The Superior’s Address to General Council
The Sodality meets for our General Council at the end of our retreat each year.
This year the Superior’s Address was given by Assistant Superior Mother Imogen Black:
Assistant Superior’s Report
Aylesford Priory, 17th May 2018
As I read Fr Richard’s report from last year my heart sank – there is no way that I can match his bubbling enthusiasm, and I’m not going to try.
So what is there to say? Well, we continue to grow. We have made inroads into the Seminaries, and have a number of Aspirants to be ordained this Petertide. Do please pray for them, and attend ordinations and first Masses if you can – some of them have already advertised their ordination details on our Facebook page, but we will endeavour to produce, as last year, a Sodality Ember card providing a complete list. Such growth is very promising, but we can’t rest on our laurels – the turnover at Seminary is very quick, so each year we will need to develop new contacts.
We’ve also had noticeable growth in the Church in Wales; they’re less well-known to many of us, having been, for the most part, admitted in Wales, but we look forward to seeing them at our major events in the year ahead. There have even been some admittances in Australia, with interest in the States as well. We have yet to work out quite what these will mean in practice – it is all very well to call ourselves dispersed, but as there is little likelihood of Australian Sodalists attending Sodality events in Britain, and vice versa, there needs to be some thought as to how we can remain one community with one charism, rather than simply going our separate ways. As I speak, Fr Michael Bowie is in Australia, hence his absence from this gathering; and it was his intention to make contact with our brethren while he was out there.
We continue to grow, also, in more than simply numbers. We have given away so many Manuals that we have none left, so the Council have decided to produce a second edition, correcting a few mistakes, and rewriting those paragraphs which no longer apply – chiefly our Admissions rite, which has gone through several versions, as we have acquired first badges then scapulars. In case you are worried, the changes are not vast – and it is, in fact, the new edition which is already being published daily on Facebook. Mentioning Facebook, the daily publication of sections of the Manual and the Prayer List has been an excellent development, and thanks are due to all those who have made this possible.
There is still, however, much more to do. The question of lay involvement in the Sodality has been around since the beginning, and is not yet satisfactorily answered. You will have seen Fr Richard’s suggestion a while back; and Fr John-Francis has another idea to bring to the table today. It is a matter which requires some serious thought; and there are quite a range of possibilities. I would encourage you, particularly if lay people have spoken to you about wishing to be involved, to speak to them about exactly what they are looking for: it’s easier to work with real people and their real desires (which is what, of course, we were when we first met) than with theoretical possibilities.
There is also, in all this, quite a serious question of charism. We have established ourselves, from the outset, as a community of priests, and though our focus is holiness, we see that through a priestly lens. What would a group of lay people, who have no sense of calling to ordination, have made of our talks this week? Would they have enjoyed them as much as we, or would they have felt that it was all very interesting, but a bit tangential to their own lives?
Speaking of charism, it is probably fair to say that our self-understanding as a community and our aspirations are not yet totally fixed. We are still discovering who we are, which is no bad thing. But as we develop, we do need to keep returning to our Manual as it stands, reminding ourselves why we came into existence, and what is truly important to us. This matters, because there are already those who seek to draw us away from our stated aims. I am not, I hasten to say, speaking of any Sodalist – but only a week before I came here I was contacted by someone out of the blue, who wanted me to speak on behalf of the Sodality on an issue. That may sound fine, in fact it might sound just the sort of publicity we want, until I tell you that the person was trying to draw us into a parochial conflict, to get us onto a particular side. We don’t play politics – there are other places people can go if they want to do that. We are in the business of holiness, not of taking sides.
It remains just for me to say thank you: to our speaker, Mthr Marjorie, for her excellent talks – a great resource for us as we continue our pastoral ministry. To Fr Robert, for his thoughtful homilies and wise presence. To Fr Richard, who has given us the vision to be what we are. And to you all, without whom our Sodality would not exist. Unus Christianus, nullus Christianus.
O Jesus, living in Mary,
come and live in thy servants,
in the spirit of thy holiness,
in the fullness of thy might,
in the truth of thy virtues,
in the perfection of thy ways,
in the communion of thy mysteries.
Subdue every hostile power in thy Spirit,
for the glory of the Father.
Mthr Imogen Black SMMS