34th AGM OF THE I.S.B.F HELD AT NAVAJEEVAN PRIORY

FROM
06.02.2007 TO 10.02.2007

Participants
INDIA: MEN

01 Fr. Abbot John K
President
Abbot St. Thomas' Monastery
02. Fr. Anselm P.- Superior, Benhill
03. Fr. Benny K. - Vanashram
04. Fr. Bino C. - Carlos Dayara
05. Fr. Chacko T. Superior, Vansharam
06. Fr. Clement E.- Superior, Jeevan Jyothi Ashram
07. Fr. Devasia V.- Superior, Ashir Sadan
08. Fr. Francis K. Superior, Maryland Benedictine Ashram
09. Fr. George. N- Superior, Shantivanam
10. Fr. James M. Prior, Navajeevan Benedictine Monastery
11. Fr. Jerome Superior, St. Benedict's Monastery
12. Fr. Joby M. - Gualbert Bhavan
13. Fr. Jose M. Superior, St. John's Benedictine Monastery
14. Fr. Joseph Prior, St. Michael's Benedictine Priory
15. Fr. Joy K. Member, St.Thomas' Benedictine Monastery
16. Fr. Joy O.
Treasurer
Superior, Gualbert Bhavan
17. Fr. Pio K. - St. Joseph's Monastery
18. Fr. Stephen Prior, Asirvanam Benedictine Monastery
19. Fr. Tomy T. Superior, S.K.P.S

INDIA : WOMEN

20 Mother. Teresita D'Silva Abbess Shanthi Nilayam Abbey
21. Sr. Amala R. - Shanthi Nilayam Abbey
22. Sr. Amala P.
Assitant Secretary
- St. Peter's Pontifical Institute
23. Sr. Benita Prioress, - Ashir Bhavan Priory
24. Sr. Clara Superior, - Our Lady of Light
25. Sr. Elsia Member, LDSJG Convent
26. Sr. Grace Member, - Navajyothi Benedictine Monastery
27. Sr. Inigo Roche
Vice-President
Prioress, Grace & Compassion Priory
28. Sr. Jancy Superior, - St. Scholastica's Convent
29. Sr. Karuna Superior, - House of Peace,
30. Sr. Lilly Superior, - Shanthi Bhavan
31. Sr. Lily Therese Superior, Navajyothi Benedictine Monastery
32. Sr. Lioba Superior, - Sneha Sadan
33. Sr. Mary Thomas.P - Superior, Ashir Bhavan
34. Sr. Metilda
Secretary
Superior, - St. Benedict's School of Nursing
35. Sr. Redempta - Superior, St. Benedict's Convent
36. Sr. Rose Superior, - Grace & Compassion Priory
37. Sr. Rosina Superior, - Lioba Sadan
38. Sr. Sarananda-   Shantivanam
39. Sr. Teresina Regional Superior, - LDSJG Convent
40. Sr. Xaveria Arackal- Superior, Ashirbhavan Priory

SRI LANKA

41. Sr. Swarna R.- Asst. Superior, Melville
42. Sr. Sylvester Prioress, - St Helen's Benedictine Monastery

In Attendance

43. Rt. Rev. Notker Wolf Abbot Primate, - S.Anselmo, Rome
44. Fr. Mark Butlin - Ampleforth Abbey, England
45. Sr. Narcisa Maria Pasetto Provincial, - Benedictine Sisters of the Divine Providence
R. Prefeito Angelo
Lopes. 2124 Bairro Hugo Lange
Curitiba-PR,Brasil
46. Sr. Janaina Superior, - Clara Nazario Hosabethu
Post,via Moodbidri,
Karnataka - 574 227


(Prior to the introductory session, there was the blessing of the new building where the participants were housed. This was followed by a welcome speech from Fr. James M., the Prior of Nava Jeevan Priory and concluded with Vespers.)


Arrangement of Monastic Institute Course for 2007

Introductory Session - 06.02.2007 - 21.30 hours (Ag. No.1)

The President declared the meeting open and fixed the time-table and the agenda for the A.G.M.

The Agenda included a new addition of reports from the Major/main Superiors of their Congregations and Monasteries.

A Liturgical Committee consisting of Fr. Clement, Sr. Rose and Sr. Xaveria was set up to arrange each day's liturgy.

The time-table was to include the visit of the Bishop of Vijayawada.

The session concluded.

First Session - 07.02.2007 - 9.00 Hours

1. To read and approve and pass the minutes of the 33rd AGM of the ISBF and of the 19th, 20th, 21st and 22nd Executive Council Meetings (Ag. No.2)

The minutes of the 33rd AGM and of the 19th, 20th 21st and 22nd Executive Council Meetings were read by Sr. Metilda. The minutes were passed by all members. The President enquired of the General Body as to whether it was necessary for the minutes of the Executive Council Meetings to be read out, as reference is made anyhow to each matter of importance at the AGM . The General Body decided that it would not be necessary.

2. Fr.  Mark Butlin's Talk (Ag. No 3)

Fr. Mark was then invited by the President to address the meeting. He stated the Aim's purpose as that of forming an alliance within this part of the Country by means of a sharing and consolidation with one another. He emphasized his appreciation for the setting up of the Mobile Monastic Institute. He made mention of the fact that similar units had been set up in the Philippines and in Nigeria, while the Institute of St. Anne had been set up for the benefit of French speaking monasteries. Each of the above mentioned Institute had their own special individual thrust. It is hoped that the present monastic Institute in India will evolve in a similar manner.

