Ahead of the 2024 Feast Day celebrations of Blessed Joseph Allamano – the founder of the Consolata Missionaries on February 16, Fr James Bhola Lengarin IMC, the superior general of the congregation has written a fraternal message calling for living in ‘charity’ with another and discovering “Fraternal love as a fundamental and unavoidable priority for becoming a family of consecrated persons.”
In his message titled “Our Family: Fraternal Love,” Fr Lengarin notes that the general governments of IMC and MC have chosen Blessed Allamano as the protector for the triennium 2024 to 2026, which will culminate in a centenary celebration of the founder on February 16, 2026.
Our Family: Fraternal Love
“In our Congregation, which is a family gathered together in the Lord’s name, all the members are as brothers and accept each other as such (Cf. Rom. 15:7); they show concern for each other, live their mission united in mind and heart, and make their own the joys, suffering and hopes of the whole Congregation. This fraternal unity is the ‘life and soul’ of our Family” (Const. 15).
The two General Governments, IMC and MC, have chosen Blessed Giuseppe Allamano as Protector for the triennium 2024-2026.
This choice was motivated by two reasons: first, because of the joy and expectations put on the process of canonisation of our Father Founder, which has now reached its final stages. We all hope and pray that we can reach the desired goal of canonisation as soon as possible. In order to prepare ourselves well for this great event, we have taken sufficient time to renew ourselves by drawing on the spiritual riches of our Father through a thorough and systematic study of his life, his works and the dreams he had in his heart for the future of our Family.
Secondly, during the same three-year period, we will also be preparing for the centenary of our Father’s death. This will be celebrated on 16 February 2026. One hundred years have passed since he died, but we continue to feel him close, with his paternal presence and with the responsibility of keeping alive the legacy of his example of a priestly life rich in humanity, zeal for souls and profound spirituality, which he has handed down to us, to make it present in life and mission. Indeed, we are convinced that remembering where we came from is the only way to guarantee the future of our Missionary Family.
After the celebration of the 14th General Chapter and the Post-Chapter Continental Assemblies, the Circumscription Conferences, are going on to plan life and mission for the next six years. As a participant and attentive listener at these meetings and conferences, I was struck by the constant reference to one of the most important values that Allamano has passed on to us, his children: Fraternal love as a fundamental and unavoidable priority for becoming a family of consecrated persons.
Father Allamano liked to repeat: “You need fire to be an apostle” (VS 460). He expressed well the ‘spirit’ that was to inspire his children. It was the same fire that was burning in him and that had led him to start the institute. If one does not burn, one does nothing: “The fire is zeal, ‘the proper character of the missionary’, for which the words of Paul, the apostle to the Gentiles, become ours: ‘I do everything for the sake of the Gospel’ (1 Cor 9:23). Allamano re-emphasised this: ‘Everything, everything! I will give of myself, and I will sacrifice myself”.
Love of the brother is the way to union with God and to holiness. It is precisely in this reciprocity of love that the presence and union with God is experienced, and the community of consecrated life then becomes “a human space inhabited by the Trinity, thus extending into history the gifts of communion proper to the three divine persons” (Vita Consecrata, 31).
Dear Brothers, Giuseppe Allamano received from Heaven the mandate to start a missionary institute that was very dear to him and for which he gave everything. He felt the same attachment to the missionaries that St Paul felt to the Philippians, calling them “my beloved and much desired sons” (cf. 4:1). For him, therefore, the “family spirit” was fundamental. It is based on helping one another, bearing one another’s burdens, being supported, and accompanied by our brothers and sisters, as the Word of God and the life of the first Christian communities teach us.
Father Piero Trabucco, in his notes on the Spiritual Exercises, reminds us of this: “The community is an important help for fidelity. In it, the missionary feels welcomed as a disciple committed to following the Master. He finds an abundance of means to facilitate his growth in all the dimensions of his life. It is God himself who has given me the gift of brothers. They are there to help me on my journey of fidelity to God, following the specific vocation I have received through the charism of the Founder. The presence of these brothers is a strength, a guarantee, and an authentic blessing for everyone. It is up to us to make the best use of the community and to take advantage of the many resources that it offers us. It is not difficult to list them: prayer in common, the communion of souls, the Eucharist, the Word of God, fraternal correction, moments of rest”.
