Tuesday, 9th February 2016
Missionaries of the Sacred Heart

Provincial Chapter 2011

Provincial Chapter 2011

Searching for what God wants of us in these changing times

Provincial-Chapter-logoWelcome to this page dedicated to the Irish Provincial Chapter.

This is an ordinary Provincial Chapter in preparation for the forthcoming General Chapter which will take place in El Escorial, Madrid, in September 2011.  The theme of that Chapter will be “Obedience and Mission”.  The same broad theme has been adopted for our own Provincial Chapter: Searching for what God wants of us in these changing times.

Our Provincial Chapter took place at Grace Dieu Manor Retreat and Conference Centre, Waterford.  In total there were 64 persons who made up the full Chapter Community: MSC members, lay members, facilitators, secretaries, liturgists and invited guests.

The Chapter opened on the evening of Monday  9th May.  It concluded on Friday 20th May.


Daily Photos from the Chapter

A a selection of photos from each day of the Chapter has been posted on a special Flickr page which can be accessed here.


Monday 9th May and Tuesday 10th May

Candle-procession--lgThe 2011 Provincial Chapter began with the opening prayer:

“Gather us, O God, body, spirit, soul and mind.

Gather us, O Lord, into union now with you”.

In that spirit members of the Irish Province and our lay associates came together from four continents to celebrate our past, acknowledge our present and look to the future of our Congregation. Fr Pat Courtney MSC, the Irish Provincial, told the group that this Provincial Chapter:

“is a time of grace that we need to grasp together. All of us have been called here to listen to the voice of the Lord. It is through a process of listening to each other and sharing our ideas that we open ourselves to the voice of the Spirit in our hearts and in the hearts of our brothers and sisters. Together then we have an important job to accomplish of searching for the future direction of the Province”.

Monday night was also a welcome opportunity to renew acquaintances, catch up with one another and to hear how things were going at home and abroad.

Tuesday was concerned with the business of business, as we connected up with one another in the morning and clarified our arrangements for the forthcoming meeting. We looked at our expectations for the Chapter and before lunch we reflected on how we could make these happen. During the afternoon Fr Brian Grogan SJ spoke to us of the importance of inviting God to give us a discerning heart ( 1 Kgs 3:9 ) as we planned for the future.

Wednesday 11th May and Thursday 12th May

The Chapter continued its reflection on discernment with Brian Grogan on Wednesday morning. It was an exploration of the norms and values behind building consensus and dealing with conflict in a way that was constructive and respectful. As part of the process of discernment we thought about what do we need to do so as to be Missionaries of the Sacred Heart at their best. The afternoon was more reflective, with time for personal prayer and small group sharing. We looked at how MSCs could work in partnership with lay people more effectively and especially how we are called to be present in these changing times

Thursday continued the theme of MSC / Lay partnership and cooperation. Most of the day was spent working in small regional groups. Members of each geographical area discussed proposals on how we could work together in real partnership. We also tried to name some of the possible barriers to collaboration.  The regional proposals were brought back for exploration by the large group, with a view to making concrete proposals for approval by the Chapter tomorrow morning.

Friday 13th May and Saturday 14th May

Day five of the Chapter opened with prayer led by Deidre Seaver. The morning was devoted to bringing together a sense of direction for our work with lay people. A number of proposals were made from the different regions and were welcomed by the great majority of the Chapter group. Members from England believed that we needed to go local and then let global developments emerge. As a part of this we would explore a new form of MSC membership called partners in mission. The Irish and American groups proposed that a member of the Provincial Council would have particular responsibility for animating lay / MSC association. There also needed to be better sharing of information and resources. Finally a core group of MSC and lay people for England and Ireland should be set up to progress partnership. Lay collaboration was also raised in relation to the mission in Russia. The Venezuelan group focussed on faith formation and education, especially with young people based on the spirituality of the heart.

Narciso Abellana, the representative from the General Administration, addressed the Chapter later in the morning. He passed on the greetings of the Superior General, Mark McDonald. In the course of his speech he said that he was impressed by the energy of the group; he echoed the Chapter’s belief that the laity were our future; and he believed that they could organise themselves to carry out Fr Chevalier’s mission of spreading God’s love in the world.

