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A year ago, I received a new mission: to serve as Territorial Director for North America. The territory faced problems that were not unique to it alone. Many things were unclear and we often found ourselves with more questions than answers. Wounded and scarred, we were just starting to come out of a devastating crisis that had shaken our convictions and our trust. Sadly, we lost many members and still others were discerning their own path toward the future.
I am proud of the Legionaries and Consecrated
Honestly, I was afraid. What would pull this territory together and help all emerge from the crisis? The best man-made strategies and plans help, yet I knew that God had to be the first to act decisively in the hearts and souls of our communities and of our Regnum Christi members. I turned to Him for light and strength.
At first, I prayed for a miraculous cure-all panacea to come down from on high. That did not happen. Only by returning to prayer did I understand that the miracle lay before me in the love and fidelity of so many men and women daily serving the Church and building Christ’s Kingdom through Regnum Christi. I look with great pride on you, my brothers and sisters in the Legion and the Movement. I am humbled seeing your generous and faith-filled response to God’s work in your hearts. “Come be my light” is the title of a book detailing Mother Teresa’s spiritual journey. You have been my light in Christ. Legionaries, consecrated and lay members are precious gifts that God has given to enlighten and strengthen one another.
Last year we came together to chart our action plan for the territory. This experience of God’s light and presence among us was undeniable. Before our eyes God reinforced our convictions, renewed our trust and strengthened our love as we grew in our commitment to the Church’s mission and to the call of our charism. Divisions were overcome and fears abandoned as we opened ourselves to God’s grace that urged us forward in carrying out his work.
The commitments we pledged ourselves to through the Action Plan led us to some tough decisions. All have been asked to sacrifice along the way and these challenges have been met with a resilience and endurance borne from love.
Nevertheless, other challenges lie before us and there still so much to do to carry forth our renewal. My confidence for the present and for the future is anchored in God and in the abundance of your generous and willing hearts.
Generosity second to none
Among our present challenges, the financial challenge is one of the most pressing. A few weeks ago, our annual Friends of the Legion Gala was held in Thornwood. Amazed at God’s action in our midst, once again I was humbled by the generosity of some many hearts that share and believe in our calling and mission.
A very special and sincere thanks goes out to our friends and benefactors particularly the chair of the event, Mrs. Baugier and the ladies that helped in the organization; thanks to those who work at our development office; thanks to all Legionaries and consecrated and all who made that very powerful night a success. Thanks especially to our honoree, Peter Freissle, for making his burning desire to bring Christ to the world a reality in his life and in the workplace. You might enjoy his remarks from the dinner.
I told our friends and guests at the Gala a childhood story. When I was a 5 or 6-year-old boy in my hometown of Monterrey, Mexico, for some reason I ended up with a 5 peso bill and a 20 Mexican cent coin in my pocket. The 5 pesos were, at the time, the equivalent of 40 American cents and the 20 cents were a little less than 2. It was a fortune to a child in those times. I could buy at least 3 Cokes and enough candy for a week. Of course, I loved to show off so much money and brought my 5 pesos everywhere for all to see. Then the fatal mistake happened: I took the money to Church. During the offertory, I knew the basket was coming and I didn’t know what to do. I began shaking and broke out in a nervous sweat. I put my clammy hand into my pocket and pulled out my 20-cent coin, leaving the 5 peso bill comfortably behind. I was too attached to it. I made it through the rest of mass, but later I felt miserable. No longer was there any excitement in showing off my money. Even the Cokes and candy did not taste as good that week.
Recalling my own childhood experience, and the generosity of all at the Gala, I can understand why so many left happy that Saturday night.
I have always admired Canada and the United States for their unrivaled generosity. Your countries’ history is often retold through the selflessness of your citizens. The world has witnessed the highest expression of this generosity when as a nation you have sent your own children to help and even to die for noble and just causes in faraway lands. Christ said that there is no greater love than the one who gives his life for others. I believe that you have been so blessed as nations in part for your great generosity. That generosity has made the growth of the Legion and the Movement in Canada and the United States possible.
Over these last 15 months we have done a great deal to fix our finances. We have sold or are in the process of selling many properties to offset our debt. We have begun a process of consolidating operations and some formation centers to be more efficient. Unfortunately, as a consequence, we have had to let some of our employees go.
We also have put in place an accounting system (SAP) that allows us to better our decision-making process, we have finalized audits of all corporations under our direct supervision and we have created internal committees for better governance. Finally, we have established a long-range plan to turnaround our fundraising efforts and are implementing it.
Our Legionary communities and Consecrated teams have taken further austerity measures. These measures have been providential because they have helped us to embrace more profoundly our vows and promises of poverty. This means making to do with only the essentials and probably a little colder house this winter.
Our road toward a stable economy is still lengthy. We continue to need the help of every one of our benefactors and friends. Although many businesses and families have been put to the test these past few years because of the economic downturn, we are confident that many will continue to be generous. We, Legionaries, learn since the apostolic school to pray for our benefactors for their spiritual and temporal needs. Forgive me if I say this again, but please keep helping us. We really need your help. Your generosity will allow us to fulfill our mission of bringing the light of Christ to society.
Our Legionaries and our consecrated have given not only their 20-cent coin; they have also given away their 5-peso bill. We have gone to faraway places to give our life for Christ and our brothers and sisters. We live trusting that Providence will act through the generosity of many men and women of good will.
Trust in Providence
Many years ago, when I was a seminarian in Rome, I worked in the laundry. On a daily basis our team washed, ironed, folded, and handed out the clothes of the 150 priests and students that lived in the seminary. We fit this work in around our class and study schedule.
Every now and then, there were old clothes that were still usable but probably too worn out to wear in more formal settings. Once we gathered enough, I would bring them to a house of the Missionaries of Charity (Mother Teresa’s sisters), so that they could hand the clothes out among the very poor people they helped. One of the young sisters from India became curious about the Legion and our lifestyle. Even knowing their own needs, she wanted to help find benefactors for the seminary! However, she first wanted to know if we, like them, live counting on God’s providence. She wanted to know if we had stable sources of revenue or if we just waited for generous people to help us. I explained to her that we live by Providence, but in a different way than they do. We do not have sources of revenue, but we plan for our future and we strive to implement fundraising efforts that will provide for our needs. Like those sisters that live and serve trusting in God’s providence, we know that all things are guided by his love.
Right now, from a financial and operational point of view, we have done all we can. We have given our 5 pesos AND our 20 cents. Even with all our shortcomings, we believe that God wants our charism to flourish for the good of the Church. We trust that God will continue to move many hearts to provide the much-needed financial support for our priests, seminarians and consecrated in the months and years to come.
A blog like this isn’t a typical place to request donations, but these are extraordinary times. If you can help, please look here for a way to contribute.