4th International Oblates Congress
Registration now open for the 4th International Oblates Congress
The 4th International Oblates Congress will take place 4-10th November 2017 at the Salesianum just outside Rome, Italy. It is aimed at Benedictine oblates, oblate novices and oblate directors keen to discuss, to share, to celebrate, to pray and work together, exploring the Congress theme ‘A way forward – The Benedictine Community in Movement’.
The official Congress language will be English, with plenum lectures translated into French, German, Italian, Portuguese and Spanish. Further language groups can be added if participants contact the organisers and offer to help with translation.
The total number of voting delegates will be capped at 150, with each country or region assigned its own quota. However, additional participants are very welcome as non-voting representatives!
So if you are interested in attending, please talk to your oblate director as advised on the Congress website, fill in the registration form and pay the deposit to reserve your place. Follow the link for your language from the Congress homepage:
Please note: the early-bird discount will finish on 21st March!
Behind the scenes, Congress preparations are in full swing, coordinated by Fr Edward Linton based in Sant’Anselmo and with the help of an international team representing the around 50 countries with monasteries with oblates worldwide. Representatives of the international team (including UK National Coordinator Klara Brunnhuber) have held numerous meetings in Rome and London since November 2015, when Fr Edward Linton at Sant’Anselmo in Rome officially launched the preparation of the 2017 Congress.
Together they developed the theme for the Congress and summarised their aspirations in the following Congress Announcement:
A WAY FORWARD – THE BENEDICTINE COMMUNITY IN MOVEMENT
The brothers (and sisters) should serve one another (RB 35)
What does it mean to be an oblate in the 21st century? Formed by the Rule of St Benedict, what is our responsibility for our broken world? How can we act as peacemakers showing hospitality in the face of war, terrorism, refugee crises and religious fanaticism? How can we serve as stewards of an abused planet as challenged and inspired by Pope Francis and his encyclical “Laudato Si”? How can we experience stability when monastic communities are shrinking and disappearing? How can we live a life of silence, contemplation and simplicity surrounded by chaos, idolised entertainment, digital noise and consumerism? How can we as oblates create and contribute to communities around us – in our oblate groups and chapters, in our families and neighbourhoods, in our workplaces and in society as a whole (and even, in our own monasteries of oblation)? The 4th World Congress of Benedictine Oblates, to be held in Rome 4-10 November 2017, invites participants who want to take an active role in facing these challenges, sharing their stories, working and volunteering, searching for answers. We are looking for participants who want to carry their newly gained knowledge back home to become change agents in their own communities – together finding a new way forward.
A formal invitation for the 2017 Congress has now gone out to oblate directors, so if you would like to represent your monastery at this wonderful gathering of oblates from all over the world, please talk to your oblate director today.
Even if you can’t attend in person, there are numerous ways to get involved:
- Translations: The organisers are very keen to hear from you if you are able to help with translations into or from the different Congress languages.
- Posters: All oblates are invited to submit electronic posters introducing their oblate communities, chapters and monasteries; showcasing innovative channels of communication with other oblates; or showing how oblates/oblate communities have responded to any of the challenges outlined in the Congress Announcement above. Posters will be exhibited during the Congress and compiled into an eBook following the Congress.
- Donations: Please get in touch if you would like to support the Congress financially (for example sponsor a delegate from the developing world): firstname.lastname@example.org.
We are pleased to include a series of photographs taken by Martin Gardner, one of our UK Delegates at the recent Word Oblates Congress.
We hope you enjoy the slideshow and get a flavour of the spiritual, business and leisure activities enjoyed during that memorial week.
Please follow the link to start the slideshow. 3rd World Congress Photo Album
A pilgrim’s reflection on the 3rd World Oblate congress in Rome 2013
…the task is set, the responsibility is huge…
A journey is not measured by what I have done or seen, but rather by the lessons or insights I have gained. This also applies to my pilgrimage to the congress. It is not so important as to what exactly happened and what I have done or seen, but what it is that came across as an individual message or lesson.
What follows is not an attempt to tell accurately what happened during the 3rd Oblate World congress but what questions and experiences I am left with and the attempt to share them.