The Monastic Formators programme was run in Rome until 2005, had members hailing from 22 different Countries. This has now been reviewed and a cultural exchange has been a very enriching experience and has provided insight into monastic life worldwide.

An area of particular interest for the AIM was the sponsorship of workshops on living the Benedictine Rule in the world of today, with its special objective being to explore how Benedictine Rule is lived out in different countries and how the monastic tradition is actually developing in the country in which we live. Aspects covered in this workshop also include a look at monastic life from the various social, economic and cultural points of view. In addition to which we explore how we can cultivate a monastic identity and how to improve monastic training.

Fr. Mark asked members to place an order for the book entitled "Introducing Benedictine Rule - A programme of Formation by Michael Casey & David Tomlins EOS, Publications, Germany, which should be a useful guide for formees. The required number of copies is to be distributed from Asirvanam Monastery.

Fr. Mark would be glad to receive a report on the Monastic Institute course and also on the recently opened St. Benedict's School of Nursing at Adaiyur run by Grace & Compassion Benedictines. He also mentioned that we could apply for scholarships for students or for equipment. He made the point that when we make the proposal that it should be addressed to AIM France and that a copy should also be sent to him. The President thanked Fr. Mark for his input into the meeting.

The session concluded.

Second Session - 07.02.2007 - 11.00 hours

3.  Presentation of "There shall be no poor among you" - Fr. Stephen (Ag. No. 4)

Fr. George N. acted as moderator and Fr. Stephen presented a paper on "There shall be no poor among you" following which there was a lively discussion with many questions outlined as follows:

Q1.  How poverty as a theme evolves in the O.T?

A.  In the beginning of the Old Testament wealth is viewed as a blessing from God and poverty as a curse.  Gradually this concept appears to have been reversed. Due to monarchical Rule and development in trade and commerce, wealth came into the possession of a few who accumulated more and more by oppression and deeds of injustice. The prophets during this period spoke out against the rich and the oppression of the poor. They still held the idea that "there should be no poor among the people of Israel" (Dt.15:4). But the rich did not heed such a message. In this situation of injustice and poverty, a spiritual development was already taking place. The poor believed that God was their defender, on their side and that he would mete out justice to them one day. Reinforced by the prophet Zephaniah and throughout the book of Psalms this idea took firm root. The poor are now the pious people, the anawim of Yahweh, the poor of Yahweh, who wait for the liberating intervention of God. So, poverty loses its original symbol of curse.

Even in terminology, the connotation of poverty has changed over time. In the Books of the Law, the poor are landless labourers. In the historical writings and early prophets they are the oppressed class, far indeed away from being the pious people, the meek and the poor of Yahweh of the book of Psalms and later prophets.

Q2.  Does this show a progressive development in biblical writings  spiritualizing  the crude reality of poverty?

   A.  Yes; there would appear to be a progressive development in the understanding of the concept of poverty by the biblical authors. It is not that they are spiritualizing the reality of poverty but it is the gradual awareness, through closeness to God, of the simple fact that the riches of this world are in a way we may never understand, always related to evil and sin, so that the poor remain relatively just.

Q3.  Jesus' own attitude towards poverty and the poor-Explain

   A.  Jesus never tried to abolish poverty. He takes it for granted that, given the fact that man is selfish and greedy; poverty cannot be altogether eradicated from Society. Of course, He promised all appeasement from want in the messianic age. But what he did was something interesting. He identified himself with the poor and said "to be poor is to be blessed".

Q4.  "Wealth is a blessing from God and sin is the result of poverty" - Explain.

  A.  There are two ideas here - one relating to the pre-historic period and the other to the historic period. As to the historic period such matters receive little explanation. But the original understanding of the Biblical author about man's relationship with poverty appears to be this. All that God created was good. The evil of poverty began to creep in later, but long before the time of the author. To what can he attribute this evil if not to the fall? Because of the fall, the earth no longer produces as it should and man has to sweat for his bread of daily life. Such is the theological view of the existence of poverty.

 The second view is that wealth is a blessing from God. People of the Bible believed that both poverty and riches came from God. God made rich Abraham, Isaac, Jacob and the entire Patriarchs even Job. God bestowed riches upon them in the knowledge that riches would not affect their relationship. Abraham was ready to sacrifice his only son for God and Job didn't disown God whatever his trials, holding fast to their faith despite their riches.

Q5.  "Blessed are the poor "- Doesn't Jesus truly mean the poor in spirit?

   A.  Jesus was poor and his was an actual poverty. "In spirit" is the addition of Matthew who intended to include the rich in his community. The original beatitude is "Blessed are you poor" as found in Luke. Jesus was really poor.  At times, he did not even have enough to eat or a place to lie down. Above all, Jesus did not consider the goods of this world as bringing happiness or riches.

Q6.Man, because he is created from the dust, is he not doomed to poverty?

   A.  The logic intended here was that man has been created from earth and lives by the labour of his hands until he returns to earth again. The poverty of man here is expressed by work meaning that man is not simply granted whatever he wants for the mere wanting.

