XXIV General Chapter in Rome – Reports

July 15, 2018, the second day of the Chapter started with Mass celebrated by Fr. Heiner Wilmer, former superior general. It would be his last Mass with the Rome community before leaving to prepare for his new assignment as bishop of Hildesheim, Germany.

Fr. Carlos Enrique Caamaño Martín, the incumbent superior, thanked Fr. Heiner for his service. He said that Fr. Heiner had not only been a good leader, but an excellent confrere, a brother in life and in work. It was an emotional moment of both joy and sorrow as Fr. Heiner gave thanks for the congregation and to those with whom he served. After the Mass, each capitular lined up to personally expresses his well-wishes to the bishop-elect.

THE STATE OF THE CONGREGATION
Before the chapter delegates discern new leadership, it is important to hear from the current administration about the “state” of the congregation. What are the priorities? What are the challenges?

The State of the Congregation isn’t simply a summary of projects and numbers, a statement of where Dehonians are and what they are doing. It is a window into the life of the congregation as described by those who have the widest view: the Superior General and his council.

Fr. Carlos Enrique Caamaño Martín began by reminding the delegates that it is a report of an administration that only reached the midway point of its term. Some projects are just beginning, others have not yet started.

PRIORITIES AND AREAS OF FOCUS
Soon after Fr. Heiner Wilmer took office, he and his council developed a programmatic letter strongly based in the message of the XXIII General Chapter. The letter identified three areas of focus: marks of mercy in formation, marks of mercy connected with the poor, and marks of mercy in Evangelization.

Working together, the administration developed a new Mission Statement for the congregation, identifying a vision (Love with open heart and mind) and a mission (Adveniat Regnum Tuum –– Your kingdom come).

Of projects begun but not completed, Fr. Carlos Enrique cited the General Conference in the Philippines that was planned for the same time period as the General Chapter. He hoped that the next administration would revisit the conference.

Delegates discussed the State of the Congregation in small groups.

FINANCIAL PLANNING A NECESSARY PART OF RELIGIOUS LIFE
Yesterday, on June 15, 2018, the chapter focused on the State of the Congregation. Today the spotlight turned to the congregation’s finances.
Fr. Luca Zottoli, general treasurer, began his report by noting three key issues identified by the 2015 General Chapter: financial independence, aging and vocations. “These continue to be crucial issues for the congregation; the general administration kept these issues in mind as it developed its economic policies,” he said.

“There are no rich entities and no poor entities,” emphasized Fr. Luca. “There are no parent entities or child entities. All entities are sisters called to manage their patrimony, their resources, regardless if they are large or small.”

VILLA AURELIA AND THE GENERALATE
The General Treasurer’s office does not only have responsibility for the wide-ranging financial concerns of the congregation, but also for those close to home. Fr. Luca talked about the complex financial realities of the General Curia, the International College and Villa Aurelia.

Long-range financial planning is key to maintaining Villa Aurelia and the Generalate. “The general house is like a building site where work is always in progress,” said Fr. Luca. There have been renovations to the library and the roof; water drainage and other structures had to be repaired due to earthquake damage. In the future, the heating-cooling system, as well as the electrical system, will be upgraded.

REPORT OF THE FINANCIAL EXPERTS COMMITTEE
Chapter regulations require that a committee of experts reviews the financial accounts of the entities and curia. Those who served on the committee at the previous chapter were asked to do so again: Fr. Giacomo Cesano (ITS), Mr. Garret Stinson (USA) and Mr. José M Gutiérrez (ESP).

The committee noted challenges and offered suggestions for the future. Short and long-range budgeting is essential in all the entities. This includes everything from formation costs to anticipating major maintenance expenses. The committee suggested the development of a template for annual financial reports that could be implemented throughout the congregation.

The previous General Chapter suggested that a support team be established that could help entities with financial skill development or to serve as a resource when an entity has a major financial question, such as the disbursement of an unneeded property. Committee members endorsed this recommendation.

Fr. Heiner Wilmer to be Bishop of Hildesheim, Germany

On 6 April 2018, the Holy Father, Pope Francis  had nominated Fr. Heiner Wilmer, SCJ, to be a bishop of Hildesheim, Germany.

Fr. Heiner was born 9 April 1961 in Schapen. He grew up on a farm in Emsland. In 1980 he graduated at the Leoninum, a high school operated by the Dehonians in Handrup close to his hometown. In the same year, he entered the novitiate of the congregation in Freiburg. From 1981 to 1986 he studied theology in Freiburg and romance philology (romance languages) in Paris. After that he was ordained as priest by Archbishop Oskar Saier, the archbishop of Freiburg. He then went to Rome to study at the Gregorian Pontifical University; his focus was French philosophy. In 1991 Wilmer earned a Doctor of Theology in Freiburg, where he dealt with the concept of mysticism in the philosophy of Maurice Blondel. His works were awarded the Bernhard Welte Prize.

Shortly after that, he studied for a Master of Arts in History. Sometime before he finished his first master’s degree Wilmer met the Dutch priest Henri Nouwen. At the request of Nouwen, Wilmer represented him for four months as a pastor at L’Arche Daybreak in Toronto, a facility for people with disabilities. After that he worked for two years as a school counselor and taught religion, political science and history at the Liebfrauenschule Vechta (a German high school) in Niedersachsen, Germany. In 1997 he went to the United States for a year to teach German and history at the Fordham Preparatory School, a Jesuit high school in the Bronx (New York). Upon his return, he became headmaster of the SCJ high school Leoninum in Handrup.

In 2007, Fr. Wilmer was elected for Provincial Superior of the German Province of the Dehonians.

Five years later he published a book (“Gott ist nicht nett – God is not kind”) in which he reflected on his faith and his decision to become a priest.

On May 25, 2015, Fr. Wilmer was elected by the Dehonians as its 10th Superior General.

He succeeded Fr. José Ornelas Carvalho, SCJ, who held the office for 12 years (two six-year terms). Carvalho is now bishop of the Diocese of Sétubal (Portugal).

Fr.Wilmer speaks French, English, Spanish and Italian in addition to his mother tongue German.