The Word to Lead New SVD General Council (2012-2018)

The Word to Lead New SVD General Council (2012-2018):

Congrats to Fr. Heinz and Thanks to Fr. Tony

 

The Pope was greeted by Fr. Heinz

Hearty congratulations to Fr. Heinz Kulüke, the Provincial of the Philippine Southern (PHS) Province in Cebu, elected as the 11th Superior General of the SVD in this 175th birth anniversary year of the Society’s founder, St. Arnold Janssen, in 2012.

The 17th SVD General Chapter, held at the Ad Gentes Center in Nemi, was also specially graced with the historic visit of Pope Benedict XVI on 9 July, six days after the announcement of Fr. Heinz as the new head of the congregation. Outgoing Superior General, Fr. Tony Pernia, welcomed the Pope to the Ad Gentes Center and recalled the distinct connection between the center and the Second Vatican Council. It was at the Ad Gentes Center that the draft of the document on the Church’s mission to the world “Ad Gentes” was prepared in 1965 by the commission headed by the then SVD Superior General, Fr. Johannes Schütte. The Pope was a “peritus” (= expert) of that commission as a young theologian.

The Holy Father said: “I have often thought of those days in Nemi which for me were an essential part of the experience of the Council. And I’m happy to see that your Congregation flourishes. Father General spoke of six thousand members in so many countries, from so many nations. Clearly the missionary dynamism is alive, and it is alive only if there is the joy of the Gospel, if we experience of the good that comes from God and that must be and desires to be communicated.”

 “Thank you for this dynamism of yours. I wish you during this Chapter every blessing of the Lord, a lot of inspiration: that the same inspiring impulses of the Holy Spirit that accompanied us almost visibly during those days may be present among you and help you find the direction for your congregation, and also for the mission of the Gospel ad gentes for the coming years.”

 During his first homily given as the fresh new Superior General on 3 July, Feast of St. Thomas the Apostle, Fr. Heinz gave an inspiring sharing in answer to this question: What does God want the Society and me to do within the years to come? “We know that genuine change will only happen if we allow the Lord to come back into the center – through Jesus Christ the whole structure is held together.” (cf. Eph 2:19-22)

Sr. Emma Gunanto ( Indonesia ), Estrella “Star” del Mar (Cebu) and Cecilia Chui ( Hong Kong ) happily met Fr. Heinz on the Feastday of St. Arnold in 2010

Friends of the Word based in the Philippines, Indonesia and Hong Kong recalled fondly meeting Fr. Heinz, the God-desired next SVD Superior General after Fr. Tony, during the closing celebration of the 100th death anniversary of St. Arnold held at the Adoration Chapel of Divine Peace (where the Pink Sisters station) on 15 January, 2010 in Cebu.

Pope Benedict’s gracious visit to Nemi on 9 July, Feast of the Chinese Martyrs and Saints, mentioned his remembrance of the 6th SVD Superior General, Fr. Johannes Schütte, as a person full of missionary zeal who had suffered in China. This highlight brought back memories of Fr. Tony’s visit to Hong Kong and Macau after his attendance at the celebration of SVD’s centennial presence in the Philippines in August 2009. That year also marked the 130th anniversary of St. Joseph Freinademetz’s arrival to Hong Kong in 1879, preparing for his future pioneer lifetime SVD missionary work in Shandong, China that commenced in 1881.

Fr. Tony was accompanied by Fr. Frank Budenholzer, Provincial Superior of the SVD China Province, for the visit to the SVD community set up in Macau since 2007. The programme also included a lunch gathering with Bishop José Lai of the Diocese of Macau. On their way back to Hong Kong from Macau, Frs. Tony and Frank enjoyed a fellowship meal with some SVD confreres, plus the presence of Cecilia Chui as guest, at the SVD House in Boundary Street. As a meaningful remembrance for their visit to Hong Kong, where St. Joseph had lived for two years (1879-1881), Cecilia offered a Chinese silk painting each to Fr. Tony and Fr. Frank.