Q7.    Is not Jesus' meaning of poverty more truly an inner attitude of spirit rather  than  actual lived poverty?

   A.  Jesus demanded real poverty and not just attitude. "Go! sell, and give the money to the poor and come and follow me". It is because of our cowardice, an unwillingness to commit ourselves that we try to justify our wealth in terms of poverty as an attitude of mind.

Q8.  We may study a lot about poverty and there seems to be no practical solutions to the issues of poverty.  In this context, how do we identify with the poor?

   A.  Poverty may be viewed as a vow or a life commitment and hence as a challenge in life. If our christian faith is sincere there should be no disparity between the poor and the better off.

Q9.  Ecologists do not accept man as the crowning of creation. What do you say?

   A.  Man is the crowning of creation and it is also man who has polluted creation. It is man's responsibility therefore, to develop and conserve creation in the purest possible way once we accept this truth.

 The moderator thanked Fr. Stephen for a well-considered study of the topic and for all the hard work he had put in.

 Session concluded.

Third session - 7.2.2007 - 15.00 Hours

4.  Poverty in the Indian context and in our Communities (Ag. no.5)

Fr. Pio was moderator for this session and Sr. Amala, a Grace and Compassion Sister gave a paper entitled "The vow of poverty in the Indian context and in our communities". Fr. Pio thanked Sr. Amala for presenting a clear, well-researched and straightforward account of the chosen topic.  A few questions were asked by the gathering.

Q1.  Twenty six percent of Indians live below the poverty line, so what can we do as  monastics to address this problem?

   A.  There is a Chinese proverb that "if you give a man a fish he will eat for one day, but if you teach him to fish he can eat for a lifetime". Sr. Amala suggested that the best way to tackle the problem in  India was to provide training and education for the poor so that they will become self-sufficient.

A comment was made by a member present that there is a culture of begging amongst the general poor who manipulate generosity from the Foreigners while those who are more in need stay silent. The reply to this comment was that there is much poverty in India and we must be aware of the needs of the poor and avoid simply the handing out of money.

Q2.India has much poverty and it also has abundant human resources. In spite of India's economic and technological growth, there is still little improvement for the rural poor. What do you say?

   A.  Due to globalization we have experienced much economic growth in some parts of Indian society. Foreign companies exploit India's cheap labour to increase their profits while little improvement can be observed amongst the poor. The rich are simply getting richer at poor peoples' expense. Tackle the problem of poverty will take a long time, and there will never be quick and easy solutions.

Q3.  you have said the most expensive goods are not necessarily the best while going for the cheapest may incur waste of money?  While renunciation is vital for a monk, don't you think we give bad witness when we buy good quality products?

   A.  By buying good quality products we save money in the long term, which might give the wrong impression, but it does seem the only solution.

A comment was made from the group that as monastics we live in a ghetto without realizing or understanding the needs of the people. We should leave our comforts and travel, work and eat as the poor do so that we can understand their needs better. All this must start with the individual.

5.  Report of One Major Superior (Ag.no.10)

Towards the end of this session, one Major Superior was given the opportunity to present her report.

The session concluded.

Fourth Session - 7.2.2007 - 18.00 hours

6. Courses (Ag.no.6)

a) The Evaluation of the Monastic Institute Course - 2006

At this session the evaluation of the Monastic Institute course and On-going Formation course were carried out. The President said that there were seven subjects covered and thirty-four participants undertook the course. The mark sheets would be sent to the respective Superiors soon. On the whole the course was deemed satisfactory. However, wherever the Lecturers seemed to fail to meet the required standard, these may not be included again. Some of the members expressed the point that some students found the course repetitive, while others found it difficult to grasp. The assignments were difficult for everyone, all however managed to complete them. The President addressed the issue of apparent repetitiveness of theme by 
stating that what should be encouraged is rather a culture of research and study among students, highlighting the essential importance of monastic learning. This complaint about repetitiveness indeed emphasizes the lack of interest in revisiting the topic from a different angle, thereby deepening one's learning.

Arrangement of Monastic Institute Course for 2007

For this year, the dates of the course will be from 11th April to 30th May. Details being as follows:
Venue: Asirvanam Monastery, Bangalore.

April   11 - 14 Christ in the Rule Abbot John. K
April  16 - 21 Theology of Grace   Mgr. Joseph Francis
April 23 - 28 Benedictine History Fr. Clement OSB
April  30 - May 5   Miracles & Parables of Jesus Fr. L. Legrand MEP
May 07 - 12 Latin Fathers Fr. Thomas Anchukandam
May 14 - 19 Christian Mysticism Fr. Gregory D'Souza OCD
May 21 - 26 Call of the Prophets Fr. Mathew Molath OSB
May 28- 30 Christ in the R.B Abbot John. K

As this course is of annual six weeks duration for three years, the President requested the superiors to send the same students, and if any students cannot attend the course this year a replacement should be sent on the understanding that neither will be awarded a certificate. In addition this year, each individual course is open to all who are interested in attending and not just to those who are taking the full three year course.

b. On-Going Formation Course - 2006/2007

As this course happens to coincide with the monastic Institute course, the result has been a course less efficiently run. It was felt that there was a need for a core member of the course to oversee its smooth running. Such a measure will be implemented this year. The details of the course for 2007 are as follows.

