Brother Philip Pinto began his first talk on Emerging Spirituality in Religious Life with a poem by Henry Nouwen...
You have an idea of what the new country looks like. Still you are
very much at home, although not truly at peace, in the old country.
. . Now you have come to realize that you must leave it and enter the
new country, where your Beloved dwells. You know that what
helped and guided you in the old country no longer works, but what
else do you have to go by? You are being asked to trust that you will
find what you need in the new country. That requires the death of
what has become so precious to you: influence, success, yes, even
affection and praise.
- Henry Nouwen (Enter the New Country)
Fresh from his six-month Immersion in Perú, Brother Robert Droel now finds himself on another international adventure in a new country: India. Since mid-October, he has been taking part in a six-week program with 20 Religious Brothers and Sisters who are discerning and preparing for their Final Profession of Religious Vows.
The international group consists of Presentation Sisters, Sisters of the Good Shepherd, Loreto Sisters, and Daughters of the Cross from India, Singapore, and Sri Lanka, as well as five Edmund Rice Christian Brothers. In addition to Br. Rob, Brothers Jerry Ekka and Vinod Topno are from the Indian Province and Bro. Desmond Taboeya and Francis ToLiman hail from Papua New Guinea (Oceania Province). Br. Philip Pinto (former Congregation Leader) is in charge of the program, along with Sr. Alba Rodrigues (Presentation Sister), and Andrew Pinto (Edmundian). The schedule consists of a diverse lineup of weekly presenters covering a range of topics such as Community (Nonviolent Communication), Ministry (Community Engagement), Mission (Advocacy & Rights Based Education), Prayer (Journaling & Dream Work), Spirituality (New Cosmology & Feminine Energy), and Vows (Wellness & Human Sexuality). The program, which lasts until the end of November, will conclude with a seven-day retreat.
The setting of the program is the 12-acre, sprawling green campus of St. Edmund’s College (est. 1924) in Shillong, where the local Brothers’ community has provided outstanding hospitality. Shillong, in Northeast India, is a city of about 50% Christians in a country where Christians are only about 2% of the population. Compare that to Perú, which is over 90% Christian and 75% Catholic. That being said, there are 20 million Catholics in India!
In addition to prayer, spiritual direction, presentations, and group discussions, the program has allowed for the building of a temporary international community of Brothers and Sisters for this month-and-a-half, during which the joys and struggles of community life are made real and the emerging spirituality of religious life is put into practice. It has been an experiment in synodality journeying together as the People of God with deep listening to each other and to the Spirit.
Outside of reflecting deeply on their lived experiences as temporary professed, participants have shared countless meals together (lots of rice and curry) and have celebrated Catholic feasts such as All Saints (by visiting the cemetery where Brothers are buried) and Christ the King (which was celebrated weeks early, with a procession of tens-of-thousands of people from dozens of parishes) as well as the Hindu Diwali (Festival of Lights). Also, a very moving daytrip was made to a remote village, where Brother Vinod and two other Brothers started a “Journeying Together Community” in response to the 2014 Chapter Calls.
Rob is very much enjoying the collaborative nature of the peer program and the opportunity to again experience the internationality of the Congregation to be brother to the world. After a thirty-fourth birthday and Christmas with family in Chicago, he cannot wait to return to Perú at the start of the new year and God-willing, to be a perpetually professed Edmund Rice Christian Brother by the end of it.
The Christian Brothers’ Constitutions and Statutes call for “a period of special preparation for perpetual profession” “so that it can be celebrated with understanding, freedom, and joy.” Having made his first profession in 2018, Rob will be eligible to apply for final profession next year. He is grateful for continued prayers (for himself and his fellow participants) from members of the Edmund Rice Network as he journeys with Brother Kevin Bernard (87th Street Community, Burbank, Illinois) during this period.