Definition of Terms
Discerning Choices for New Life: A Survey of Options
Reconfiguration goes beyond program-specific collaborative efforts between two or more congregations (e.g., inter-congregational novitiate programs). Reconfiguration joins two or more congregations, typically of a similar charism, in a more comprehensive manner. Reconfiguration is not a legal term per se, but is a general heading describing several legal options.
Reconfiguration is commonly understood to mean creating a new configuration between two or more communities by forming a new structure. Reconfiguration may involve:
- Merger (i.e., one congregation is subsumed by another and its identity is dissolved);
- Union (i.e., two or more congregations join to create a new identity);
- Federation (i.e., congregations agree to form an umbrella coalition for agreed upon purposes); or,
- Alliance (i.e., shares a spiritual bond and may share resources related to their common heritage).
Restructuring is an effort by a community to modify their existing organizational structures and/or create new structures that better address their current realities and desired way of organizing their life in community. For example, Restructuring efforts might include:
- Downsizing or simplifying the governance model (e.g., reducing the number in leadership from 5 to 3; combining their finance and development offices; eliminating their health care department and outsourcing services)
- Creating new governance models. More than simply changing the number of people or offices, this is a shift in the operating values and assumptions of leadership and member. For example, a community might shift from a traditional “hierarchical” model (emphasizing top-down power and efficiency) to a more “circular” model of governance (emphasizing partnership and shared power).
Refounding is an effort to shift the very paradigm of religious life. It is a decision born out of the recognition that a radical shift in the operating values, prevailing attitudes and normative interpersonal behaviors must take place in order for a community to exist and thrive well into the future. It may involve the following kinds of processes:
- Processes of reconciliation and redemption aimed at personal and communal conversion initiated by God’s call to choose life;
- Efforts to create a prophetic vision born of a transformed consciousness (i.e., new paradigm or radical shift in understanding a congregation’s spiritual journey and unique call by God toward mission);
- A re-appropriation of a community’s charism (i.e.,re-authentication or your inner voice ) in light of today’s world and the future of religious life;
- An all-out communal effort to experiment, learn and adopt new ways of relating, communicating and organizing the way in which they live and carry out their life and their mission (i.e., adopting new mind-sets, heart-sets and skill-sets).