The purpose of this last session is a very direct and practical one. I shall follow the various points which are the result of the various suggestions I received in the last few months. Obviously this is not a paper and therefore you will find simply hints with reference to the various items to be analyzed and discussed. I would encourage the method of the dialogue and of the exchange of experiences.
This was one of the main points of the letter of Don Vecchi and represents a very telling witness both of our community spirit and of our poverty. It is a growing attitude as we have already mentioned in the first day, also within the Salesian Congregation.
1.1.I shall firstly refer to my article on AGC 361: 'Poor, but in solidarity'
1.2.A further element is solidarity among the provinces of the Indian Conference.
I am aware that this aspect of solidarity is the most difficult one, if one thinks of it in terms of structural organization. Our Constitutions enforce the autonomy of every province both in government and animation. Conferences can be constituted by the Rector Major and his Council for a better connection among the provinces themselves.
Solidarity therefore is an attitude which is left to the good will and sensibility of the various provincials and provincial councils and no binding legislation can be enforced in this and other matters at a national level. Having said this you certainly realize how we are strongly linked by our spirit and our mission and certain structural distinctions are not understood by the laity.
Financial difficulties, emergencies of various kinds, special works which peculiarly enhance our charism should be some chapters to be taken into account to strengthen the links and the collaboration among the provinces of the Indian Conference.
At a national level should happen, I feel, what happens at a world level. Every province enjoys its autonomy but there are moments of trial and difficulty when the interest of the Centre is strongly appreciated!
Article 185 of our Regulations indicates that we can avail of the help and assistance of non Salesian professionals especially in certain specific areas ( budgets and balances, economical programs, building projects). I feel this is a very wise indication, to be wisely and prudently followed. Let me briefly point out the following:
-It is advisable to set up a group of valid and trustworthy professionals at the provincial level, to assist the provincial economer in the running of the province and also of the various houses;
-Legal and financial matters should be always submitted to the opinion of technical advisers;
-Building projects of any kind are always (Reg. 195) under the responsibility of the provincial economer. It is advisable that he be assisted by an architect and engineer who have proved honest and qualified;
-There is no need of a commission of this kind at the local level; it would be too expensive and often unnecessary.
-Various experiences in the Congregation, all over the world have proved interesting especially where provincial commissions (or simply provincial advisers) have achieved a highly professional level and are able to assist the various communities, respecting the autonomy which is sanctioned by our Constitutions.
-An ever increasing need of professional assistance is felt in the area of labour and labour laws.
-Another field where professional advisers can be of great help is the training of the local economers as it is stated in Reg. n. 186. Every year the provincial economer should study with his advisers a plan of ongoing formation for economers (not too heavy, but to the point) with a special view to assist the new economers, who often feel at a loss with the new and unusual job.
-One should finally point out that advisers give qualified advice and offer solutions to problems, but decision making should stay where our Constitutions and our consolidated practice put it (provincial and provincial council, rector and house council)
This is another very delicate point. To analyze it I would like to refer to Fr. Paron's article on AGC 348 'Asking for permissions'.
To what we have already said I simply add the following:
-there may be situations which require a 'sanatio';
-asking for permission, especially for big operations, is to be seen as a guarantee and a sharing of responsibility;
-shortcuts in financial transactions, lack of transparency, apart from being often immoral, may create havoc and serious problemsas it has already happened in the Congregation;
-transparency generates transparency as a rule
We have already mentioned the area of bank deposits in our meeting with the provincials. I simply feel necessary to add further practical points:
-make sure that any bank account be administered with two signatures (rector and economer; confrere and provincial economer);
-a periodical evaluation should be made to monitor the number of personal accounts, to avoid the unnecessary multiplying of them and obvious abuses;
-the province should be the natural place to start various funds for different purposes such as old age fund, health fund, missionary funds, while certain funds, I believe, according to local legislation, should be kept at a local level. We must avoid, but I am sure this is not your case, as a rule the prolonged keeping of money for the simple purpose of accumulation.
-The province should also cater ( and in this case only the province) for a security fund which would enable the province to meet special financial needs, emergencies, special fields of apostolate and difficult financial situations of the houses; it could be called the provincial reserve under strict political control of the provincial and the provincial economer.
-Whenever we must invest sums of money, we ought to make sure that these investments avoid financial speculation and be managed with efficiency and care. Let us often remind ourselves that the money we receive is for our mission, especially for those most in need.
-Especially in the field of investments we ought to be assisted by professionals who know our institution and appreciate our pastoral and social work. Negative experiences teach us that excessive and easy gain is very dangerous and unsafe.
MEETING OF PROVINCIAL ECONOMERS
OF THE INDIAN PROVINCES