It is interesting to note that both Fr. Tony and Fr. Heinz, as the immediate past and the new Superior Generals respectively, were from the SVD PHS Province. Looking back, the 100th death anniversary year of St. Arnold (1837-1909) in 2009 also spiritually connected with SVD’s missionary presence in the Philippines for a century (1909-2009). In one of his addresses made at the Philippine SVD Centennial event, with the adopted theme “We Remember… We Rejoice… We Renew”, in August 2009, Fr. Tony highlighted the Prologue of the SVD Constitutions: “God’s loving grace has gathered us from various peoples and continents into a religious missionary community dedicated to the Divine Word and named after him: The Society of the Divine Word …. We see our special dedication to the Divine Word and his mission expressed in our name. His life is our life, his mission our mission…. We perform our missionary service one in mind and heart with the Divine Word who offers us a living example of loving dedication to the Father and selfless service of others.”

Cecilia presented a Chinese silk painting of “Our Lady of China ” to Fr. Tony, who said it would be framed for display at the St. Joseph Freinademetz Center of the SVD Collegio in Rome

Fr. Tony described beautifully the image of the SVD and all those associated with the SVD – “Persons of the Word”, in two senses. First, a disciple of Jesus and a follower of the Divine Word, who is God’s ongoing dialogue with the world. And secondly, a person who is true to his word, who keeps his word, who “walks his talk”, who lives a coherent and integral life. We are missionaries because we wish to be witnesses to the fact that God keeps his word and is faithful to his promises.

Fr. Tony’s elaboration on “Persons of the Word” resonates with Fr. Heinz’s homily and personal sharing made in Nemi following his election as the 11th Superior General: “Holding such an office requires great trust in God and His very special blessings as well as the constant prayers of confreres around the globe.” “Persons of the Word” – that was what Arnold Janssen, Joseph Freinademetz, and our Blessed Martyrs were. Going forward, may we continue be “Persons of the Word” – persons whose lives and actions are many different words which echo the Word of God, the Divine Word, Jesus Christ.

In 2012, the new SVD General Council has emerged in the 50th anniversary year of holding the Second Vatican Council called by the great Blessed Pope John XXIII. Though he was called to eternal rest by God (in 1963) before the Council concluded, the Blessed Pope gave this insightful message: “The moment has come to discern the signs of the times, to seize the opportunity and to look far ahead.”

Reflecting on the theme of the 17th SVD General Chapter – “From Every Nation, People and Language: Sharing Intercultural Life and Mission”, Fr. Heinz is convinced that “a lived intercultural spirituality also inspired by the Lay we work and live with, can be a unique contribution to people’s life wherever we work.”

 The relay of Word-oriented leadership from Fr. Tony (2000-2012) to Fr. Heinz (2012-2018) will start in Steyl at the tomb of St. Arnold in mid-September. Then on Fr. Heinz’s 56th birthday on 29 September, Feast of the Archangels Michael, Gabriel and Raphael, the new SVD General Council will commence its God-entrusted mission in Rome. Fr. Heinz summed up his envisioned spirit of team leadership for the next six years with the following quote from Deus Caritas Est: “In all humility we will do what we can, and in all humility we will entrust the rest to the Lord. It is God who governs the world, not we. We offer him our service only to the extent that we can, and for as long as he grants us the strength. To do all we can with what strength we have, however, is the task which keeps the good servant of Jesus Christ always at work: “The love of Christ urges us on” (2 Cor 5:14).” (Pope Benedict, Section 35)

Agape meal with Frs. Tony and Frank (second from right) at the SVD House in Boundary Street , Kowloon , Hong Kong

Congratulations and abundant blessings to Fr. Heinz in his new responsibility with vision and dynamism! Deep thanks to Fr. Tony for his tremendous services and well-appreciated contributions in the past 12 years! May the Light of the Word and the Spirit of Grace continue to lead the SVD forward in fulfilling God’s Holy Will!

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