It was a great privilege to serve as the UK national coordinator for the 3rd World Oblate congress. 13 UK delegates representing Oblates from Prinknash, Pluscarden, St Augustine, West Malling, Ealing, Elmore/Salisbury and Douai first had a get together at Ealing Abbey in June to then meet again at the Salesianum at the outskirts of Rome from the 4th to 10th of October 2013. The motto of the congress was: Obsculta, the Oblate listening in the world.
The programme included, meditation, Lauds, Vespers, the Eucharist, Compline, presentations, workshops, shared meals, trips to Rome, for a public papal audience and a visit to St Anselmo, a trip to Subiaco and Monte Cassino.
Above all the congress was an encounter and an experience of the Benedictine charism in action. The congress was indeed a pilgrimage and it is fair to say that I felt stretched to my limits and sometimes beyond,….. physically, mentally and spiritually.
One hallmark experience was the privilege to meet Oblates from around the world; from Argentina to Australia and from Canada to Korea. Every single Oblate inspired and formed by the Rule of St Benedict manifesting his or her particular monastery in a particular cultural context. Though true to the Rule, the diversity could not be greater. The formation and prayer practice ranged from Tridentine liturgy to silent meditation.
Most Oblates belonged to a monastery; some belonged to a monastery without walls taking Oblation to further and unknown levels for most of us.
“My words are addressed to you especially, whoever you may be, whatever your circumstances , we can read it in the Prologue……As a consequence the Benedictine charism included Catholics and Anglicans or Presbyterians which raised important questions and proved difficult for some.
Formed by my own monastery I could see myself stretched in my understanding of what Oblation means when listening to other Oblates with an unequivocal Benedictine formation albeit different from mine. In this way I could see the emergence of the the universal Benedictine charism.
These encounters could clearly lead me to a newer, deeper and wider understanding of what Oblation could mean.
I found this beautifully highlighted and in a fresco in the lower church in Subiaco. The fresco depicts the scene, which Gregory dedicates only one line in his dialogues, when the young Benedict is handed down the monastic garment from St Romanos. For me this handing down or handing over the monastic garment as depicted in that otherwise simple fresco became a symbol of the Oblate vocation. I see the following elements:
- Young Benedict seeks instruction and introduction into the monastic tradition
- The garment he receives is from a much older tradition which he adopts and then realises in his own life.
I would like to think that in our affiliation to our monasteries with and without walls we gradually and continually receive the monastic garment. The monastic garment – a tradition – will have to be realised in our own lives and may differ from the ones who are handing down the tradition to me to us. The duty to preserve, live and develop this monastic tradition in our various cultural and individual circumstances will be the task of a lifetime of the Oblate.
The congress in Rome taught me that as Oblates we have been entrusted with the monastic tradition being handed down over years through our relationships with our monasteries.
This monastic garment of course is a symbol of a new creation in Christ. It symbolises the process of letting go of the old (self) and imitating Christ in a self emptying way.
Self emptying or Kenosis featured twice during the congress. Firstly in Fr Michael Casey’s landmark talk when he stated that the word of God emptied itself and became text and secondly, it featured in one of the workshops where we explored the possible connection between Kenosis and Oblation. It was suggested that Christ’s self emptying is the Oblates model of self giving. To give one-self ultimately leads to the total giving of one’s self. This self given is emptied of itself.
To sum up. The lesson that is coming out from our pilgrimage is that through obsculta – listening, we Oblates receive the monastic garment and are asked to realise it in all its diversity by total self giving – self emptying. My hope is that we accept the call and it’s responsibility.
Back row l-r: Jim Bradley (Pluscarden); Pam Morey (member of UKOT/Prinknash); Stephen Day (Prinknash/member of UKOT); Thomas Brunnhuber (National Coordinator/Douai); Klara Brunnhuber (member of UKOT/Douai)
Front row l-r: Anne Froud (Malling); Frances Bailess (Spiritual Assistant/Minster); Anne Martin (Ealing); Pam Hendricks (Douai); Jane Roze (Chilworth); Gerry Reilly (Salisbury); Martin Gardner (member of UKOT/Pluscarden). Philip Swindells is not in the picture.
