Conference of Religious Men Hold Annual Assembly in Texas

Participants Reflect on Challenges of Engaging Youth Culture

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HOUSTON, Texas, AUG. 9, 2012 (Zenit.org).- The Conference of Major Superiors of Men (CMSM) held their annual assembly last week. Participants of the conference represent more than 17,00 Catholic religious brothers and priests in the United States. 

Archbishop Carlo Maria Viganò, apostolic nuncio to the United States, addressed the participants, remarking that he “did not have to be in the United States very long to appreciate the great, foundational importance of religious life in this country in establishing the Church here.” Noting that the assembly was gathered in Houston, the archbishop said that “the heroic and evangelizing works of religious are all around us.” 

The keynote address was delivered by a young Benedictine monk from Austria, Father Bernhard Eckerstorfer, titled “Youth Culture as a Challenge, Remarks from Europe on the Future of Religious Life.” Father Bernhard is a member of Kremsmünster Abbey, where he serves as director of vocations, novice master, formation director and spokesman of his abbey. In his presentation, Father Eckerstorfer challenged the assembled participants to avoid the trap of the hermeneutics of diminishment, with its vocation crisis mentality, and to adopt the hermeneutics of young people who get ready in the present time to be equipped for the future. 

Noting the forthcoming 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council, the Austrian monk said that a tool for critically engaging youth culture today is a return to the sources found in Vatican II documents and a return to the Council’s call for reading the signs of the times. 

In his Presidential Address, Jesuit Father Thomas Smolich, president of CMSM, said that the “assembly theme of ‘The Dream I Have for You’ is intended to give us, as leaders, some deeper insights into the experiences and perspectives of the dreamers among us…our current and future younger members.”  Father Smolich also noted that religious have something to offer in the post-modern era because “historically, religious communities reach out to those most in need, those most alienated -- the dropped out and dropping in are those we are called to be with. Given the level of crisis, so well-known and analyzed in the digital age, there may not have been another era where the charisms of religious are so needed and offer so much.” 

At a Pre-Assembly Workshop, CMSM members and  others who are involved in programs of child protection in religious communities, received information about revised standards for accreditation recently endorsed by the CMSM National Board and their practical application from Praesidium Religious Services.  

During the elections which were held at the membership meeting of the assembly, CMSM members chose Father John S. Edmunds, ST, Superior General of the Missionary Servants of the Most Holy Trinity in Silver Spring, Maryland, as President of the Conference for a two-year term.