Nature and Purpose of a General Chapter
It is the supreme authority of the Congregation, exercised in a collegial and temporary way.
It is the only assembly of the Congregation with “legislative power,” which is conferred on it by the Church and the Constitutions. Its deliberations are valid for the whole Congregation.
It is an assembly qualified to elect the Superior General and her Council - a governing team with executive power conferred on it by the Church and the Constitutions, by virtue of which it can ask the members of the Institute to observe the Constitutions and carry out the choices made by the Chapter.
- The Institute carries out its mission in the Church and as a service to her vitality.
- By its nature, a charism belongs to the whole People of God, not just to the hundreds or thousands of members that make up the Institute. The latter safeguard the charism but do not “own” it.
- Thus the whole People of God has the right and duty to protect this part of its patrimony-a right and duty exercised by the hierarchy of the Church in the name of all its members.
- During a General Chapter, an Institute adopts an attitude of listening-first and foremost to the Word of God.
- It is important that a General Chapter take steps to ensure that all the members of the Institute are heard, both in preparing for the Chapter and in holding it.
- Humility is needed to recognize that the Spirit of God, the One to whom the charism ultimately “belongs,” is giving the Institute’s charism new forms of expression-forms that its members never dared to dream of.
- The Chapter members are “delegates” who carry out their function in the name of all the members of the Institute.
- A Chapter is a collegialand communitarian Collegial in its functioning, which means that the decisions of the Chapter are made by a college of lawfully-designated participants. Communitarian, because it is an expression of the life of the whole Congregation.
- A Chapter is both a time of listening and a time of dialogue. Thus it is an exercise in docility to God.
- A General Chapter is a time in which an Institute redefines its identity by means of concrete decisions that involve renewing the meaning of one’s vocation, recognition that the Institute carries out a specific mission and, in many cases, admission of the need for conversion and the commitment to strive for this in daily life
- A Chapter would be useless if the Institute did not make it its own.
- An Institute should emerge from a Chapter re-evangelized, inculturated, and thus refounded and revitalized because it has been re-established in a fresh way on Christ, its cornerstone.