Well it’s over! A wonderful week, absolutely full and a little bemusing for those who had not been before. 156 Oblates from 23 countries – a truly memorable occasion . There were two speakers, Sr Mary John Mananzan from the Philippines and Fr Michael Casey from Australia. Sr Mary John spoke on listening with the ear of the heart and Fr Michael on Lectio Divina. We had four workshop periods over the next three days at which we were able to consider in more depth the content of these two talks. What became apparent was that some Oblates were not familiar with Lectio Divina – formation from Monastery to Monastery, from country to country, and from culture to culture, varies tremendously. It would be impossible to produce or even try to encourage a common formation programme – this is all part of the Benedictine ethos – we appreciate and accept that we are all one and yet all not one.
And we are off
It’s arrived – 4th October – some 200 Oblates will be gathering at the Salesianum near Rome for the beginning of their week’s Congress. A detailed report will follow after 10th October but please remember everyone involved in this wonderful occasion in your prayers .
GB delegates meet at Ealing
On the last Saturday in June ten of the GB delegates spent the day at Ealing Abbey as guests of Fr Timothy Gorham, their Oblate Master. It was a truly wonderful day, enhanced by the sunshine, and we were able to learn more about the Congress at which we are privileged to be representing our monasteries in October.
The number of delegates wishing to attend the 3rd National Congress in Rome is not as many as previously – perhaps this is due to the present economic climate? It is an expensive exercise and one which it might be prudent to plan for in the future. A thought – perhaps each monastery, that might consider sending a delegate to the next Congress, could consider setting up a fund amongst its oblates in order to assist towards the cost for next time?
l-r: Stephen Day (Prinknash Abbey/Treasurer of UKOT); Gerry Riley (St Benedict’s Priory/member of UKOT); Klara Brunnhuber (Douai Abbey/member of UKOT); Thomas Brunnhuber (Douai Abbey/ National Coordinator); Philip Swindells (St Benedict’s Priory, Elmore Abbey); Anne Froud (St Mary’s Abbey, Malling); Frances Bailess (Minster Abbey/Spiritual Assistant); Jane Roze (St Augustine’s Abbey, Chilworth). Two other delegates missing from the photograph were Pam Hendricks (Douai Abbey) and Pam Morey (Prinknash Abbey/member of UKOT).
Seven UK monasteries represented at 3rd World Congress
The team of GB delegates (8 women and 6 men) represented the following 7 monasteries from across the country:
· Douai Abbey
· Minster Abbey
· Pluscarden Abbey
· Prinknash Abbey
· St. Augustine’s Abbey
· St. Benedict’s Priory
· St. Mary’s Abbey.
UK application process started
On 3rd January 2013, the Roman Oblate Organising Committee announced that the UK had been allocated 15 places for the 3rd World Congress, with the total number of participants limited to no more than 250. National Coordinator Thomas Brunnhuber followed up with emails and letters to all UK monasteries, asking Oblate Masters/Mistresses to register their interest by 28th February if they wished to send an oblate representative to the Congress.
2nd International Consultation Meeting in Douai, 10-14 May 2012
In preparation, Douai Abbey hosted the second weekend Consultation Meeting, attended by Fr Henry O’Shea, Secretary to the Abbot Primate, the members of the Italian Organising Committee, and delegates from Canada, Nigeria, UK, USA, Australia, Netherlands, Germany, Spain and Brazil. Times for meetings had been planned around monastery Hours, with items for discussion including workshop themes, invited speakers, venues and congress costs. On Saturday, participants relaxed with wine&nibbles while viewing a display of posters from UK monasteries and the UKOT website, and enjoyed a magnificent concert by His Majesty’s Sagbutts and Cornetts in the Abbey church on Sunday night.
Back row: Michel Gammon (Canada); Pam Morey (UK); Everaldo Dinoa Medeiros (Brazil); Jordi Gubern Prat (Spain); Stephen Day (UK); Raffaele Luise (Italy); Thomas Brunnhuber (UK); Anne-Marie Visser (Netherlands)
Middle row: Klara Brunnhuber (UK); Fr Henry O’Shea (Ireland); Glaucia Pessoa de Vasconcelos Medeiros (Brazil); Franco Primola (Italy); Sally Mercer (UK); Joyce Collins (USA); Carla Moberg (USA); Martin Bernhard Gruger (Germany)
Front row: Mary Lynn Nicklas (USA); Giorgio Marte (Italy); Caterina Feliziani (Italy); Zina Neagle (UK); Agatha Eguavoen (Nigeria); Patricia Panton (Australia)
The UK Oblates Team were also present, and our National Coordinator for the next Congress, Thomas Brunnhuber, was helped by Stephen Day, our Treasurer, Sally Mercer, our Secretary, Klara Brunnhuber, our Website guru, Zina Neagle, our Consultant and whose translation skills were invaluable, and Pam Morey, chair of the Team.
