Norbertines worldwide prepare to meet at St. Norbert College this summer
|The Most Rev. Thomas Handgrätinger, O.Praem.
A distinguished and very welcome visitor this year has been the abbot general of the Norbertine order worldwide. The Most Rev. Thomas Handgrätinger, O.Praem., has been on campus several times as planning proceeds for the 2012 General Chapter of the order, hosted by St. Norbert Abbey.
The two-week convention brings some 130 delegates from Norbertine abbeys and houses around the world to De Pere. The visiting Norbertines will be housed at the abbey and at the college, and all sessions will take place on campus.
General Chapters are held once every six years and this one, convening July 22-Aug. 4, promises to be particularly historic. It will see the introduction of a new constitution for the order. Further, representatives from communities of the 150 Norbertine sisters worldwide are invited as guests, and will take time to discuss their own constitution, preparatory to the possibility of convening their own, separate General Chapter.
“We have a very ambitious motto, ‘Day of Pentecost,’ ” says Handgrätinger, “and we hope to look to the future with a new élan, a new impetus, after this meeting, and to bring this message out into the houses.” Notably, this 2012 General Chapter is only the second to be held outside Europe. The first was in 1976 and that assembly, too, was hosted in De Pere. It was also the first General Chapter experience for Handgrätinger, who was then a delegate. “The 1976 chapter was my first chapter, and my first visit here. I started here and will finish here in the states,” he says. He will step down from his position in 2013.
Handgrätinger, who was born in Germany and now lives in Rome, sees communication as a major issue for an organization that is dispersed in small communities across the globe. Assembling with confreres at General Chapter is a particular pleasure because it brings the chance to “meet together, stay together, play together. The General Chapter is the best place to communicate what is going on, to share also the good things, to solve problems and also to look for solutions. Communication in our order is [intended] to build communio – to build communio as confreres, but also with the people around you. You know St. Augustine, whose Rule we follow, says we are to ‘live together in harmony, being of one mind and one heart on the way to God.’ In this sense we are to follow together to build communio – and, not for ourselves, but on the way, with the purpose, of God.
“I think about the specifics of our spirituality: communio, contemplation, action. How can we combine these three points for each religious life, for each Christian life? How to combine this in a small community life and to go out from that life, to others?”
Handgrätinger weighs these key elements of Norbertine spirituality in his mind when it comes to another item on the agenda for the General Chapter: vocations. “I’m convinced that this combination is a good model for the future, also. How to convince young people of this? You can only invite them, encourage them to think about this. It’s a little bit contrasted to our society, too, this life. Most vocations are to a relationship to a person. We have to go to a relationship with Jesus, to go deeper. We have to have the courage to speak, that maybe this will be a good way for you.”
March 22, 2012