GENERAL COUNCIL F.I.C. - Prins Bisschopsingel 22, 6211 JX Maastricht, The Netherlands  Phone: *31 (0) 43 3508373
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23.11.2015 02:40:17 821x read.
General Superior Speech - 19 November 2015. "The FIC Story Continues..."

"The FIC Story Continues ......." 
General Superior Speech - 19 November 2015.
Your excellencies, distinguish guests, ladies and gentlemen,
First of all, on behalf of the General Council of the FIC Congregation, I would like to wish you all a good afternoon and welcome to this very special gathering. Today we are gathered together  to celebrate the 175th anniversary of  our Congregation.  The official name of our Congregation is  the "Brothers of the Immaculate  Conception of the Blessed Virgin Mary", but  internationally we are recognized as "Congregatio Fratrum Immaculatae Conceptionis" (FIC).  The Congregation was founded on 21 November 1840 in Maastricht by a Catholic priest called Ludovicus Hubertus Rutten. He was a son of a quite well-to-do family who lived at Jodenstraat, Maastricht. 
Indeed, Louis Rutten, our founder,  was brought up in a well-to-do family;  however he left behind the luxurious life of the family to be able to serve the poor children and forgotten people in his home-town Maastricht.  According to the history  most parents in that time were working day and night due to the demands of modern industrialization and leaving their children unattended properly. Louis Rutten, who were just ordained priest,  felt the call to do something good for the well-being of the children. He took a concrete action by teaching the children who were mostly illiterates: reading, writing, arithmetic, and  religious instruction. After only a short time there were more than 200 children attending his classes. He also then established a night school for boys of 12 to 20 years old and a nursery school. All these schools were soon flooded with children. 
To run these projects Rutten relied on some volunteers and financial supply of his family. The question was then the continuation of the project. He realized that he could not fully depend on himself. He then asked some help from some sisters and brothers congregation, but he  failed to get that help. Finally  he determined to found a congregation of men to continue his project. On 21 November 1840 three novices and one postulant started officially the congregation. Bro. Bernardus Hoecken,  the oldest among them, was assigned superior and at the same time novice master. This is the beginning of the FIC  Congregation.
Development of the Congregation
The 19th century is the booming period of religious congregation in Europe. Many  brothers and sisters congregation were founded in this period, such as  Brothers of Charity in 1807,  Broeders van Oudenbosch in 1840,  Fraters van Tilburg in 1844, Broeders van Huijbergen 1854, Susters Onder de Bogen van Maastricht in 1837,  and Susters  Franciscanes van Heijthuysen in 1848, etc.
The Congregation grew very fast in The Netherlands.  In 1880, after 40 years of  existence, the congregation  consisted of 189 professed brothers and 34 novices, and further in 1910 the number of brothers reached 419 and 30 novices. This fast development happened in all religious Congregation in Europe including  The Netherlands. In line with the growing number of religious in the country, the Congregation saw the call to serve the people in need outside its own land. In 1920 the Congregation started reaching out to the so called " Nederland-Oost-Indische", which is now called Indonesia.  This is the first mission land of the Congregation, after which followed by many other places in  Africa, such as Sierra Leone, Zambia, Malawi, Ghana;  and further  to Pakistan in Asia, and Chile in Latin America.  In Europe we ever established communities in some countries such as in  Belgium, Spain, Ireland, and England. However they were all finally closed down since the congregation wanted to focus its resources on the  then under-developed  countries in Africa, Asia, and Latin America.  In the middle of 20th century the  Congregation "Broeders  van Maastricht" which  was originally a Dutch Congregation had become finally an International one.  As of now the congregation works in 6 countries:  The Netherlands, Indonesia, Chile, Malawi, Ghana, and Timor Leste. In short the story of the Congregation  continuous   after 175 years of existence.
In the later development the modern world has changed the whole society  including the Catholic church. There is no European country  which has not been affected by the phenomenon of secularization,  although the period of  time and events  might  vary from country to country.  According to the survey more and more people now  no longer feel that they are linked to any religion whatsoever.   Despite the fact that majority of Europeans   claim to still be Christians, a large part of young people in  western Europe declare  that they  are not interested in religion.  Data shows that  in 1936  63% Catholics lived in Europe and North America, while in 2006  the number decreased radically.  In this year   67% Catholics live in Asia, Africa, and South and Central America.  People realized  then that the Christianity has been moving from the north to the south. This situation will surely bring religion about to lost of its influence on the way society is structured, especially in European countries.  And for sure this has influenced and will continue to influence the lives of the religious Congregation.  The reduction of vocations in Europe represents one of the most significant signs of what is taking place in the Catholic church.  So the challenge of the Catholic church is the dwindling of candidates to religious life. Meanwhile  another challenge is the phenomenon of old age.  