It was a truly great and successful weekend, and we thank Douai Abbey very much for their hospitality.
Douai Abbot Geoffrey Scott and Oblate Director Gervase
Holdaway welcome delegates
In preparation for the 3rd International Oblate Congress: Consultation Meeting in Montserrat.
Santa Maria de Montserrat – Photo by Richard Schneider
Seventeen oblates from 9 countries gathered at the International Consultation Meeting in Montserrat from 22nd to 25th October 2010 to discuss the format for the next World Congress of Benedictine Oblates. Pam Morey and Thomas Brunnhuber attended from the UK. “It was a truly memorable weekend,” Pam recalls. “All the Oblates ‘gelled’ so well that the business was completed with time to spare and we were able to enjoy each other’s company just a little”.
Oblates World Congress 2009
The Second World Oblates Congress was held in Rome, 2-10 October 2009 on the theme ‘The Religious challenges of today – the Benedictine answer’. Approximately 210 delegates attended from approximately 37 countries around the world, managed by a staff of 10 people. Some of the delegates have written their accounts outlining the talks and discussions given at the Congress, which are attached to links below.
For my part, I was the National Coordinator for the delegates of the United Kingdom and Ireland and also a member of the staff of the Organising Committee. The number of volunteer staff was greatly reduced from the 2005 Congress, where there had been a staff of 45 people for 300 delegates.
From the United Kingdom there were 16 delegates, and from Ireland
there were 4.
Back row: Pam Morey (Prinknash), Rev Christopher Rowley (Elmore), Elizabeth Napier (Stanbrook), Roger Burton (Ramsgate), Jennifer Smith (Ealing), Sr Benedict Gaughan (Minster), Marie Liveing (St Cecilia, Isle of Wight), Martin Lynch (Glenstal), Bridget Smith (Belmont), Sue Thomson (Prinknash).
Middle row seated: Ann McCarthy (Glenstal), Paula Holmes (Douai), Geraldine White (Glenstal), Rev Kate Rosslyn-Smith (West Malling), Peter Stobart (Rostrevor)
Front row seated: Isabelle Glover (Ealing), Margaret Coll (Pluscarden), Zina Neagle (Douai), Jeanette Morris (Belmont), Christine Dobson (Minster).
Our days were very long commencing early in the morning and ending well beyond midnight each day, coping with many tasks and challenges like medical emergencies, accommodation issues, transport issues, additional tours, arranging the liturgy in different languages and performing administration tasks. On top of this Rome was having a sweltering heatwave which I found most difficult and exhausting.
Despite these challenges, the Congress was a huge success. Oblates had interacted with each other very quickly and where one couldn’t speak a particular language, one soon got used to creating their own sign language to make themselves understood.
Unfortunately, like everything else, the recession had an affect with the organising of the Congress. The fees for the Congress had been set approximately two years prior to the event and during that time the recession created huge price increases on everything – food, accommodation and transport in particular. Rome is known for being expensive but everything was exorbitant even by London prices! Our exchange rate didn’t help either, with the pound being worth just over one euro. The Congress Organisers struggled to make ends meet and worked very very hard to avoid asking delegates for a price increase in fees.
Working with the Organising Committee in Rome was a delight. I only knew one person on the team from the previous Congress, the rest were a team of volunteers thrown together from different backgrounds and countries. I am fortunate in that I speak fluent Italian and have good conversational French which was a great help and much needed with so few of us on the staff. At times we had to work fast and furious with constant last minute changes. I had been assigned the duty of being the main moderator to lead and liaise with the other national coordinators and was the official spokesperson in announcing all the changes each day. Even whilst standing on the podium about to speak, I was being handed last minute messages and alterations to the daily schedule. For someone who likes to be organised this felt like utter madness at times, but it all worked like clockwork and together we worked really hard!
Behind the scenes there was much (healthy) banter, laughter and support which helped to relieve all our tensions, and most touching was the spiritual bond between us. The practice of St Benedict’s Rule was carried out with much love, humility and obedience, and it was wonderful to be a part of this.