Venue            -  St. Joseph's Monastery, Makkiyad
Arrival           -  6.05.2007
Course           -  07 - 12 .05.2007
Departure       12.05.2007 night or 13.05.2007

Subjects
a)  Fr. Benny     -  Benedictine Monasteries and an introduction to monastic liturgy
b)  Abbot John   -  Scripture
The six day course will consist of four hours study a day of which Fr. Benny will offer three days on Liturgy and abbot John three days on scriptures. Abbot John will remain throughout the course.

7. Alteration to the AGM time-table
By popular request, it was proposed to have the meditation at 6.15 am before lauds and mass.

The session concluded.

Fifth Session - 07.02.2007 - 19.00 hours

8. The Address by Bishop of Vijayawada (Ag.No.7)

The Bishop of Vijayawada gave a paper on poverty in the Gospel and its particular relevance to us. He quoted from the Gospel of St. John, "you are in the world but not of the world" Any disciple of  Jesus has this quality and how radically one wishes to take up this challenge depends on how one lives this message credibly and convincingly.  For the Religious poverty can be viewed on two levels i.e. both on the individual and on the group level. Poverty may also be viewed taking two different criteria i.e. the one is attitude which requires involvement and dialogue and the other being the experiential one requiring application. Today poverty cannot be spoken of without living its reality. Here, as Monastics we have to see how poverty will take its form and shape in monastic life. this is the challenge. Living in poverty requires distancing oneself not only physically but also on a disposition level.

At the level of communal living, the kind of poverty we live is not visibly made present. Although, we don't possess anything and we distance ourselves from the world, we enjoy the benefit of an upper elite-class living.  There can be serious hurdles attached to such a way of life and hence we must examine the virtue of poverty at the attitudinal level. for centuries, we have developed theories on poverty but all bearing little relevance where this is not lived out. The question is raised what is for Benedictines the sign and symbol of poverty. There are deeper levels of implication when we follow Jesus. Poverty has its own intrinsic value. It is an invitation to be free. If this freedom is not acquired and sustained by poverty in practice, there is every reason to become entrapped by the snares of the world and be of the world. So, every Benedictine should examine and consider whether he or she can be a sign or symbol of monastic poverty.

Sr. Metilda thanked the Bishop for a succinct and clear presentation of his theme which provided much needed enlightenment on the preceding discussions given by the previous speakers.

Session concluded.

Sixth Session - 08.02.2007 - 9.00 hours

9.  Fr. Pio - poverty in the Pre-Benedictine period (Ag. No. 8)

Fr. Pio presented a paper on "poverty in the pre-Benedictine era." Sr. Rose was the moderator.  After this paper, a question and answer session followed.

Q.1. Since most of the Fathers of the Church came from the East as did their Rules, concerning "Regola Orientalis" and the "Regula Quatuor Patrum"  do we know who authored these Rules?

A. The authors of these Rules are anonymous.

Q.2.  In your presentation, you seem to address all christians. Does this mean that the Rules are addressed to christians in general or is it rather not to monks in particular? If to monks in particular, it could be implied that monachism is the ideal way of christian life. Explain?

A.  Asceticism was highly appreciated in centuries gone by and great emphasis was placed upon it. However, in our time, we can not speak about the christian way as a philosophy of life.

Q3.  What is the relationship between detachment and self-realization according to the Upanishads?

A.  A person detaches himself from material things and the world itself in order to attain his true reality, mainly oneness with the Almighty.

Q4.  A major part of your paper is academic, which is good, but at the same time how would you describe poverty for Benedictines which can be relevant for today?

A.  The emphasis should be on personal poverty. A monastery may be rich by way of property but the individual remains poor. Any income we receive from our resources should be used for the needy outside.

 The President was of the opinion that Fr. Pio had given a good description of poverty  in  the pre-benedictine era. He recognized the fact that it was academic in content, but he also stated that an academic approach was needed to understand the Rule at a deeper level, then only, can we address its relevance to our lives and Countries in which we live. There are basic monastic issues which are applicable to all congregations, regardless of the different types of works we do. The President felt that more openness is required between Congregations within the Federation to discuss an issue such as poverty in a more honest and frank way. The first step that we have taken at this meeting is that each Major Superior has given an account of her congregations' life and work so that we have a better understanding of each other. The very purpose of coming together is to discover unity and diversity all of which will lead to a more meaningful life together.

Q5.  In Jainism and Buddhism, is not mendicancy advocated for monks? Is there some special purpose for example in creating dependency and humility in the individual?

A.  It is true that begging by monks creates a total dependency on the other. It also requires great humility to beg.

Q6.  You said poverty is freedom for God and this is applicable for us monks and nuns but in the case of people leading a family life, poverty is not freedom but anxiety, could you please explain?

A.    We are not in Grahasta Ashram but in the Sannyasa Ashram, so it is important not to confuse the two. A monk takes on poverty voluntarily which is very different to the men in the world struggling to feed his family. A Religious person takes on poverty voluntarily as a step towards that inner freedom. "Vairakia" which is the spirit of renunciation, where a person renounces their whole being in order to be filled with God.

