The CRI at a Glance
The Conference of Religious, India (CRI)—the Conference of Major superiors of Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life operating in India—came into existence in 1961. It was formally erected by the Holy See in 1963, following the precept of the Code of Canon Law, which states that, “Only the Holy See can establish them or give them juridical personality. They remain under the ultimate direction of the Holy See” (VIII.709). The CRI Golden Jubilee was celebrated in 2013.
The church encourages this type of fraternal support: “Major Superiors can be associated usefully in conferences or councils so that by common efforts they work to achieve more fully the purpose of the individual institutes, always without prejudice to their autonomy, character, and proper spirit, or to transact common affairs, or to establish appropriate coordination and cooperation with the conferences of bishops and also with individual bishops.” (Code of Canon Law, 708)
The Indian Setting
The CRI brings together about 125,000 men and women religious working in India—the world’s largest body of Catholic religious, with nearly 900 major superiors, belonging to 418 religious congregations, with a younger membership than in most other countries. This large and specially trained body—India’s women and men religious—include members from all parts of India, as well as a few foreign missionaries who made India their home. They run most of the vast network of educational and medical institutions for which the Catholic Church is rightly known and admired. They are also the heroic band looking after the poor and forgotten brothers and sisters in our homes for the destitute, leprosaria, orphanages, homes for the dying, AIDS treatment centers, shelters for street kids, etc. Under their care are tiny dispensaries and nurseries in remote villages, as well as world-famous institutes of learning, well-known periodicals and media centres, far-flung mission stations and bold new initiatives to benefit the most deprived. In this sense, the religious represent the best of what the church offers.
The CRI is a fraternal association of Catholic religious congregations working in India, offering mutual support in our journey of commitment to Jesus Christ by putting God first and sharing God’s compassionate with all human beings, especially the neediest and the most marginalized.
- To bring together the major superiors, as well as other religious, for greater conscientization, mutual support and collaborative ministry, especially in matters of common concern, such as dealing with the government or with church authorities, and updating in religious and secular matters. .
- To help religious orders to achieve more fully the mission and charism of each Institute, while respecting the autonomy, nature and spirit of each.
Why the CRI?
The CRI is not meant to duplicate what each congregation can do, but to support one another, and do together and better what we already try to do alone. In sharing our vast resources of personnel, preparation, premises and potential, we multiply our effectiveness, and give better witness to our common commitment to Christ. It helps us to stand together on issues of common concern, and respond with a united voice to the challenges we face, both internal and external. This becomes particularly helpful to the many smaller religious congregations,that may not have the possibilities of the larger orders.
United action and shared reflection deepen our awareness, strengthen us in our personal and congregational search, and provide valid models of prophetic life and mission. Moving beyond the borders of our congregations opens our hearts to the larger issues facing humankind and the church, reduces duplication of efforts and helps us share our charisms and committed life with a much larger community. Matters of national and regional importance are handled better by such a national Body than by indidividual religious institutes.
Structure of CRI
As shown in the flow chart, there is a national executive, which includes the National President, two vice-presidents, the National Secretary, the vice-presidents and secretaries of the three sections—priests, brothers and sisters—and a few more elected members. The National Secretary, accountable to the Executive, is in charge of the normal running of the National CRI. In this s/he is assisted by a team. The country is divided into fourteen Regions, each of them with a CRI President, Secretary and executive members. At the next tier are the diocesan units, and, within them, the local and zonal units. This way, CRI activities and inspiration can reach every religious in the country.
Areas of Involvement:
- Animation: Empowerment of major superiors, local superiors and formators for more meaningful religious life and more effective ministry, through seminars, writing and facilitation of mutual support.
- Documentation and Research: Systematic gathering, organizing and disseminating uptodate information on the religious of India and their ministries, and making it available for online research.
- Media Ministry: More effective use of both print and electronic media to inform, enlighten and update our religious.
- CRISEC (“CRI Social and Economic Concerns”): An initiative to support the 40,000 or more religious qualified and involved in social ministries.
- Legal Aid: To provide basic training in legal aid to religious, both for our own needs, and to help those deprived of legal access.
- Reach Out: Linking and collaboration with academic, religious and training institutes around the world to facilitate mutual learning and enrichment.