Vatican II–1962

The Church had plans for holding a special meeting of Bishops to arrive at some agreements regarding the changes that the Church ought to make in order to keep up with the needs of the people, and also to assess its service to the poor and needy the world over. There had been a lot of dispensations of vows and even more requests for annulments of wedding vows. The Holy Father John XXIII had spoken to his key Bishops and decided that this was the right time for an examination of conscience and a study of the various dispensations requested. Possibly there was a need of tightening the requirements for admission to religious life and the vows. Also what needed to be considered was the application of married priests of other faiths wishing to enter into the service of the Church. Many problems needed to be solved, not only for the Church as a whole, but also for the various religious congregations.

Needless to say, the Vatican II sessions were urgently needed, and the Holy Father asked several times for continuing prayers among the faithful for the guidance of the Holy Spirit on this matter. It was hoped that this renewal would provide some new light of spirit on the whole Church. The drop in the number of applications to enter religious life would, in due time, hurt the Church seriously. There were definitely fewer candidates for the priesthood and religious life, and the loss was being felt the world over. There had been many requests for dispensation of vows. The Holy Father, after much consultation with the many Cardinals and Bishops of the globe, decided to plan for a General Council for a renewal of the Church laws and regulations as well as a renewal of the obligations that needed to be kept as traditions in the Church as a whole.

The Vatican Council II had been carefully prepared, and it was decided to hold it in Rome in the year 1962. This was important for the religious orders who were all called to make a thorough study of their needs and difficulties and to report to that special Vatican Council. The decisions of that council were communicated to the various religious orders, and they were all invited to make the necessary adaptations in their own individual General Chapters and to send their reports to Rome, which would have the last word in approving the requests of each religious congregation.

I recall those years, for there were many Cardinals and Bishops attending the Vatican Council II. They spent a whole year holding meetings and visiting the Generalate of religious orders working in their own Dioceses. I recall this quite well for there were two of these congregation General Houses that had meetings weekly with the various delegates to their General Council, and we had invitations to attend suppers and discussions with them quite regularly during the whole year of preparation. The Superior General of the Marist Fathers, Fr. Joe Buckley, was one of the Superiors General who invited us, and the other was Father Justin Furman, the Vicar General of the Trinitarians. Thus we kept in touch with the discussions of the meetings of Vatican II, and the socializing also helped keep us posted. All these contacts were precious for us, for we were in the middle of our own period of discernment in preparation for our next General Chapter, which was to be held in 1967. The Chapter at which I was named was in 1958, the nine years had gone by quickly, and we were preparing for our next general Chapter. This Chapter helped to guide our decisions and start to keep in line with the decisions that had already been made by the Vatican Council II sessions.


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