 The President suggested that a deeper understanding of poverty as freedom should be understood as detachment. The Bible says' "Where your treasure is, there your heart will also be" (LK 12:34). It is very hard to detach one's heart and mind, as they are both preoccupied. The more we have the less satisfied we tend to become.  The more you own, the more complex your life becomes. You distance yourself from God by creating obstacles in your life. The simpler your life is the more meaningful your commitment to God. Accumulating wealth definitely prevents one from being free, that is being rich in God. Your heart becomes entangled when you possess things and only detangled itself through renunciation.

Q7.  India is well known for its voluntary ascetic traditions. Do you find that the Formees appreciate the values of poverty taking into account that some are coming from economically lower strata of society?

A.    One's dire necessity is not the criteria by which we should judge. Nor should we be critical if these Formees come from a wealthy background.  

A participant intervened and stated that it is a fact that vocations coming from poor families cannot fully comprehend the freedom of poverty, because such vocations are often themselves in some psychological need.

A concluding point was made by a participant that we, as Benedictines, don't take a vow of poverty as such and there is a danger that the wrong emphasis may be placed on the development and growth of the monastic vocation. Poverty is seen by Benedictines, as part of our vow of "conversion of Life" and hence it is much deeper, encompassing various degrees of humility and the renunciation of personal belongings.

The moderator thanked the participants for their valuable contributions and Fr. Pio for his well rounded paper.

Session concluded.

Seventh Session -  08.02.2007 - 11.00 Hours

10.  C.I.B Report - 2006 by Sr. Benita - (Ag. No. 9)

Sr. Benita gave a short report on the fifth International Symposium of Benedictine Women held by C.I.B at Rome in September 2006. She with Sr. sylvester from St. Helen's Monastery,

sri lanka, Sr. Vianney, a grace and compassion sister from India attended the Symposium. The topic of the Symposium was "wisdom leadership" excellently delivered by leading scholars.

It was mother Maire Hickey's final address as moderator of the C.I.B and it was received with a resounding standing ovation. The new moderator is the prioress general of the camaldoli sisters.

11.  Short report by Major superiors - (Ag. No. 10)

The major superiors from each congregation gave a short report on their congregation and its activities. There were fourteen congregations, two female congregations from sri lanka and seven male congregations and five female congregations from India.

Session concluded.

Eighth Session - 08.02.2007 - 15.00 hours

12.  Sr. Amala Rajendran - Poverty in the Rule of St. Benedict (Ag.no.11)

Sr. Amala Rajendran of Shanthi nilayam Abbey gave a paper on "Poverty in the Rule of 
st. Benedict". Here, Fr. Anselm was the moderator. Fr. Anselm thanked Sr. Amala for her comprehensive research and in-depth study of the Rule in her paper. The forum was open for discussion.

The President was pleased with the portrayal of various aspects of monastic poverty and its implications presented in her paper.  he added that one emphasis required a linking of manual labour with poverty as specified in ch.47.  There is no living of monastic poverty without manual labour.

Q.1  You expressed the idea that "Dependency on the community gives an individual  freedom." This idea by its very nature is a contradiction, Can you elaborate?

A.  Ones  needs  are  entirely  met  by  the community and one trusts  ones  community  and depends on it for ones  needs. So, this allows us to be free of anxiety and gives us time to explore inner freedom through listening and prayer. 

 Session concluded.

Ninth Session - 8.2.2007 - 18.00 hours

13.  Abbot primate is introduced (Ag.No.16)

The abbot primate was introduced to the attendants at this session and he was thankful for the welcome he received. This session, along with a number of others was recorded and filmed by a team from germany who were making a documentary on Benedictine life.

The floor was informed that the abbot primate's address would take place the following morning.

14.  I.S.B.F - Finance - (Ag. No. 12)

The President requested that Fr. Joy O, the Treasurer, read the statement of accounts for the year 2005 - 2006. The members unanimously approved the statement.

As the current financial year ends in March after the AGM, it is not possible to present the current year's statement of accounts at the AGM. Hence, a suggestion was made that the audited statement be prepared and presented at an Executive council meeting during that same financial year and be passed. This could be ratified at the next AGM.

The President requested that in the future the Treasurer circulates a copy of the annual statement of Income and Expenditure and Balance sheet to each major superior member of the ISBF.

The President thanked Fr. Joy O. for his presentation of accounts.

15. BID. Report - (Ag.No.13)

  •   Fr. Jerome the secretary of B.I.D presented a detailed report on the B.I.D's activities  during the year 2006. Of significant interest and well attended were the Inter-Faith  meetings held at Shanthivanam and Sowmaya Trust in Mumbai.
  •   Sr. Lilly, a Lioba Sister, gave a report on various Inter-Faith interactions taking place within  the local people amongst her Congregation's communities in the North.
  •   Fr. George, the co-ordinator, has circulated the list of contact persons. This has been  revised to include new names.
  •   Fr. George circulated notice of an invitation to the" World Conference on Unity of Man  - 2007 to be held at Kirpal Sagar, Punjab, from 8-10th December 2007. He requested that  he be informed of the numbers from the member communities who might wish to attend  the Conference. B.I.D. has offered to subsidise part of their travel expenses.
 16.  BID - Finance - (Ag. No 14)

Fr. Joy. O., the Treasurer, presented the BID's financial report. Half the money, which has been privately invested, has been returned and Shanthi Nilayam Abbey promised to return the balance in two months' time. The full sum will be invested in the nationalized bank or in some other government approved Investment Company and interest used for the BID's current year's expenses.

