Br Paul O’Keeffe, the new congregational leader of the Patrician Brothers, says that its biggest challenges come from its decline in some parts of the world while other parts are “bursting” with life.
“California, Ireland and Australia are diminishing for example, but places like Kenya and India are bursting at the seams,” the Australian brother told The Catholic Weekly after his election at the congregation’s most recent general chapter held in India.
“Our Indian province for example has 101 brothers and something like 28 schools, but they’ve got three new schools in the pipeline.
“Up until now Kenya has come under the Irish province but we will move it probably in the next two or three years towards independence as a province in its own right.
“But you can’t just concentrate on the growth areas, you’ve got to give equal time to the diminishing areas and address the issues there such as ageing brothers and what happens into the future.”
Five of the seven past Patrician international congregation leaders hail from Australia and Br O’Keeffe, 70, is the fourth Australian-born Patrician to hold the post.
Having grown up in Seven Hills in western Sydney, he made his first profession in 1972 aged 19 and has served as a teacher and principal in Sydney, Papua New Guinea and Thursday Island, as a novice director in Papua New Guinea and later a leader of the Australia-Papua New Guinea Province.
“I see my role essentially as calling the brothers to be faithful to the commitment they’ve made through their vows and to the congregation.
“The life of a Patrician Brother is all about the ‘God quest’.
“It’s not about kingdom-building for ourselves or even kingdom-building for the congregation—we’re all about a journey that involves God. That’s why we became brothers.”