Mass was celebrated by Fr Pat Courtney and the lay delegates. Fr Pat thanked them for their contribution through the week and the support they would continue to give through their work and prayers.

Friday afternoon and Saturday morning were devoted to the examination of the Provincial Statutes. Following the exhaustive preparation work carried out by the Statutes Commission of Carl Tranter, Michael Smith and Dave Smith we were able to progress well through the additions, deletions and changes.

Monday 16th May and  Tuesday 17thMay

Monday began with Pat Courtney’s Provincial Report. He spoke of the many highlights during his administration including the celebrations of the foundations in Ireland and Venezuela, the visit of the Superior General, the development of MSC collaboration in Europe through PEC, the establishment of theCordate Community in Aston (Birmingham), the work of the Mission Support Centre, the development of our safeguarding policy and the introduction of the Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation Group. He also identified challenges faced by his Provincial Team that would carry over to the next administration. These included keeping the voice of God alive, promoting a better sense of community, vocations’ promotion and formation, lay collaboration, membership and dialogue, the responsibility for property and the needs of our overseas missions.

Following Pat the various Regions and the Russian mission also submitted reports on their growth, challenges and development. The Mass was led very ably in English by the Venezuelan community at midday.

Later on in the day Mary Kelly (Finance Manager) and Joe McGee (Deputy Provincial and Provincial Bursar) presented the financial report. Stressing accountability and transparency they went through a thorough account of our financial position and allowed ample opportunity for discussion and reflection. The day wrapped up with a percussion evening prayer, complete with drums, tambourines and shakers led by Deidre, Pat, Jerry and our South American brothers.


Tuesday morning started with the celebration of the Penitential Rite of the Eucharist for our morning prayer. It was a day of elections. We had to elect three Provincial Councillors, two delegates to the General Chapter and two substitutes. We started our process of discernment with a time of personal reflection on scripture.  In personal reflection and then in small group sharing we tried to name the skills and talents necessary for leadership as well as some of the challenges that will face the incoming Leadership Team. To this end lists of qualities were drawn up which included the need to be prophetic, to be a listener, a leader, a person of compassion, someone with vision and heart, with love for the brothers, but above all someone who was human.

This was brought back in to the larger group later in the morning. At midday we celebrated the Liturgy of the Word in the Chapel and then proceeded to the election of the three Councillors. These were carried out with a great degree of prayerfulness, patience, thoughtfulness and perseverance. The following were elected one by one to serve as Councillors to Joe McGee: first, Carl Tranter; then David Nixon and then Alan Whelan.  These are pictured L-R: Dave, Carl and Alan.

After lunch Narciso Abellana, representing the Superior General, addressed the Chapter on the theme of the General Chapter: Obedience and Mission.  He spoke of importance of fraternal charity and obedience as well as the freedom offered by consecrated life. He stressed the idea of Jesus as our model for obedience. Jesus was always concerned with doing the will of the Father. The role of the MSC today was to make known the love of God for the world and His people. Obedience in religious life necessarily involves mutual discernment and leadership that seeks not to control, but to stimulate, protect and encourage members in how they carry out God’s will.

The day concluded with the election of two Provincial delegates to the General Chapter. Vicente Buitrago and Diarmuid O’Murchu were both elected by the members of the Chapter. Steve Rogers and Charles Conroy were chosen as substitutes. Following the elections Mike Serrage MSC led the group in celebrating the remainder of the Liturgy of the Eucharist. There was a great sense of life, energy and hope among the brothers. It was a long, tiring day, but much had been achieved.

Wednesday 18th May and Thursday 19thMay

After prayer led by the South Africans we began our session by appointing Charles Conroy, John Bennet and Diarmuid O’Murchu to form a redaction group. Their task would be to draw together the work of the entire group into concrete proposals that would provide the basis for resolutions and future planning.

The first item on the order of  business was vocations. We had brief reports of the work undertaken in Ireland and England, Venezueala and South Africa. Following group discussions there was a broad consensus that although individual members may be appointed to take a lead in vocation promotion, such ministry is the responsibility of the entire community. Individual vocations directors must be sufficiently trained and resourced to carry out their work. Collaboration with lay people was seen as essential. We also agreed that we need to explore the possibility of developing youth ministry, not primarily as a way of generating vocations, but to help to share our charism.