 Just a concrete  example in our own Congregation,  when I came  to The Netherlands in 2006 the number of Dutch brothers was  still about 150, and now after 10 years there are now less than 60 brothers who are still alive but with the average age of more than 80 years old.  The decrease in members in many  institutes and their ageing give rise to the question of whether consecrated life is still visible witness capable of attracting young people. In many places now consecrated persons become a little flocks because of  the dwindling of its members, meanwhile the demands to serve  the society keep growing due the complexity of the life in the modern world.
Becoming an international community
As I have said earlier that the FIC Congregation was founded in The Netherlands, but in the development has become an international Congregation  with all  its consequences. In the past we used Dutch as the official language of the Congregation, since 1994 we changed it into English. In the area of leadership of the Congregation  in the past all done by the Dutch brothers,  whereas since 2006 there was only one Dutch  taking part as member of the General Council and since 2012 no single Dutch brothers is there. 
Our institute, like many other institutes,  has been  international  by geography but in reality  we are still Euro-centric in culture and formation.  Doing novitiate in Indonesia or Ghana or Chile does not make much difference since majority of the brothers were formed in Dutch-style formation.  Therefore I can say that the spirit of the Congregation is still the same despite the fact that we live in different culture and space.  
Main points for the future
Observing the reality of the present religious life  and looking forward to the future I have the following ideas to be developed  in our Congregation:
1. The religious life should  fully go back to the Gospel. The strong influence of the modern world, that has built an impressive economic development on one hand but loss of ethical and moral values on the other hand,  should be minimized. The role of religious should  continue be in the side with the poor and needy as recommended by the Gospel.
2. The quality rather than quantity. Religious life is a free choice of life based on one’s awareness of God’s special call. Therefore the value of religious life is not dependent on the number of its members, but rather on the quality of life. Promotion of vocation is important to strengthen and  maintain our congregation. However  without maintaining the quality of our life, the value of religious life will be at stake.
3. Faithful to the charisma  of the Founders, however  remain open  to the signs of the times. We continue to build our Congregation on top of the  foundation stones laid by the Founders: Mgr. Louis Rutten and Bro. Bernardus Hoecken. We are not expected to remove the foundation  stones of the Congregation. Otherwise the whole building is going to collapse, or we are in fact building a new Congregation.
4. Unity in diversity and sense of internationality  of the Congregation  is to be strengthened.  The reality of our  congregation is now an international community. The challenge of our Congregation in the future is among others to maintain the sense of unity among the provinces. The brothers who are scattered  in different provinces should continue to support one another. Provinces  should  continue to  share  their  resources with one another  so that the idea of being “one heart and soul” is  coming to reality.  Remember that we are called together and sent out (Const. art. 15)
5. Collaboration is the key of the future. Our Congregation  is not an exclusive church.  The task of  working for the Kingdom is the task of the whole church. The situation of the world  has been  getting more and more complex that we need to work together with  all people of good will, including with other Congregations,  to accomplish our mission which is also the mission of the Church.  The effort to promote associated  life and to impart spirituality of the congregation among friends and those interested  are ways to realize this collaboration.
I look forward optimistically to the future of the FIC Congregation.  Our Congregation is not fading away, but in the process of re-generation and  transformation.  The spirit of our Founders keep alive in  different part of the world. 
In this moment of gratitude allow me, on behalf of the Congregation, to ask for your continuous support so that we are able to keep the heritage of our Founders, namely to work for the poor and needy, for the sake of the wellbeing of our fellow people and at the same time for  the Kingdom of God as was taught by our Lord Jesus Christ.
Long live the FIC Congregation,
The FIC story continues ......
Bro. Martin Handoko, FIC
General Superior   

03.12.2015 01:05:11
dank dat U de enerzijds mooie maar anderzijds storende zich herhalende start melodie hebt verwijderd.

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