17.  Ratification of the amended Text of the I.S.B.F Constitutions (Ag.No.15)

When the amended text was presented (February 2006) to the floor, the members thought that it needed further revision. Accordingly, the two articles no.5 and 12 were revised and unanimously approved for inclusion in the Constitutions. These are as follows:

Amended Text, Feb.2006 Revised Amended Text, Feb.2007
C.5. For the efficient management of the affairs of the ISBF, the General Body shall constitute an Executive Council consisting of the President, the Vice-President, the Secretary, the Treasurer and the Major Superiors of the Benedictine communities in India and Sri Lanka. C.5. For the efficient management of the affairs of the ISBF, there shall be an Executive Council consisting of the President, the Vice-President, the Secretary, the Treasurer and the Major Superiors of the Benedictine communities in India and Sri Lanka.
C.12.ii. The ISBF is happy to welcome new members of the Benedictine family. This means that any foundation made by a Benedictine monastery or under the jurisdiction of Abbot President/ General of a Benedictine Congregation, are made directly under the Abbot Primate would be eligible. A written request is to be made by the Superior of the new foundation along with a letter of recommendation from his/her Major Superior for membership.   
C.12.ii. The ISBF welcomes new members. Any foundation made by a Benedictine monastery or under the jurisdiction of Abbot President/ General of a Benedictine Congregation, are made directly under the Abbot Primate would be eligible to be a member of the ISBF. A written request is to be made by the Superior of the new foundation along with a letter of recommendation from his/her Major Superior.

Session concluded.

Tenth Session - 9.2.2007 - 09.00 hours

18.  The Abbot Primate's Address - (Ag.No.16)

The President opened the session by inviting the Abbot Primate to address the meeting.

To start with, the Abbot Primate circulated a brochure on the Sant' Anselmo study programme to all members. He informed the members that the Sant' Anselmo academic credit system should be in line with the regulated credit system in Europe in order that graduates can be enrolled with greater ease at universities throughout Europe. Fr. Mark Sheridan has been working on this matter. Sant' Anselmo has ten percent less students since last year which is the case for most theological universities in Rome. The Abbot Primate urged all students wishing to attend to apply well in advance since there are many procedures to be followed.

The renovation work in Sant' Anselmo has been proceeding well.

A professional fundraiser needs to be appointed for the setting up of a fund in Europe and the U.S.A in order to maintain Sant' Anselmo.Two catalogues, one each for men and women, were published in September 2006. The statistics indicate that the Benedictine presence is growing in Asia, Africa and the non-western world generally - Benedictine monasteries, once so euro-centred, are now pluro-centred, which means that the Abbot Primate and his Council have to co-ordinate and communicate with skill and considerable wisdom throughout the Benedictine world. Autonomy is important but consolidarity and inter-co-operation are vitally needed. There should neither be too much centrality or autonomy as either may lead to egoism or group-egoism that could be harmful. In order to address these issues there is a need for a number of worldwide centres to assess the growth of monastic life.

The Abbot Primate continued by saying that the chosen theme of poverty has a special significance in India. Originally, the Indian monasteries were a European foundation, which has led to dependency upon funds coming from the West. However, a changing situation in Europe means that money is less available. He was very appreciative of the Mobile Monastic Institute where the course is run mostly from money collected from the Country's own member monasteries.  A monastery's self-sufficiency can also be a kind of poverty. And our Benedictine autonomy should be achieved by manual labour. Benedictine life had originally been non-clerical, relying on the services of the visiting priests. The priest in India tends to be attributed an upper-class status and manual labour may be a vital instrument in demolishing this image. The prevailing negative image attached to manual work in India is in danger of eroding Benedictine community life. Manual work must be embraced as a form of poverty and spirituality, along with lectio and prayer. Essential is that a monastic identity be developed which is wholly applicable to this country.

The president thanked the abbot primate for his sincere and comprehensive address.

The floor was open for questions.

Q1.  Could you give us some information on the present status of St. Paul's Abbey  outside the walls in rome?  

A.  This international community is doing well with two novices and some postulants. There  are twenty-six members, most of the monks being there for three years maximum. This  situation may require further options in the future.

Q2.  Is it worth considering shifting sant ‘anselmo to St. Paul's outside the walls?

A.  This is not practical as Sant' Anselmo is a study centre and St. Paul's outside the walls is a Cathedral and the activities are different.  also, there is no library in St. Paul's outside the walls.

Q3.  As sant' Anselmo's maintenance costs are so high, should the proceeds of  the sale of closed monasteries not be used to finance sant' anselmo?

A.  Not many monasteries are being sold, but where this happens that money is being used by the community involved to maintain those community members who have to be placed some where else.

Q4.  Is there any Benedictine monastery where both rites are practised?

Yes, one exists in estonia where Greek and Latin rites are celebrated.

Q5.  Do you still encourage monks to study for the priesthood in sant' Anselmo, as it may be difficult for them to re-adjust when they return?