The life of the IMC community is the ‘domus nostra et locus sanctificationis nostrae, ubi laudaverunt te patres nostri’. (Vulgate, Isaiah 64:11). Our home is the place of our sanctification, where our fathers praised you.
Surrounded by human warmth, it is in the community that the small project of life that Providence has assigned to each of us is carried out in order to participate fully in the great divine project.
It is a path to holiness that is certainly not limited to consecrated persons and religious communities but is open to everyone. Novo Millennio Ineunte (NMI) devotes the whole of Chapter IV to this theme, vividly proposing it to the whole Church as something willed by God and a response to the expectations of the world: “To make the Church a home and a school of communion: this is the great challenge before us in the new millennium. Before the planning of concrete initiatives, a spirituality of communion must be fostered” (NMI, 43). All this springs from love: “We must have so much love that we give our lives. To love one’s neighbour more than oneself must be the missionary’s way of living” (VS 461).
“The Community is a family. You see: The feast of the Holy Family was instituted to honour Jesus, Mary, and Joseph together as members of one family: the model of families. Pope Leo XIII certainly had Christian families in mind when he established this feast. But he also wanted religious families to be formed according to this model” (VS, 343). “St Peter, in his First Letter, writes above all, persevere in mutual charity. Consider each word: mutual charity, constant charity, charity above all” (VS, 404).
Dear friends, echoing these words of our Father, I passionately invite you to live in charity among us at any cost. For: “We are a “family” in which, with a strong sense of belonging (cf. Const. 15) in the form of consecrated religious life and in the profession of the evangelical counsels, all welcome one another as brothers, take an interest in one another, live the mission in unity of purpose, and make our own the joys, sufferings and hopes of the whole Institute. This commitment is concretised by us in the ad vitam fraternity for the mission, which for Allamano is such a great ideal that must be taken up radically and completely, orienting everything towards it: existence, spirituality, choices, and activities (cf. XIV GC, 26).
In a world that is falling apart, if we do not defend the values that our Founder bestowed to us, we will be uprooted and we will not be able to transmit human warmth and to bring consolation. As the mission continues, walking with the nations, alongside the poor, in the implementation of projects and in pastoral care, we should never forget Saint Paul’s warning: “Even if I speak with the tongues of men and of angels, but do not have the love of charity, I am as a tinkling cymbal or a sounding brass. But if I have a gift of prophecy, or if I have all wisdom and all knowledge, or if I have all faith, so that I can move mountains, but have no love, I am nothing. And if I give away all my goods, and if I give my body to be burned, but have no charity, it is of no avail to me”. (1 Cor 13:1-3)
If every family is the realization of a plan of love, the institute that Blessed Allamano founded 123 years ago is, in our opinion, nothing less than the realization of such a plan. He was deeply convinced that the Institute, if it did not want to lose its identity, needed to be and to continue to be a “Family”.
Let us never take for granted this teaching of our Father Founder on mutual love, on the “family spirit”, which is summed up in some of his convictions that we all know well. I would like to reiterate them at the beginning of the “Founder’s Triennium”:
“The Institute is not a college, not even a seminary. It is a family. You are all brothers. You must live together, prepare together and then work together for the rest of your lives. In the institute we must form a single thing, a single dough” (VS 405); “How beautiful it is to be all together, not like statues in a museum, not like prisoners, but like brothers in the same house, forming a single family” (VS 406).
In memory of our Founder, I wish you to be like the bread broken for others, each one making his own contribution to the living of authentic fraternal love in our communities.
Dear Missionaries, we entrust to Mary Consolata the journey of this Triennium and also our constant and fervent prayer for the canonisation of his beloved Son, Giuseppe Allamano, our blessed Founder.
Let us remember in a special way our elderly and sick Missionaries, whom we thank for living fraternal love at the heart of our Missionary Family, interceding for us all with their prayers and suffering.
Happy Founder’s Day to each and every one of you.
My best wishes to you all for the season of Lent, which prepares us to embrace the Risen Lord!
Dar es Salaam, 3 February 2024
Fr. James Bhola Lengarin IMC