Reconfiguration joins two or more congregations, typically of a similar charism or founder, in a more comprehensive manner (i.e., forming a new structure). An “Union” is an effort by two or more communities, to structurally become one in order to strengthen their mission. The communities dissolve and together form a new institute. A union typically involves communities of a similar charism or common founder/foundress. According to Dr. Dunn’s survey recently published, Discerning choices for new life: A survey of options, the following results were obtained, whether considering reconfiguration through merger, union, alliance or federation.
Myths and misunderstandings
Respondents were asked to identify the most important myths or misunderstandings about the options, processes and outcomes? Myths common to all three options were that these would somehow “solve” the very problems that brought them to explore new options in the first place. These problems were, in fact, not “solved:”
- Aging and diminishment. “What I have learned is that it doesn’t solve the problem of an aging community. We are still dying, but we have a lot more energy and vitality in our last years.”
- Shrinking pool of leadership. “In the new congregation, the pool of leadership, in terms of ‘ratio,’ was smaller than our small pool.”
- Ministry options. “Members are not as willing as we imagined to move ministries across the provinces. It did not free up personnel to earn a salary in other ministries.”
Another myth or misunderstanding was that there is a “definite endpoint” wherein efforts to pursue these options would come to completion. “The myth was that once the leadership took over, the merger took place. We are still merging and learning how to do this respectful of our goals, similarities and difference.” ” Regarding a restructuring effort, it was said, “We are still living into these changes.
It is essential to understand, however, that success in choosing any one of these options is dependent upon the work that is also done with the other two. For example, reconfiguring must also include restructuring as well as the deeper work of refounding; otherwise, the transformation needed to birth new life will not occur. All three, in other words, are interconnected and to focus upon one to the exclusion of the others would be a grave mistake.”
For more information regarding reconfiguration and what communities are doing, go to Discerning choices for new life: A survey of options.