Recently (Feb. 9-13) I spent the better part of a week in New York City at a Paulist General Council meeting. So let me explain to you a little about how the Paulist Fathers community works internally. You have all known several Paulists, and some of you have had the pleasure (I hope) of knowing many Paulists. In any case you may have noticed some distinction, slight or otherwise, between Paulists and other priests you have known.
The Paulists are a Roman Catholic religious community, but we are not technically an “Order.” For that we would have to take vows. Paulists don’t take vows but rather make a promise to live according to the Paulist Constitution. Our founders thought that “the word of a gentleman should be sufficient.” Instead of a Religious Order, in Canon Law the Paulists are a “Society of Common Life.” That and $3 will get you a ride on the new express bus!
The everyday administration of the Paulists is run by a troika called the Presidential Board, or PB for short. It consists of the president (currently Fr. Michael McGarry but in May will switch to Fr. Eric Andrews), a vice-president, and the first consultor. They reside in a house in Jamaica Estates, in the borough of Queens, New York City. Come next Spring they will move into the rectory at St. Paul the Apostle Church in Manhattan, and the house in Jamaica Estates will be sold.
These three are joined by six other consultors who are elected by the Paulists by popular ballot. These 9 (6+3) form the General Council. The General Council (GC) meets at least four times a year, and this council approves Paulist community budgets, sets community priorities, appoints pastors and superiors, conducts a visitation to each Paulist foundation every four years, and generally operates as a board of directors for the Paulist community. I have just been elected to a four year term as a General Consultor.
This means I will have to be away for the better part of a week at least four times a year, may also have to attend to several visitations over the next four years, and perhaps be involved in some GC committees, etc. I have served on the GC for a couple of terms in the past and so understand what is involved.
In addition every four years the Paulists hold a General Assembly to make policy decisions, update our constitutions and decrees, and set our direction for the next four years. It is where the Paulists try to read the signs of the times and chart our direction for the future. It consists of about 35 elected delegates (all Paulists) and usually lasts about ten days. The next one begins this May, on Memorial Day, right after we celebrate the ordination of one of our seminarians (Jimmy Hsu) the weekend prior. I will be going to that General Assembly.
To assist the General Assembly, which is more legislative, there is usually a set of regional meetings to solicit concerns, ideas, and directions for the General Assembly to deal with. This time we are having only one national meeting, which will be held March 10-13 (during UT’s Spring Break fortunately) in Las Vegas, NV. I am not happy about us meeting in Las Vegas during Lent, but that is where the best deal on hotel rooms and meeting space was found. All Paulists are expected to attend, as well as representatives from our collaborators (employees) in each parish or university center, as well as representatives of each of the Paulist Associate groups. Deacon Billy Atkins will be joining us as the collaborator from St. Austin Parish.
So there will be some coming and going this spring of Paulists here at St. Austin, and indeed all over the country, maybe even more than usual. I ask for and appreciate your understanding as the Paulists undertake these tasks, and especially ask for your prayers as the Paulists deal with some difficult and important topics. Please ask the Holy Spirit for wisdom to know how to move forward in our mission and for the courage to do it. Thanks.