Six months after the death of Saint Louise and one month before his own death, Saint Vincent convoked in Paris, on 27th August 1660, what might be regarded as the first “Assembly” of the Company, in order to designate the “Officers”, the Sisters we would call today Councillors. Viewed from the perspective of our present-day concept of Assemblies, this was certainly a rather special one. However, it would seem that the Company looked on it as the nucleus which has developed and now includes our present-day understanding of what constitutes a General Assembly.
The Assemblies take place every six years (cf. C.87b). This is the length of time that the Company has judged it appropriate for determining tenure of office at general government level, for reflecting on the profound and rapid changes of our times and for reviewing the way that we are living out our charism and our mission to serve those who are poor.
In the Company, every Sister is responsible for being faithful to the charism and for the vitality of our apostolic mission. It is during the Assemblies that they can exercise this co-responsibility. At such times they reach out beyond the small circle of their local community and their own service, to come into contact with the concerns of the Company as a whole, to feel themselves active members of this body and in solidarity with others, to reinforce their feeling of belonging to the Company, and to appreciate its international character.
The Assemblies are an instrument at the service of the transforming action of the Holy Spirit. This requires the Sisters to become open to conversion, prayer, dialogue and openness, participation and freedom of expression. We have to look on Assemblies as God walking among us, as a time of grace that brings hope, which reanimates and oxygenates the Company.
Fr. Javier Alvarez, C.M.
(September-October Echoes, 2006)