As Superior General, I am sometimes asked how the Society of the Priests of Saint Sulpice works with the Holy See. A recent meeting in Rome gives me the chance to comment on this question.
First, since the Generalate is in Paris (and by a General Assembly decision in 2008 will remain so), the Society maintains a Procure in Rome in order to have a visible presence in the Eternal City. For some years, the Procure has been situated at the Pontifical Canadian College on the Via Crescenzio, very near the Vatican. The present Rector of the College, which primarily serves as a residence for priest-students from the Society of Saint Sulpice and from various dioceses in Canada and elsewhere, is M. Éric SYLVESTRE, p.s.s., who also serves as Procurator for the Sulpicians.
Father Sylvestre, a Sulpician from the Canadian Province, is particularly suited to this task. He is multilingual and very adapt at maintaining diplomatic relationships with many officials at the Holy See and personnel from various embassies in Rome with whom he has regular contact. As Procurator, he receives requests for information from the Holy See about the current ministerial activities of the Society. In the name of the Society, he also communicates the annual statistics of the Sulpicians to the Holy See and arranges for meetings in several Roman dicasteries, when either the Superior General or the General Council is in Rome for meetings. Such was the occasion just over a week ago.
From April 2-10, 2011 the General Council met in Rome for one of its three annual meetings. The Council resided at the Domus Internationalis Paulus VI, near the Piazza Navona. The house is conveniently located and also has chapels and meeting rooms available for just such gatherings. Participating in the meetings were M. Ronald D. WITHERUP, p.s.s., Superior General; M. Jean-Louis ROUILLIER, p.s.s., First Consultor; M. Jaime Alfonso MORA, p.s.s., Second Consultor; M. David THAYER, p.s.s., Third Consultor; and M. Timothée BODIKA MANSIYAI, p.s.s., Fourth Consultor. The General Treasurer, M. Phillip BROWN, p.s.s., also met with the Council for a day and a half to discuss financial matters and propose the budget for 2012.
During this visit, the Council went to three dicasteries. At the Congregation for Catholic Education, the Council met with His Eminence Cardinal Zenon GROCHOLEWSKI, Prefect, and two of the office staff. This meeting focused on the quality of seminary formation in the three provinces. A second visit was conducted solely in the presence of the Prefect of the Congregation for Evangelization of Peoples (known as the Propaganda Fide), His Eminence Cardinal Ivan DIAS. The Council was able to report on various missionary endeavors in Africa and Asia, which come under the authority of this dicastery. Finally, the Council went to the Congregation for Clergy, where a meeting was held with Msgr. James McDAID, an official in the Congregation, since both the new Prefect and Secretary were, at the last minute, unavailable. A primary focus for this meeting was the Society’s participation in the ministry of ongoing formation of priests and an upcoming interprovincial meeting on priestly formation in the twenty-first century, scheduled for July 2012 in Montreal. In the course of these encounters, the Council received various questions and advice to take into consideration for the future. At the Congregation for Clergy each member of the Council received a CD of the dicastery’s website, www.clerus.org.
The General Council believes these encounters to be profitable as a means of staying in communication with the Holy See and keeping up to date on issues and concerns. A similar meeting, in the company of the three Provincials, is planned for April 2012. The specific dicasteries to be visited and the agenda remains to be set.
In addition to the value of the two-way dialogue with officials at the Holy See, an added bonus of these regular meetings is the Council’s opportunity to connect with other Sulpicians in Rome. For example, the Council went to the Pontifical Canadian College one evening for vespers, Mass, and a festive dinner with the entire community. Currently six of the thirty-one priest students are Sulpicians who are studying for advanced academic degrees at various Roman universities.
The Council also had the great pleasure of dining one evening with Sulpician Cardinal Marc OUELLET, p.s.s., the Prefect of the Congregation for Bishops and President of the Pontifical Commission for Latin America. He took time from his busy schedule to spend the evening with us and to share his thoughts about some of the joys and the challenges he encounters in his new ministry in Rome. The occasion also afforded him a little respite in the midst of a hectic schedule.
Such is a brief glimpse of the view from Rome from a Sulpician perspective. In the evaluation of the meeting, all the members of the Council expressed their appreciation for this opportunity to maintain good contact the See of Peter and to gain a broader perspective of the universal Church.