Article 6, 7 and 8
CERTIFICATE OF GROUP AFFILIATION
Art. 6 – The Director General issues a certificate of affiliation to the International Association of Prayer Groups to individual Prayer Groups.
Some have commented that Padre Pio wanted a simple organization of Catholics desirous of praying together in his name, and nothing more. Why do we have to be “so organized?” From a spiritual viewpoint, we must always remember that Padre Pio wanted everything done with the Church’s direction and approval; nothing was to be enacted without official Church approval and direction. There is truth to the statement: where two people gather there are at least three opinions. So many characters, opinions, approaches, etc. require some direction that keeps everyone within a context that makes the Prayer Groups recognizable wherever one goes. The Certificate is a formal statement from the one who has the responsibility of directing all the groups in the name of the Holy See, that the group who possesses the certificate has fulfilled all requirements for its establishment and will follow the Statutes and Guidelines faithfully.
He must be satisfied that the Group has a sufficient number of members and is capable of functioning as a Prayer Group, with the approval of the Competent Diocesan Ordinary.
The local bishop’s approval (which may be a simple signature at the bottom of the Registration Form to be sent to the Casa Sollievo della Sofferenza) is essential. This assures the General Director, himself appointed by the Holy See, that the local Church has no objections to this particular Prayer Group. The Prayer Group, in turn, presents its petition to the local Bishop for approval, only after there are a sufficient number of people able to form a group. The exact number will vary according to the group and circumstances.
Prayer Groups should make it their concern to maintain and foster relations with the General Direction through regular reports of the Group’s activities. These ties should be further strengthened during visits and pilgrimages to San Giovanni Rotondo.
Any organization is happy to be kept informed of the progress of its members. As an international organization, the Padre Pio Prayer Groups are a spiritual treasury of wonderful activities around the world. By informing the General Director of these activities, The General Director is able to assess the progress of the Groups and where some assistance might be required. When information is accumulated in one place this facilitates communicating the activities of the International Association to the Groups around the world. Thus, offering incentives and ideas for others as they seek to keep their spirit fresh and enthusiastic. This information may be a source of suggestions and ideas that others may utilize to attempt the same or similar activities in there own areas. Information concerning the activities of the Groups worldwide can also be a source of spiritual animation for the Groups, encouraging them in their fidelity to the charism of the Association dedicated to God in the name of Padre Pio whose spirit has touched the hearts of thousands around the globe.
San Giovanni Rotondo is our “point of reference”. The Father and Founder of our Association spent the major part of his life in this town (now become a city). The town itself speaks of his spirit; here his body is entombed; here his works are so obviously still effectively present; here his spirit is celebrated with structures that make Padre Pio come alive in the hearts of all who visit. Those who are able to visit San Giovanni Rotondo relive the spirit of our Father and Founder. The experience will hopefully animate one’s spirit to lives more firmly the commitment to prayer and service that Padre Pio envisioned for his Spiritual Children. The many who are unable to visit San Giovanni make spiritual pilgrimages to San Giovanni when they reflect on the life and words of Padre Pio and seek to make his spirit come alive in their prayers, reflections, and actions in his name.
RELATIONS WITH THE DIOCESAN BISHOP
Art. 7 – The Prayer Groups are subject to the jurisdiction of the Diocesan Ordinary according to the Norms of Canon Law. The members of the Prayer Groups, in complete communion with their own Bishop, will follow the pastoral directives both at diocesan and national level.
Canon Law is the code of law of the Church that directs the life and activities of the faithful around the world. Above, we mentioned the need for some concrete direction for the sake of order. Here, we are reminded that the last word in any spiritual matter of a local church is the Bishop of the diocese in which the Prayer Group already exists or is seeking to establish itself. This approval is essential. Without the approval of the local bishop, Padre Pio emphatically stated that the group is not to exist as such, and that the people who wished to form the group might pray on their own until such time that the group would be permitted to be established. Persistence in requesting permission, when it has been delayed or maybe refused for a time, is permitted. However, nothing is to be done that could be considered belligerence towards or criticism of the local ordinary. Padre Pio, faithful son of Saint Francis of Assisi, whose words to his friars was a reminder of total obedience to the Church hierarchy, would have it no other way. This directive also pertains to the National Conference of Catholic Bishops of a nation if this body, for some reason, should formulate directives concerning associations of the faithful in general or Padre Pio Prayer Groups in particular.
They will accept, in complete fidelity, the instructions of the General Direction, as an essential means of preserving unity.
The night before he died, Jesus prayed for the gift of unity among all those who would follow him. Unity in diversity is a wonderful gift that often requires a great deal of prayer, sacrifice and Christian charity. The General Direction of the Prayer Groups is our point of reference in understanding the spirit of our founder, the Prayer Groups and the mind of the Church Who is the supreme director of all associations such as ours. Separating from the General Direction is the same as separating from the Church’s directives for organizations such as ours. We cannot be true Spiritual Children of Padre Pio separated from the Head and His representative. It is really as simple as that.
DIRECTION OF THE GROUP
Art. 8 – The Group Leader, the Spiritual Director, the Assistant Leader and the Secretary are responsible for the administration of each Group.
Just as Jesus signaled out one to lead His Church indicating his own conversion as a sign of strength to encourage others, so each individual Prayer Group needs a leadership that is faithful to the spirit and demands made upon its membership. The leader of the group insures that everything proceeds faithfully to the Statutes and directives of the Association of the Padre Pio Prayer Groups, and the spirit of Padre Pio as understood from his writings and the directives of the Church through her hierarchy.
They regulate and organize works and initiatives to be undertaken by the Group.
To regulate and to organize are terms that are often misunderstood and thus exercised in a confusing manner. To regulate signifies a faithfulness to the regula or rule, in other words to the basic requirements and directives of a group. To organize signifies a certain faithfulness to the system that underlies the functioning of a certain matter. New devotions and added offices should not be implemented unless they truly enhance the original articles found in the Statutes. This does not mean that creativity is not encouraged, but it does mean that in our various expressions, we are expected to be faithful to the general expression of the Prayer Groups so that there is no confusion concerning our identity and so that we do not implement devotions that incorporate other associations or groups, thus totally distorting the original purpose and desire of our founder.
When circumstances indicate a need, the Group can organize and undertake projects for children and young people, etc.
The youth of today are the future that will mold the world. The example we set and the values we profess are the inheritance we offer as a legacy for those after us to appreciate and live out in their lives. Our Prayer Groups form an association of people who seek to strengthen and better their relationship with God through prayer and unity. While adults usually form the membership of the Prayer Groups, we should not hesitate to offer opportunities to our youth to appreciate what we have found in the spirit of Padre Pio. His life of witness in the Eucharist, love for Mary and the Church, and love for the young should encourage us to promote the Prayer Groups among our youth. Adapting the requisites and having a qualified spiritual director for the reflective moments of their gatherings, will begin a process of spiritual and moral development that will enable them to grow into the mature Catholic Christian adults the Church desires and the world so desperately needs. If members of the Prayer Group feel a propensity for this ministry, let them speak with the Spiritual Director to evaluate the feasibility of implementing a youth section of the Prayer Group or even a Youth Prayer Group all its own. (Please inform the International Office and the National Office if this is a definite development occurring in your Prayer Group.)