Twenty-one Brothers from across the Province attended the Assembly, hosted by the Alexian Brothers Community in Signal Mountain, TN, between September 8 and September 12.
"It was a very rewarding, productive event," said Provincial Brother Dan McCormick, CFA. "I left the Assembly feeling the most positive I have felt in the seven years I have been provincial."
Brother Richard Lowe, CFA, director of the Alexian Brothers Community in Signal Mountain, "did a stellar job" organizing the Assembly and accommodating visiting Brothers, Brother Dan said. He also praised Brother John Howard, CFA, director of the Alexian Brothers Community in Milwaukee, and his team of Brothers for their work in planning liturgies for the assembly. The entire event occurred at the Brothers residence in Signal Mountain, which provided a warm, family-like environment conducive to meaningful discussions, Brother Dan said.
During the Assembly, Lowe challenged his fellow Brothers to describe what the Brothers' motto - Caritas Christi Urget Nos, or the Love of Christ Compels Us" - means to them and their communities and how they put it into action everyday. "We went around the room, and every Brother spoke," Brother Dan said. "Brothers who historically have been reluctant to share their feelings were open about them this time. There were a lot of sharing, and there were some misty eyes as we talked about our previous lives and the conversion experiences that got us into religious life. We talked about the issues that call us together. Why did we become Brothers? What in our community life enhances that? And what are the challenges we face?"
The principal challenge facing the Brothers continues to be determining their individual roles and establishing new ministries now that the Brothers' role has been reduced at the Alexian Brothers Health System, which Ascension acquired in 2012. "After Alexian Brothers Health System became part of Ascension, a number of Brothers felt lost because their duties at our institutions defined who they were," Brother Dan said.
The Brothers discussed this ongoing challenge extensively at the Assembly, reaffirming their commitment to a mindset that Brother Dan has emphasized in recent years. "First and foremost, I am a Brother because God wants me to be a Brother," he said, "I might happen to be a clinical skill or educational qualifications that enable me to do something in particular, but that should not define me." Brother Dan added, "It's not about what you do. it's about who you become. It's about becoming the best person that God wants you to be."
In tackling this challenge, the Brothers "are not redefining ourselves," Brother Dan said. "We are returning to how we've been defined for eight centuries. Without day-to-day- responsibilities at our health-care institutions, we can engage again with who we truly are: vowed religious men with a passion for God and the poorest of his children."
Returning to the Brothers' roots has produced several new ministries, such as an outreach ministry serving isolated and vulnerable older adults in Chattanooga, TN and a 'presence ministry" through which the Brothers provide comfort, support, and guidance to clients, patients, residents, and family members at their namesake facilities in Chicago's northwest suburbs and Milwaukee.
The Brothers also spend considerable time talking about vocations, with Brother Zeke Mapa, CFA, US director of vocations, presenting an encouraging report about the Brothers' efforts to increase awareness of their Congregation and to attract men who have religious vocations. Aided by a strong media presence and an engaging website that has drawn praise from some leaders of other Catholic men religious orders, the Brothers have enjoyed greater vocation success than many orders in recent years, often atrracting men who have discovered a religious vocation later in life. "Ninety-five percent of our vocations leads come from social media connections," Brother Dan said.
Other discussions at the Assembly focused on the potential for a new Alexian Brothers mission in East Timor, a poor nation in southeast Asia, as well as the construction of an Alexian Brothers center for the homeless in Davao City in the Philippines.
The Alexian Brothers of the Philippines, whose mission is part of the Immaculate Conception Province, are in the midst of a year long discernment period of discernment focused on how best to address the needs of the people of East Timor. Brother Dan has written to the Bishop of East Timor, and he has invited the Brothers to establish a mission there. "It's very much a live project for us," Brother Dan said.
Construction of the center for the homeless is expected to be completed by the end of 1919. It will function as a drop-in facility where the homeless can shower, wash their clothes, eat meals, receive medical care, and access social services. The Brothers for a while considered offering overnight accomodations at the center but opted instead to design a center so that it could be expanded at a minimal cost to accommodate overnight guests in the future.
Brother Alexius Siska, CFA, director of the Alexian Brothers Community in Gyorujbarat, Hungary, which is also a part of the Immaculate Conception Province, provided an update at the Assembly about the planned expansion of St. Elizabeth of Hungary Home for the Elderly. At the tie of the Assembly, the Brothers were awaiting governmental approval of one final permit before the expansion project could begin, Brother Alexius said. The project will involve converting the Brothers' residence in Gyorujbarat into an extension of the adjacent home for the elderly and building a separate residence for the Brothers at a nearby site.
Trough their discussions at the Assembly, the Brothers arrived at four important conclusions about their future, Brother Dan said. 'We are not afraid of the future; we are intrigued by the challenges it hold; our duty is to God, the Church and our congregation; we are to be Brothers to one another before we do anything else," he said.