Joe McGee spoke on the topic of care of our elderly members in response to submissions to the chapter preparatory committee. The discussion concluded with the decision to develop a clear policy for care of elderly members and a policy for end of life care.

Following Mass, led by the South Africans, and lunch we began a discussion of our retreat and spirituality ministry. Michael Curran and John Bennet outlined some of the thinking which has emerged from two recent meetings of MSC in Ireland and England. This includes the importance of a team approach between lay people and MSCs; the need for ongoing formation and training; outreach; a clear focus on our spirituality of the heart; flexibility; and the use of digital media. This led to an open discussion of where God was calling us as a Congregation at this time in relation to retreat ministry. This discernment will continue within future retreat ministry meetings.

A discussion of new ministries was prompted by a number of submission to the pre chapter preparation committee and followed on from the meeting that took place in Cork two years ago. Again we reflected on the signs of the times and where God was calling us as a congregation today. There was a desire to look at a new vision and new ways of ministering within our existing ministries. Work with young people was raised once again. The role of modern telecommunications and social networking was also emphasised. Suggestions around new models of community and involvement with laity were also proposed.

On Thursday morning Pat Courtney spoke to the Chapter group about the mission in Russia and the need for more personnel. He said he planned to bring it to the attention of the General Chapter to explore if there are other provinces who would be interested in working collaboratively in this important mission.

Following a request from members of the Chapter Carl Tranter shared the experiences of the MSC Cordate Community over the last seven years in discerning and launching a new ministry of presence in the city of Birmingham.

Later on in the day we moved to consider formation in all its aspects (initial, continuing and formation of/with the laity) and issues around both local and provincial leadership.

Joe McGee, the Provincial elect, then addressed the group. He spoke of his appreciation for the trust and confidence placed in him as the future provincial. He stressed that he saw his ministry over the coming six years as one of service. He acknowledged the great positive energy which had been present when electing the three members of the new Provincial team and the enthusiasm and optimism apparent in the Chapter. He thanked Pat Courtney and members of the outgoing council for their work and support. Reflecting the words of Brian Grogan on discernment given last week Joe said that leadership was not about politics; being comfortable; having a solo run; or a time to presume the obvious about what people thought or what needed to be done. Above all it had to be about listening; giving life, being grounded in prayer and reflection; being confidential and respectful; being accountable; continuing to learn and trying to serve. He finished by quoting Ephesians 3:20-21 as one of the inspirations for his forthcoming role, “Glory be to God, whose power working in us can do infinitely more than we can ever ask or imagine”.

After a Eucharistic celebration led by Joe and the members of the incoming Provincial Leadership Team, the members of the chapter enjoyed a festive meal during which tributes were paid to Pat Courtney, the outgoing Provincial.

Friday 20th May

Having concluded the business of the Provincial Chapter on Thursday evening, the final day began and ended with the celebration of Mass.

As members came into the Chapel in Grace Dieu they were greeted by Vicente Buitrago in flambouyant theatrical style. Vicente uses a great deal of drama in his youth ministry and is particularly well known for his clowning.

Transfer-of-leadershipThe Mass, led by Pat Courtney and Joe McGee, gave thanks for all that had been achieved over the past two weeks. Members of our Congregation from five different continents came together to discern where God was calling us in these changing times.

The Chapter has been a time of open discussion, prayerful reflection and careful planning. There was a great sense of unity, optimism and purpose around the work undertaken and the resloutions proposed.

The Mass finished with a symbolic passing on of the torch, as Pat handed over the Chapter candle to Joe. It was also an opportunity for all the brothers present to reaffirm our commitment to our mission through the renewal of our vows.

Finally Pat took the opportunity to thank everyone for their support and participation, before formally closing the Chapter.




Documentation pertaining to the Chapter can be found in the table below in date order and in Adobe pdf format.


Date Document Title
March 2010 Letter of Convocation
May 2010 Letter from the Preparatory Commission
April 2011 Provincial’s Report to the Chapter
April 2011 List of Delegates to the Chapter
May 2011 Acts of the Provincial Chapter