Meeting with the Abbot Primate
Abbot Primate Notker Wolf
During the Congress the Abbot Primate, Notker Wolf, met with the national coordinators from each country to discuss various issues concerning the future for oblates. He intends to write to all the abbots and abbesses to begin a consultation process.
Abbot Notker commented on the need for oblates to be willing to gather and interact with each other; ‘we must be virtuous and must not hide our talents’. The idea is to ‘streamline the world of oblates in some way and to make us living bridges of spirituality and culture’, by perhaps creating a confederation of some sort which would be ‘a light, federalised structure inspired by monasteries’ but which would not develop into any form of centralisation. Maintaining the Benedictine ethos is most important and a balance is required. This structure would have to be something flexible for people living in the world. Abbot Notker continued ‘We can die from too much autonomy’. ‘If we are people of God, other people will experience God through us’ and they will see that ‘we are a noble people with daily problems, people of hope and love’.
The Primate felt strongly that formation and education of oblates was of primary importance and that the ‘lacuna’ – ‘the gap’ – must be bridged between oblates and monks/nuns. He talked about having a ‘theology of oblation”. Formation should be done on a local, regional and national level. Programmes can be put on the internet.
Some monasteries already have well organised formation programmes and some are available online. For example, St Vincent’s Archabbey – http://www.osb.org/sva/obl/pdf/OblateFormation.pdf; or the Monastery of the Ascension http://www.idahomonks.org/manual.htm. My own monastery, Douai Abbey, has been using, with their permission, a programme from St Meinrad’s monastery in Indiana, in the United States. Other monasteries are not so well organised, and it was suggested that some analysis work be conducted to identify what is done in different monasteries.
It was considered to be a good idea to have a general formation programme for new oblates, although some national coordinators felt not so much a programme but a ‘process’. It was also suggested to have a deeper development programme for people who have been oblates for a very long time and a refresher programme for lapsed oblates.
The Primate ended ‘we must study the ways in which not to waste the richness of these two World Oblates Congresses’. He made a strong statement about using the internet as a tool. He believes websites are the way forward for communicating and distributing information, and that each nation should have a website for oblates, for with regard to living in these modern times he says, ‘he who is not on the screen does not exist’. I am happy to say that we are one of the first countries, if not the first country, to have a national website for oblates.
Reports from Delegates
To find out more about the Congress and the talks that were given by key speakers, please read the following reports from some of the delegates who attended.
Isabelle Glover, Oblate of Ealing Abbey, London
Peter Stobart, Oblate of Holy Cross Monastery, Rostrevor, Northern Ireland
Margaret Coll, Oblate of Pluscarden Abbey, Scotland
Sue Thomson, Oblate of Prinknash Abbey, Gloucestershire
Marie Liveing, Oblate of St Cecilia’s Abbey, Isle of Wight
Martin Lynch, Oblate of Glenstal Abbey, Ireland
Two of the congress papers are now available on the Congress website www.benedictine-oblates.org. The remaining talks were recorded live and will be posted on the site once they have been transcribed and translated into the five main languages that were spoken, English, Spanish, German, Italian and French.
Finally, I would like to say what a privilege and honour it was for me to participate in working behind the scenes both during the 18 months leading up to the Congress and during the week that I was in Rome. I learnt an awful lot and was delighted to be able to offer all my skills to serve the Lord in this way. I have met many wonderful people and have made several new friends. Looking back, I can see how much we all belong to one big Benedictine family and whereas I consider oblates from my own monastery to be my ‘family’, I consider oblates of other monasteries to be my ‘cousins’.
With Christ at the centre we are all One.
View of the grounds at the Salesianum
The panel meeting on Interreligious Dialogue
St Peter’s Dome
Margaret Coll (Pluscarden), Sr Benedict Gaughan (Minster), Pam Morey and Sue Thomson (both Prinknash) – all from the Subiaco Congregation
Some of the group preparing for the trip to Monte Cassino – Bridget Smith (Belmont), Sue Thomson (Prinknash), Isabelle Glover (Ealing), Pam Morey (Prinknash), Margaret Coll (Pluscarden), Marie Liveing (St Cecilia), Peter Stobart (Rostrevor), Roger Burton (Ramsgate).
Front Door of Monte Cassino Monastery
Monte Cassino Monastery
Sant’Anselmo’s Abbey Church