Brother Charles De Foucauld

North American Jesus Caritas Communities
August 1st, 2014

Letter from 2014 USA National Assembly

Blessings and hopes

Dear Brother Leonard J.,

Fraternal greetings to our brothers all around the world! 34 brothers have gathered from July 28 through August 1, 2014 at the Franciscan Center in beautiful Colorado Springs, Colorado from all corners of the United States, from New York to California, Oregon to Florida. We gather as pastors, associate pastors, retired priests, priests in transition, one bishop, some with extensive years in fraternity, others experiencing this fraternity life for the first time. We gather to name our blessings and share our hopes for our fraternal life as animated by the charisms of Charles de Foucauld. We share a feeling of gratitude and of being blessed to attend this national gathering and be immersed in this blessing. Our “roots” are being watered! We feel that Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests is a very vital part of our lives; it helps us not just survive, but to thrive. This fraternity in the priesthood reaches across different ecclesiologies and unites us in the adoration of the Eucharist and in the call to be universal brothers. We bring a variety of experiences of fraternity, some more formal, others more “rough around the edges.” All of us have the sense that fraternity has helped us to be faithful to our priesthood as we strive to “shout the gospel with our lives.” It guides us in those difficult times as a place where a trusted brother can support, challenge and call us back the person we are to be. Fraternity offers depth to guide us in our major decisions and invites to hold one another accountable. It is a means to keep our spirituality strong as we practice its charisms.

We are blessed to have our brother Felipe Estevez, the bishop of St. Augustine, Florida, with us for our Assembly and to receive his reflections on sharing the oil of gladness with those on society’s margins, as Pope Francis encourages us in Evangelium Gaudium. Brother Charles understood the power of encounter with the person of Christ; this encounter led him to passionately seek out Christ in simple, hidden and ordinary places and people. We are inspired by Charles’ example and Pope Francis’ invitation to create welcoming parishes and institutions, places of mercy, hospitality, inclusiveness; a church with open arms.

Our fraternity life teaches us how to do this, how to live, as one of our founding brothers has stated it, “being with, listening to, in service of, the person I’m with.” We live this “being with” at a personal level in the gift of devotion to Christ in the Eucharist which helps our appreciation of the Mass as a worldwide connection; this oneness is very personal with Jesus, yes, but also with everyone in the world. We are learning to trust that prayer of abandonment, which is in fact a revolutionary prayer….Father, I abandon myself! We experience this letting go into God as we are invited into personal encounter with those in our parishes who are unchurched, on the margins, perhaps even resistant to the gospel. We are challenged by this call to engage our culture; only through Christ’s engagement of our hearts are we enabled to respond in love. And this response to our neighbor opens up for us a whole new level of intimacy with God.

What are our hopes for the future?

  • We hope that through the gift of Pope Francis, who upholds all that Charles represents, we will hear Christ calling us to be in service to the poor and marginalized.
  • We hope that this witness will be attractive to young people and young priests in particular. We’d like to find a way to break through whatever seems to separate us from our brother priests. We hope to put before them what is the core goodness of Jesus Caritas in a way that they will recognize.
  • We hope to deepen our experience of and commitment to the charisms of Br. Charles. Our hope is that the charisms of current groups would deepen with Review of Life and Adoration.
  • We hope to invite more brothers to attend the next USA Month of Nazareth to be held in July 2016.
  • We hope to be more attentive to our elderly and infirm brothers. We have discovered that in retirement, if we’re open to Jesus, there will always be the little ones, and they will keep finding us, if we’re willing to be with them.
  • We hope to live more completely the charisms of Br. Charles and in so doing, exhibit the joy of the priesthood in an integrated and joyous way.

We want to thank outgoing National Responsible Mark Mertes and his council for their efforts on behalf of Jesus Caritas Fraternity of Priests these past 3 years. We welcome our new National Responsible Fr. Jerry “Hap” Ragan of the Diocese of Savannah, GA and the council he will choose as they carry on the work once initiated by Br. Charles so many years ago. Our final hope is that God in his goodness will bless you with the joy of the gospel, especially in all that is simple, hidden and ordinary!

Gratefully shared by the USA National Assembly
Colorado Springs, Colorado, United States of America
1 August 2014