A.  Yes, it is not a question of fitting in or not fitting in. It is rather a question of individual maturity and identity and how to keep in touch with ones own monastery. There are currently about forty to fifty students studying in Sant' Anselmo. The Abbot Primate also suggested it might be advisable to grant a one year gap after philosophy.

Q6.  Your said there are about four orthodox priests staying at sant Anselmo. There  are some Maronite monks from the Lebanon and some priests from Iraq. could  you please inform us if they are still there?

A.  The Maronite monks are still there but the priests from Iraq are not. As monks they had a very hard time during the war in Iraq since they could not communicate with their families.

Q7.  Are there many Benedictine women attending sant' Anselmo?

A.  Only a very few. Accommodation has always been a problem for women Benedictines. The present new Co-ordinator of CIB who is the prioress General of the Camaldolese sisters has agreed to accommodate Sisters in a year or two. This will be a great help for Sant' Anselmo's Staff Sisters too, as it is located close by.

Q8.  From the Catalogues, it is clear that the ottilian communities have big numbers in some countries. What is the motivation behind these large numbers entering? Is it the more secure way of life or a true desire for monastic life?

A.  It is difficult to say. There may be a mixture of motives. The danger is that, the mixture of motives may remain within the individual. But, Benedictine life is a community life and its attraction is the way we pray, the works we do and the joy we bring. Large and small communities have their own advantages. what really matters is that a community,  large or small, should embody the above ideals.

The president once again thanked the abbot Primate for his conclusive answers.

Session concluded.

Eleventh Session - 9.02.2007 - 11.00 hours

19.  Course for all Novices - (Ag.No.18)

The president re-introduced the motion of having courses combining men and women novices of all the congregations of the Federation. Though this matter had been discussed at the twenty first Executive Council meeting held on 09.09.2006, one monastery had not been in favour. However, the president brought forward the matter and asked members whether or not they were in favour. This type of course should challenge the novices somewhat more helping to expand younger monks/sisters, as we may tend to find one another intimidating. The majority of members declared themselves in favour of such a course and hence it was agreed we would hold the course this year and then evaluate it. It was thought better to hold a separate course for men and women novices it was also felt important to have each sets of novices accompanied by their respective novice Master/Mistress.

It is intended, in each case, to arrange a ten-day course of four hours per day, consisting of four subjects each involving ten hours of lecture. Asirvanam Monastery has agreed to accommodate the men novices and our lady of light  the women novices.

The dates and study programme for each course are as follows:

Courses for Novices from Men/Women Communities - 2007

Novices from Men communities Novices from Women communities
Venue Asirvanam Monastery Our lady of Light, Bangalor
Arrival 01.09.2007 15.09.07
Course 01-12.09.2007 16-27.09.2007
Departure 13.09.2007 28.09.2007
Theme Headings Resource Person Resource Person
a. General Presentation            
    of Benedictine History
 Fr.Sowraya Sr. Metilda
b. Theology of vocation  Fr. Stephen b. Monastic Spirituality
        Mother Teresita
c. Community life                     
    in the rule 
 Abbot john  Sr. Redempta
d. Introduction to the fathers   Fr. Tomy T  Fr. Tomy T

Session concluded.

20. OUTING - 9.2.2007-15.00 hours

The Venue chosen for the outing were Durga Temple on Krishna riverbed and the Marian Shrine of Gunadala. The marian Shrine proved a rather adventurous and energetic feat in itself, amounting to a daunting excess of some thousand steps.

Session concluded.

12th session - 10.2.2007 - 09.00 Hours

(As the ISBF meeting failed to meet its scheduled completion, it was agreed to have it continued between the free sessions of BID meetings on the following day.)  

21.  Donation by the Abbot Primate (Ag.No.18)

The President was pleased to report that the Abbot Primate had presented a donation of one thousand Euros towards the cause of the monastic Institute. The members are exceedingly grateful to the Abbot Primate for his esteemed presence his most invaluable address and his welcome donation.

22. Evaluation of the AGM Meeting: (AG. No.18)

The president requested that the Forum offer an evaluation of the meetings' proceedings. He began by suggesting that all superiors themselves first and foremost acquire a deeper understanding of the R.B. The fact of studying one theme per AGM under four different major aspects should enable us to improve our depth of knowledge concerning the Rule and thereby deepen our convictions regarding monastic life.

One of the participants questioned the way the presentation and discussions of papers had been dealt with at the AGM and found that something was lacking - was it not a practical implication?

The question was met with general approval. So, how should we respond having apparently failed to offer an adequate solution? It might have been better if each community might have shared how such an aspect of Benedictine spiritual life could be lived in their own community. In addition they might speak of their success and failures and of the difficulties they face and of the new methods they have introduced and whether these may have proved effective or realistic. In India this is an area of vital exploration since all our Benedictine communities are relatively young.

