentation entitled, “The Mission and Charism of the Religious Brother: An Uncomplicated Witness.” Br. John Mark challenged major superiors to examine how they might put the charism of their institutes in the primary place as an “uncomplicated witness,” musing on the rightfully positive commitment of members both for identity and for mission and speculated about how institutes of both lay and clerical members might benefit if all special formation for ministry were delayed until new members make a final commitment to communion in the charism. He admonished brothers in institutes “to be aware of the dignity of your call as consecrated religious in the Church, but to strive to live it with the greatest zeal.”
Father James Heft, SM, formerly chair of the Theology Department at the University of Dayton and now president of the Institute for Advance Catholic Studies at the University of Southern California, was the second major speaker at the assembly. His talk was entitled “The Common Brotherhood of Religious Life.” With reference to the development of religious charisms, Father Heft provided the attendees with a reflection both upon the gifts of the Holy Spirit imparted to founders of institutes and upon the dynamic role of laity in the development of religious institutes for the sake of mission. He cited two recent influential Church documents, one from the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith on the importance of charismatic and prophetic gifts in the Church and a second document issued by the Congregation for Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life on the identity and mission of the religious brother. The second document strongly supported the importance of the quality of community life in the vocation of the lay religious. Fr. Heft concluded with reference to five areas pointing to a more positive future for religious brothers which single out the great charismatic gift that the brotherhood is for the Church: the centrality of Baptism; vibrant communities of prayer; prophetic ministries; uniform dress that distinguishes the role; and, a “Marian style of evangelization” which is both prophetic and contemplative.
In his address to the assembly as President of the Conference, the Very Rev. Brian F. Terry, SA, spoke of his conviction regarding the mission and purpose of the Conference as it serves leadership and thus enables strong mission in relation to a multifaceted, universal Church that embraces a “coessential charismatic dimension of faith” witnessed to in religious institutes. He invited two members of the Executive Committee, Very Rev. Joseph Rodrigues, SDS, and Brother Larry Schatz, FSC, to contribute their observations on the workings of the CMSM as a Conference in relation to the other dimensions of the Church.
Brother Sean D. Sammon, FMS, a Marist Brother of the Schools, facilitated a panel discussion at the conclusion of the assembly in which the theme of the assembly was explored in conversation with three young men who, having experienced education with Marist Brothers, articulated both what they saw and what they learned about this way of living discipleship. Their comments allowed a new generation of young Catholics to address leadership and share what they see in the Church, in their peers, and in the men committed to religious life who taught or interacted with them.
A pre-assembly workshop entitled, “Model Procedures for Review Boards: A Practical Application,” was led by Brother Patrick Sean Moffett, CFC, Ph.D., who facilitated a conversation between the participants and a number of panelists. The workshop sought to help assure consistency in the utilization of Review Boards and to insure the highest level of confidence that child-care industry standards regarding the protection and safety of children and young people are being utilized.
At the membership meeting of the assembly, the members considered and overwhelmingly approved a resolution on nonviolence entitled “Gospel Nonviolence: The Way of the Church.” The resolution states: “The Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) resolves to use both our individual charisms and experience as religious leaders to 1) significantly build up nonviolent practices and a culture of nonviolence; and 2) to invite Pope Francis to offer an encyclical on nonviolence, which would include a shift to a just peace approach for transforming conflict.”
During the elections which were held at the membership meeting of the assembly, CMSM members chose the Very Rev. Mark Padrez, O.P., Provincial of the Dominican Province of the Most Holy Name of Jesus, as President-Elect of the Conference. He will be installed as President at the conclusion of the 2018 assembly. Brother Larry Schatz, FSC, Provincial of the De La Salle Christian Brothers of the Midwest Province, was chosen as Vice President and he immediately began a two-year term. The CMSM membership also elected an At-Large member of the National Board: the Very Rev. Michael Thompson, CJ, Superior General of St. Joseph’s Society of the Sacred Heart (The Josephites). He begins a three-year term.