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Province Congregation

I've spent the last few days in the US, attending my province congregation. On the thought that the nuts-and-bolts working of a religious order might be of general interest (perhaps to fantasy writers who want to have a realistic inside look into a medieval governance structure), let me explain a bit of what this involved.

Every few years, each province holds a Province Congregation. From my province, about 50 delegates were elected, or appointed, or attend ex-officio, to represent the 500 men in the province; I was one of those elected. So on Sunday, I flew from Rome to Baltimore. (Meanwhile, one of our astronomers who lives in Tucson was flying to Prague for his province's congregation.)

The next day I arrived at a retreat house in the southern counties of Maryland, not far from where the first Jesuits arrived into the British colonies on the Ark and the Dove in 1634 (back when it was illegal for a Jesuit to be in Britain). As we had come from all over the province, and the world, this was definitely "old home week"; there were a number of my old novice classmates in the group, some of whom I hadn't seen for 20 years. Boy, they all sure look older... unlike me, of course.

We had three orders of business: to elect delegates to a gathering of representatives from all the provinces, which will be held in Africa this summer; to vote if it was the sense of the province that we need to call a General Congregation (usually only held to elect a new General, or handle urgent world-wide business; we did not see such a need at this time); and to discuss among ourselves the state of the province. 

In fact we got through our business ahead of schedule, so I have been able to spend a few days in Washington DC, as well, running errands (I sent off a meteorite to a colleague, for instance) and seeing movies. (Thumbs up for Hugo, which was the first use of 3D that seemed worth it, had great performances, and a story with a heart; thumbs down for Tintin, which I found well-made but soulless... one of those pointless adventures where there's no reason at the end of the day to say that the "good guys" were any more worthy than the bad guys...)

Sunday night I fly back to Rome.


Comments

( 11 comments — Leave a comment )
tlunquist
Jan. 7th, 2012 03:14 pm (UTC)
I presume your province is defined by some geographic boundary? What is that, roughly? I know you "live" in Italy and in Arizona; Maryland isn't any of those places, so I find my curiosity piqued. Is your province where you studied, perhaps, or where you were born, or defined some other way, or is just really freakin' big?
kevinnickerson
Jan. 7th, 2012 03:28 pm (UTC)
I too need some definition on 'province'.
brotherguy
Jan. 7th, 2012 03:54 pm (UTC)
On Provinces...
In the Jesuits, people are organized into Provinces based on geography. (This is typical, though some other religious orders organize people by the work they do.) At the moment there are nine "provinces" within the US, though we are in the process of reorganizing as our numbers decrease.

I joined the Jesuits when I was working at Lafayette College, in Easton, Pennsylvania, and that was one reason I joined the Maryland Province which includes the eastern seaboard from North Carolina to Pennsylvania, along with a chunk of southern New Jersey. (Northern New Jersey and New York are the New York Province, New England is a separate province, etc.)

The Province is the legal entity that owns our property, and looks after the support (health care, etc.) of the men in the province. Maryland Province has a legal existence going back to colonial days as the "Corporation of Roman Catholic Clergy" (formerly, Roman Catholic Gentlemen, as it was illegal to be a Catholic clergyman in those days).

The limit to a province's size is that by rule the Provincial has to see every man in the province, face to face, once a year to find out what's going on in their life and work. The job of Provincial is by appointment, lasts for six years, and ambition for the job (besides being a sign of insanity) disqualifies you automatically.

When a Provincial's term is up, the Consultors of the province submit a list of three names, often with a preference noted among the three, as their proposal for a new provincial; the headquarters in Rome usually follows their suggestion but it doesn't have to -- it can reject the list and ask for a new list of three.

I have been assigned to the International Delegation but still retain membership in my home province. I don't see my Provincial every year, but rather a priest ("The Delegate") who has been delegated by Father General to serve in his stead. I maintain my legal residence in Tucson at a house owned by the Vatican for the staff of the Vatican Observatory. That is where I vote, and have my doctor and dentist. "Home" is where you get your teeth cleaned, I guess.
tlunquist
Jan. 7th, 2012 04:01 pm (UTC)
Re: On Provinces...
You anticipated my next question, which was "what if you can't show up for the congregation for whatever reason"? -- the "delegate" solution addresses that, it sounds like.

And yeah, I think home is where your dentist is. A friend of mine who has lived in the Chicago area for well over a decade still goes back to western Michigan to see his preferred dentist.

finding a new one is one of the biggest hassles of moving, in my experience.
brotherguy
Jan. 7th, 2012 04:09 pm (UTC)
Re: On Provinces...
Actually, not being able to attend the congregation invokes a different protocol (it's all worked out in our constitutions, which go back about 450 years, when travel had its own problems). Basically, you can ask for a waiver and if it is accepted they select someone else. We had two guys who couldn't make it for health issues.

One of the wrinkles of the rules is that the person we elect to go to the international meeting doesn't necessarily have to be one of the attendees of the province convention. In that case, you are supposed to suspend the province meeting until they can come and join us. With that in mind I pointed out that we could elect Fr. XXX, who is presently a chaplain with the military in Afghanistan. Somehow that idea wasn't popular with the rest of the attendees, who were hoping to get back to their regular work sometime before the end of the month...
timestep
Jan. 7th, 2012 04:03 pm (UTC)
Re: On Provinces...
Thanks for the additional information. I'd been wondering that too!

Home is where you get your teeth cleaned I'll have to remember that.
timestep
Jan. 7th, 2012 03:23 pm (UTC)
I have to ask, where in Southern Maryland were you staying? I grew up in Waldorf (in Charles County) and my parents (who are happily roaming Rome - thank you so much!) now live in St. Leonard in Calvert County.
brotherguy
Jan. 7th, 2012 03:55 pm (UTC)
We were at the Loyola Retreat House near Faulkner, right on the Potomac, with a glorious view at sunset.
timestep
Jan. 7th, 2012 04:00 pm (UTC)
It is very pretty down there. We used to go to Captain Billy's in Popes Creek (very close to there) for crabs when I was growing up. I went to High School in LaPlata (you drove through it).
brotherguy
Jan. 7th, 2012 04:02 pm (UTC)
Small world!

Yes, the retreat house is on Popes Creek Road -- you turn off the main highway at Captain Billy's (which was, alas, closed for the season this week...)

Hi to your folks in Rome...
bercilakslady
Jan. 8th, 2012 06:26 pm (UTC)
I had no idea how you dealt with that sort of thing. Thanks for sharing.
( 11 comments — Leave a comment )

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