The President welcomed such an issue being raised and amplified it by saying that any discussion within the group around this theme needed openness. Before we speak about what we would aspire to, we should more fully understand our own lived-in situation. Do we fully comprehend for example the very real issues affecting our country's communities?  We are hesitant to properly explore the theme of the year as a common concern for all of us. If we really want to reflect on the theme of poverty conscientiously, we must recognize that in India and Srilanka this is a critically sensitive point. In our countries, the issue of poverty for the individual brother/sister has been formed and often derived from their own social or personal history. As monastics, our own personal environments have affected our notion of poverty and attempting to live a monastic life on a parallel with the standard of life in western monasteries would certainly prove too luxurious for our acceptable standards. Any serious implementation of this theme would necessitate considerably more time being devoted to this particular topic. With this in mind, the president made the following suggestions: -

a)  The reading of each previous minutes of the meetings can be done away with. Instead all members should bring these minutes along with them and any requests for clarification can be made to the Secretary, if needed.

b)  All individual reports presented in the meeting should be made shorter wherever possible.

c)  Copies of papers presented should be prepared in advance and distributed before presentation so that these can be read through first by the participants so that more time can be devoted to questions and discussions on the respective paper.

d)  He observed that it appeared to be the same members who continually ask questions and those women members seemed to tend to make less contribution. There should also be far greater intercommunication among the different congregations. Such a measure is essential if we are ever to move forward together towards a realistic sharing.

e)  Each major superior should themselves deliver a paper at the meeting in order to emphasise their commitment and leadership.

In response to the President's suggestions, the floor made the various following suggestions and proposals:

i.Copies of individual reports might be issued before each meeting but it was doubted that this might prove impractical.

ii.Regarding papers presented each speaker might introduce topics for discussion with a view to group discussions.

iii.The request was made that a copy of the revised and amended constitutions should be provided for all members. The president added that article No.16.iv of the constitutions might need amendment, a matter; however which could be deferred until some further meeting.

iv.It was brought to the notice of the president that the Directory needed revision.

Fr. Mark Butlin expressed the possibility of our getting a small subsidy for it, if the federation applies to AIM.

In a few final words, the Abbot primate remarked that each one of us leaving these meetings may ask themselves what in fact their real impact may have. Primarily it is gratifying to realize that we are on the same wave length. It is essential to promote Benedictine identity particularly in a country like India where multi-religions and multi-faith co-exist.

Remarkably, there has been a growing revival of interest in the Benedictine Rule in Europe and in the wisdom of its spirituality. On the other hand, in India the feeling tends to be that the R.B. is not obviously in tune with our age, therefore seriously under appreciated and inadequately comprehended. The Bishops were inclined to favour those Active orders who run hospitals and schools rather than contemplative orders in their Dioceses. But Benedictines have a special charism of living community life with prayer and lectio Divina all under the firm authority of the R.B.  A meeting such as this, involving an in-depth study of the Rule is always beneficial. The implication of the poverty in R.B. is considerably more profound than an understanding of poverty, which involves a mere lack of possession but rather implies the surrendering of ones own will. The Abbot Primate's concluding wish was that, with the power of the spirit, we might all proceed along the path, which will guide our own Benedictine inspired way into the future.

Fr. Mark had a word too. He observed that the development of the meeting over the last few years is a visible sign of the growth of the Federation. A meeting like this should foster a genuine dialogue through workshops and group discussions. The whole aim of such a meeting is to promote a serious and guided journey in which we listen to each other and share our experiences and receive new inspiration to face the challenges of the monastic way of life to which we have committed ourselves.

He expressed great appreciation for all of us as members. His encouragement was that we all go forward in search of the God of all reality, always listening to one another, always remaining its most important asset to the local church.

In his closing remark, the President enquired of the members as to whether we have had some honest discussions on the subject of poverty and how it actually affects our lives, particularly with regard to such issues as no private ownership, frugality, the obligation to request permission and on the particular relationship between poverty and manual labour. The application of this theme of poverty could come about only when we undertake a more profound study than such as we have attempted during this particular A.G.M. It might be worthwhile to even repeat the same theme next year.

One of the participants intervened declaring himself in total agreement with the president and adding that much honest and fruitful discussion should follow in our own study and pursuit of the theme. However, since the theme for next year has already been fixed, it would be preferable to take up the subject not next year, but sometime in the immediate future. All agreed with this suggestion.

23.  Benedictine Sisters of the Divine Providence (Ag. No.18)

Two members of the congregation of the Benedictine Sisters of the Divine Providence (Italian foundation, but representing their Brazilian Province) attended and presented a report on their congregation's special charism and apostolate. The Congregation already has a house in Moodbidri, Karnataka State and is due to open a new mission in Kambam, Tamil Nadu.

24.  Date of the Next Meeting (Ag.No.19)

Venue   St. Thomas' Abbey, Kappadu  
Arrival Tuesday 29.01.2008 by 6 pm
ISBF Meetings Wed - Fri 30th, 31st, Jan & 1st, Feb, 2008
BID Meeting Saturday 02.02.2008
Departure   02.02.2008 after 6 pm or 03.02.2008
Theme Headings  
Obedience in the Bible  Sr. Sylvester
Obedience in the Pre-Benedictine
Tradition  
 Fr. Tomy. T (Val)
Obedience in the R.B  Sr. Elsia
A Contemporary understanding of 
Authority in the R.B.
Fr. Jose

25.  Vote of Thanks (Ag.No.20)

Sr. Inigo, the Vice-President proposed a vote of thanks.  

The meeting closed with the President's expression of special thanks to Fr. James M, the Prior for his generous gesture in accommodating the members in the new building despite the work not being fully completed.