The 16th SMA Irish Provincial Assembly was formally opened by the Provincial Leader, Fr John Dunne, at the Dromantine Retreat & Conference Centre near Newry, Co Down.
In a brief opening Liturgy, the youngest delegate, Hugh Lagan, lit the Assembly candle which will remain lit throughout the meeting. During the service, images of the Holy Spirit, gifts of the Holy Spirit, the crucified and resurrected Christ, Pentecost, appeared on the central screen as we prayed for the guidance of the Holy Spirit: Come, Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of your faithful and enkindle in us the fire of your love.
After the singing of the Veni Creator, John Dunne gave his Opening Address. Among the points he highlighted:
- this Assembly is a key moment in the life of the Society;
- SMA mission is alive and relevant – it is mission in and from Ireland and it is mission in and for Africa;
- the ongoing challenge of collaboration – within the Society, with the local church in Ireland, and with the local church and local congregations where we work, particularly in Africa;
- the role of laity and mission;
- Safeguarding has been, and remains, a priority for the membership, not just in Ireland but throughout the Society. Our procedures have been evaluated by the NBSCCC and their Report published. We must remain always vigilant
- Justice, Peace & Integrity of Creation is a constituent part of our mission, not an optional extra;
- are we harnessing to the full the different means of modern communications to promote our mission;
- the care of the sick and elderly is an important ongoing challenge;
- our finances are well managed and we rely on the continuing goodwill of our benefactors.
Having formally declared the Assembly open, Fr John introduced the Assembly facilitator, Mr Gay Redmond. Gay shared on his life story and then invited each delegate to introduce himself and name one expectation he has for the Assembly.
In the 2nd session, we looked at practical matters: approving the 4 Working Groups and other committees.
Seven major issues had been identified (in alphabetical order here) from the Preparatory questionnaire every member received: Care of sick and retired, Finances, Justice issues, Laity, Leadership, Mission in Africa and Mission in Ireland
The 4 Working groups then met to highlight some issues arising from Gay’s introduction and some feedback was given by the WG Secretaries.
Five of our delegates to the 2013 General Assembly presented the Plan formulated by that Assembly, under the five traditional headings. After each presentation there were questions and clarifications given by the GA delegates.
Mission – Joe Egan. The traditional aims of the Society were reaffirmed, particularly Primary Evangelization, JPIC, care of the most abandoned.
Spirituality & Lifestyle – John Dunne. Delegates, particularly from the younger units, emphasised the need to have a close link between Spirituality and Lifestyle.
Formation – Michael McCabe
Administration – Maurice Henry
Finance – Malachy Flanagan. Each member will maintain the highest ethical standards in all financial dealings, reiterating the commitment of GA2007
At the end of the 4th session we were reminded that the GA2013 Plan is the context through which we will define the future of the Irish Province. The session concluded with Evening Prayer led by Seamus Nohilly.