The creation of the European Council took place in Vienna in 1998 by the wish and approval of the Provincial Presidents, the Representatives and Promoters of the provinces. The aim of this Council was to create from the richness of our diversity a common voice for Europe.
Our duties were:
- to prepare statutes for this European Council;
- to set up a structure for communication with the European Fraternities and with the whole Dominican Family;
- to consider ways of encouraging members to have a more positive commitment to our mission as preachers;
- to make personal contacts with all the Provinces including those not present at the Vienna meeting;
- to prepare for the meeting of the Dominican Family in 2000 proposed by the Master General;
- to prepare for this meeting as proposed in Vienna 1998;
- to collaborate with all groups in the Dominican Family in international activities;
- to collect and distribute information and relevant documents.
During the last 3 years, we have endeavoured to carry out these proposals with varying degrees of succes:
- we have established contacts with each province and vicariate;
- we contacted all these prior to the Manila meeting of the Dominican Family, sent out the documents as requested and selected the representatives from Europe;
- we prepared for this meeting here;
- we have collaborated with the other members of the Family;
- we have prepared the Statutes
- we have distributed information and documents when requested.
The setting up a new organization is never straightforward. In Vienna most of us did not know each other or the gifts, talents, capabilities or strengths of everyone. Not all those elected were Finelly Professed or had been so for only a very short time and so lacked the experience of working with other Lay Dominicans.
Although all had gifts, it was not only gifts we needed but also experience in being on a Committee or Council of working together and accepting the decisions made by the majority. The first problem was that one very good member but who was not Professed, decided before the second Council meeting, that he was not cut out to be a dominican but a Redemptorist, so naturally he resigned.
The treasurer had to resign because of ill health and his doctor’s advice and a new treasurer was co-opted on the Council.
Not all members had access to e-mail or fax and it was sometimes very difficult to make contact by phone.
Some were unable to attend meetings promptly because of their work and so could not carry out their office as afficiently as was hoped.
It was also found in one case the expenxe and the difficulty of leaving one’s family for Council meetings caused too much disruption and trouble.
The Council has restricted the cost of their activities as much as possible, relying on the post, e-mail and fax. In spite of this, the personal cost to the individual member has been very high there being little response to our plea for an extremely small contribution from each member of the Fraternities. The Council cannot possibly function without funds. Only two members received any part of their expences.
On the other hand, much has been done to forge connection between the Council provinces and vicariates. I have had numerous enquiries for such things as directories, formation documents, and requests for information on how to start new Fraternities and so on, from as far afield as Australia and Singapore. We have regular contact with some of the provinces in the USA. Our activities appear to be of great interest to so many people.
It was not easy to contact all those members who were Presidents or others holding office in their Provinces, and it took some time to compile and keep up-to-date such a list. It is still not complete.
To be a fruitful Council there must be excellent people but people who do not undertake offices for which they are inexperienced or incompetent.
We had the duty to elect 5 members from Europe to represent us all for Family 2001 in Manila. The criteria for selection meant that it was not easy to find people who not only fulfilled that criteria but were also free to attend.
We had the additional duty of sending out the text to each Province or Vicariat and asking for their response and compiling that response.
This took up much of the very limited time we had for our Council meetings. When we met for the weekend, we worked hard from late Friday night until late on Sunday, with very little time for anything else.
Part of our remit was to prepare Statutes. Without these we cannot function as a Council. For example no bank will open an account with an International group such as ours without Statutes.
Up to the time of formation of the European Council, the organizers had to concentrate on the succes of the Assembly only. We have had the added work of collaboration with the Dominican Family, such as Manila Family 2000, but in addition we have had to compile the Statutes and carry out our remit in the other ways which I mentioned before.
All these things are in addition to the organization of this Assembly.
It has not been easy, but now we know the pitfalls and the absolute necessity of having efficient, faithful, gifted, available, experienced and enthusiastic members for a good Council, perhaps the future of your European Council will be a huge success in helping to carry out your vision of the united Lay Dominicans of Europe. Please pray for each other.
Patricia M. Robinson
There being only five of the seven members of the Council present at the Assembly the following explanation was given:
One member disagreed with almost all the decisions of the Council. He wrote E-mails to this effect and considered that the Council was a waste of the time and money in its present form. Immadiately prior to the Assembly he sent E-mails to many people other than Council members stating that he did not agree with the draft Statutes. He declined to attend any Council meetings, gave no explanation and ceased all correspondence with the Council and also failed to send any letters and information from the Council to the Provinces for which he was responsible. Duties to which he had agreed had to be carried out by other members, one of which was to help prepare the Liturgy for the Assembly. He had the added difficulty in that his family were not able to be supportive financially or in his time spent away from home.
The secretary, found that she was going to be unable to attend the Assembly due to having no leave of absence from her employers. Because of this she failed to attend the important Council meeting prior to the Assembly and did not prepare the Liturgy booklets as agreed and this had to be done in great haste by Zaida and fr. Eugenio Boleo. The documents to be handed to the new Council were not made available at the Fognano Assembly.
The absence of these two members added to the many problems of the other five members of the Council.
ECLDF President 1998-2001