Tuesday, 26 December 2023 09:19

What Happened at the 36th General Chapter?

with Servitium Christi


Since I returned 20 days ago from our historic General Chapter in Thu Duc, Vietnam, I have had repeated requests and questions to share my experience. “How was Vietnam?” “What did you do for three weeks?” “How was the food?” “What was the weather like?” “Could you understand everyone?”

We 39 capitulars, translators, secretaries and other co-workers went to Vietnam to represent our various regions and provinces of the Congregation. Our religious elected us to represent them and serve the needs of the universal Congregation. The 2021 Amplified General Council chose our Vietnamese brothers and their relatively new province headquarters because it would be the 50th anniversary of our presence in this faith-filled country. It is also our largest province by membership, both in terms of religious men and women, the Aggregation of the Blessed Sacrament (9,100 members!), and Servitium Christi. It is the only place in the world where all four branches of the Eymardian family collaborate – and we met many of them! Multiple languages were used in our meetings, but they were officially in French and English during business sessions.

We met in the province center, next to the very vibrant SSS parish, where the bells “greeted” us each morning at 4:15 am to welcome the day while the local parish celebrated their first Mass/Eucharist. At that hour, for some of us, it was a chance to work on items for the day, such as liturgy preparation or emails and FaceTime with folks 12 hours away. For others, it was a last-moment snooze before getting up for a long day, ending each night with evening meetings going until 9 or 10 pm, depending on your committee.

What happened 36 general chapter 1

We started each day together in prayer. The days were like a retreat with this Chapter’s rhythm and customs. We would all gather in the chapel for either Morning Prayer and Mass or exposition of the Blessed Sacrament and a holy hour in the presence of the Lord. We would move in procession across the courtyard to the dining room, where we enjoyed various Vietnamese and other cuisines daily. Many days, the traditional Pho was our “breakfast soup”, but many also ate the comforts of their diet with toast, cereals, yogurts, and fruits.

What happened 36 general chapter 2

with the Servants SSS

After a short break, we would gather in the “upper room” at 8:00 am, the 3rd level conference room. It was our Cenacle for most of us “first-time chapter” capitulars. It began with daily selfies, wonderful conversations, and engagement in learning about one another’s stories and our chapter theme song, usually accompanied by a video of SSS and Associates dancing to the tune. It led to hearing detailed conversations about the Congregation’s life and story over the past six years. Six difficult years with COVID left a permanent scar on the world, the church, and us. We heard report after report from each province, our finances, formation, Eymardian family members, and more. We listened to the beautiful stories of the Holy Spirit, our religious and lay/cleric associates living the charism and making the Rule of Life alive in the settings we serve. We met in small groups and as regions to dream and hope for our future and elect leadership to serve the almost 200 proposals for our future. The elections, especially over the proposals, were long days and formal. Still, knowing that we would leave the Cenacle of the upper floor to dine with sumptuous meals at lunch and dinner, for further fellowship and hospitality, made the meetings and complex discussions worth every moment.

What happened 36 general chapter 3

with the scholastics SSS


It was historic, too, for we celebrated a retreat day in honor of the 40th anniversary of our Rule of Life. With next year being the anniversary year, several of our men, from the “founders” of the Rule to current engagers, gave short presentations and reflections; these are worth our study and further reflection in our provinces and can be found on our website.

Many took the sacred siesta each day to beat the heat; this writer and others would exercise to move the body and the spirit to face the long hours of sitting in firm chairs. We would continue each afternoon in reports, discussions, and engagement.

At 6:00 pm would be a time for prayer in the presence of the Blessed Sacrament in the setting of exposition and Evening Prayer, which would lead to a 7:00 pm dinner-the bookend of the day. Walking up and down the stairs helped us walk off the calories we were gaining in the midst of 90-degree Fahrenheit days and the quite humid hours. Saturday night karaoke and social time, Sunday breaks to enjoy the culture and beauty of the country helped us grow closer as a community of faith and enjoy one another’s company.

Above all, Vietnam’s 2nd year novices, postulants, students and province leadership treated us like royalty with care, concern, hospitality, and much more. They helped us become a Rule of Life community for three weeks, ending with life-long friendships, hope-filled reunions, and future collaboration with provinces, returning to our provinces to implement the dreams we hope to be accomplished the next six years with the General Team.

What happened 36 general chapter 4

with the eucharistic family

Please engage in the chapter documents: a lot of hard work went into the preparation, and the previous administration, especially Joseph Binh, is to be commended for their dedication and service. Please pray with the Rule of Life retreat papers and the final message. Notice our new flag on the cover of the document. The colors, logo, and message remind us that we go forth from Thu Duc Upper Room to the ends of the earth to continue the work of the Gospel and our founder to set the world on fire with our Eucharistic charism. May the good work we began in Vietnam continue in us 868 members and our hearts. Let’s review and contemplate our purpose in the Chapter’s vision; let’s get busy!


Father John Thomas Lane SSS
Superior of Province of Saint Ann – USA

Author’s note: The General Secretary invited me to share a short reflection on our recent experience at the 36th General Chapter of the Congregation of the Blessed Sacrament.

Last modified on Tuesday, 26 December 2023 09:35