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“An Inner Fire for the New Evangelization”
An interview with Fr Sylvester Heereman

Sylvester Heereman, L.C.
Fr. Sylvester Heereman, L.C. was named vicar general fo the Legion of Christ.

On February 16, 2012, Card. Velasio De Paolis, CS, Papal Delegate for the Legionaries of Christ, named Fr Sylvester Heereman, LC the new general vicar of the Congregation and the Apostolic Movement Regnum Christi. Until then Fr Sylvester had been territorial director of Western and Central Europe. The following interview was first published in the German magazine “L” in its first edition of 2012.

Fr Sylvester, a few weeks ago you were named general vicar of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi. How have you personally taken this appointment and processed it over the past weeks?

Fr Sylvester Heereman: To be honest, I had not expected this call and accordingly was surprised when I received an email from Cardinal De Paolis who asked me to call him by phone. In a personal conversation in Rome I still tried to offer counter-arguments, which apparently were not convincing enough. After this, the initial surprise gave way to fright, which for the next two or three nights made it hard for me to fall asleep. After the fright there followed astonishment but also gratitude for what, in my view, is an unmerited trust, and then finally interior peace from the awareness that our good God knows what he is doing. I don’t know whether I am up to this task, whether I will be able to meet the expectations and demands. This human uncertainty has helped me to renew my confidence in God and to call to mind that after all I have to render accounts to him alone. This spiritual attitude continues up until today and gives me peace.

Your old territory is sad to see you leave. Could you give us a brief summary of your work and the development of the past years?

Fr Sylvester Heereman: I don’t think it is my task to make an account of all that was achieved and what was not, of what went well and what didn’t. But certainly there are a few points that immediately come to mind regarding your question. As far as what is visible is concerned, I was allowed to accompany and share the success of several projects: the founding of the apostolic school, the definitive rescue of the school in Hungary, the purchase of the novitiate in Bavaria, the successful fusion of the territories of West and Central Europe. With particular joy do I look at the positive developments in the apostolates of Regnum Christi that are entrusted to lay people. The merit for these developments should be given in any case to a multitude of confrères, colleagues, and volunteers.

Apart from this, on the new mission I can take with me above all the invisible fruits: the purification of my own vocation and of the mutual dealings within the Legion of Christ through dealing with the crisis of our founder; a deeper understanding of the vocation of lay people to holiness and apostolate, which constitutes a core point of our charism; the learning of  teamwork and above all the deep conviction that any challenge can be overcome with confidence in God’s grace and the good will of our fellow men.

Please explain briefly to our readers at this point the role and duties of a general vicar. Do you prefer a particular style of work? Where in the teamwork do you plan on putting most emphasis?

Fr Sylvester Heereman: In our Congregation the general vicar is above all member of the general council. The general council consists of six members who support the general superior in all important questions and are with him responsible for decisions. Furthermore the general vicar is, as his name indicates, the first deputy of the general director in case that for some reason he cannot exercise his office. Finally, the general superior may delegate to his vicar responsibilities within the government of the order. I have no clear idea yet what tasks that will be in my case since I will only assume my office fully once Fr Andreas Schöggl takes over the responsibility of territorial director on April 15.

Where do you see the priorities of your work and responsibility?

Fr Sylvester Heereman: Independently from the concrete duties within the general council I see my main responsibility in the daily support of the Papal Delegate and the general director in their joint effort within the process of renewal. Along this path we want to bring the members of all generations and continents. That requires constant readiness to dialogue and personal presence. We want to accompany and reinforce the still partially necessary processes of reconciliation and healing. With all our strength we want to take advantage of the great opportunity of this new institutional beginning and do all the “homework” that can make our Congregation even better prepared for the service of evangelization. On one hand we have to deal with overcoming the growing pains of being a young order; on the other side of course we need to repair the damage that the behavior and style of government of our founder have left behind. It’s equally important for us to realize at the same time our talents as a Congregation, to make them flourish and bring them to action.

Where exactly do you see these talents?

Fr Sylvester Heereman: By this I mean a spirituality that orients us towards Jesus Christ as a living friend and real-life example – an inner fire for the New Evangelization. A deep consciousness that we belong to the Catholic Church and therefore possess a sure compass in our obedience to the Holy Father and the bishops. A solid formation, a happy, fervent community life. The desire and the capacity to work together as a team for the proclamation of the Gospel, a team in which lay people have to be the protagonists in many aspects.

You already mentioned that your appointment occurs within a current process of renewal of the Legionaries of Christ and Regnum Christi. According to your opinion, at what point are the Congregation and the Apostolic Movement right now on this path, and how do you want to contribute in the future?

Fr Sylvester Heereman: The review of the Constitutions is making progress according to plan with the participation of all our members and should be completed by the end of 2013, so that in 2014 a general chapter can be held.

Regarding the issues that concern the life of the consecrated men and women, during the past weeks the Delegate and his council have undertaken a lot of things in order to strengthen their autonomy and to get their own process of revision underway. There exists a constructive and sincere work atmosphere between the Delegate with his council and our general government. We are working together in the same direction and can discuss things in all openness. This help from outside I consider a real blessing. One of the present challenges consists meanwhile in anchoring the changes that the Delegate has wished to make also within the everyday praxis of in all our communities. That takes time.

The Papal Delegate has just recently reaffirmed the Holy Father’s confidence in the Congregation and in its new beginning. How do you see the future of the Legionaries of Christ and of Regnum Christi?

Fr Sylvester Heereman: For two, three, or more years we will certainly still be busy with cleaning up and reconstruction after the earthquake of the founder. That unavoidably ties up some of our forces. But even today we see the great majority of the members of our Congregation and those of Regnum Christi dedicating their whole selves once more to our specific mission, which is to foster the vocation of lay people to holiness and apostolate.


Through the Kingdom of Christ to the Glory of God



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