XVI Chapter – 1967, Roma

08/1967 – I Ses. | 09/1968 – II Ses. – 155 Brothers participants

La Santísima Virgen en la vida del Hermano marista – Doc Word (200 kb)This was the Chapter that attempted to respond to Church’s call to update (“aggiornare” in Italian) the charism and the basic regulatory norms of the Institute. Given the great importance of the work that was confided to it, and considering that the Institute had never before experienced such a daunting task – revising everything in the light of Vatican II – this Chapter took two sessions to accomplish its mission. In his Circulars prior to the Chapter, Br. Charles Raphael had foreseen this: “The challenging work before us will take a long time to accomplish, and it will probably require two sessions.”The Chapter ended with the publication of a text called Constitutions “Ad Experimentum,” a Directory, and a series of documents covering the proposed Constitutions in greater detail.That Chapter was of paramount importance for our Institute. The doors were opened to excellent initiatives, responding to what Br. Basilio Rueda, in a Circular published between the sessions, referred to as “The calls of the Church and the world” to the Little Brothers of Mary. But this also became a time when a series of pre-existing personal and community shortcomings were exposed, structural weaknesses that a more rigid and less open form of government had swept under the institutional rug. We lived through the crisis of seeing many Brothers leave the Institute. 1401 brothers left between 1969 and 1971. This was another reality that Br. Charles Raphael had foreseen and commented on during the 1960’s.However, the enthusiasm unleashed by the recently concluded Second Vatican Council, together with the growing prophetic witness of local and regional Churches, excited the Brothers. Many took to heart the intention of Br. Basilio when he became Superior General: “I will use my influence and energy to guide the Institute more so than ever before towards the poor and the missions.” (Cf. Circular of July 15, 1968)When he convoked the new General Chapter of 1976, Br. Basilio took stock of the years that had elapsed. He noted that on a level with the vigorous new forms of Marist life made possible by unselfish initiatives, there was a also a tendency to look for an easier, more comfortable way of life, based on personal whims. At the First General Conference of Provincials in 1971, reference was made to a certain anarchy taking hold in some sectors of the Institute. The changes called for by the (‘67-68) Chapter, and reiterated by the Superior General in his Meditating Aloud with Provincials, were not to consist of “doing the opposite of whatever had been done before, simply rejecting the past. Rather, changes were necessary to confront a world in the throes of social transformation.” He felt that “in the midst of an endless search for answers and much experimentation that an accelerating pace of change has brought upon us, there is a need to discern those things that we must hold on to, and those that we have to cast aside.” (Circular for Convoking the 17th General Chapter)