Solemnity of Our Lady, Patron of the Hospitaller Order

Circular Letter of the Prior General

My dear Brothers, Co-workers, and members of the Hospitaller Family of Saint John of God,

On 20 November, the third Saturday in the month of November, we will be celebrating the Solemnity of the Patronage of the Virgin Mary of the Hospitaller Order, Patroness of our Hospitaller Family of Saint John of God and Queen of Hospitality. For us, this is the most important feast of Our Mother, and I would like to invite you to celebrate it with the deepest devotion and joy, with my best wishes.

We are still in the pandemic period, although thanks mainly to vaccines, things are improving, albeit unevenly, and we still need to be cautious and continue to take some health measures. In several places vaccines are still scarce and the consequences of the pandemic are creating more poverty and vulnerability. However, there are currently no major sources of infection in the Order. All this is permitting us to resume some face-to-face activities and to return, cautiously, to a certain degree of normality. Let us commend to Our Lady of the Patronage all those who are continuing to suffer the consequences of Covid-19, in our Apostolic Centers and throughout the world.

On this occasion I would like to invite you to call to mind Our Mother, Mary, in the Upper Room together with the disciples of Jesus, the women and the other members of the group: “So from the Mount of Olives, as it is called, they went back to Jerusalem;  With one heart all these joined constantly in prayer, together with some women, including Mary the mother of Jesus, and with his brothers.” (Act 1,12-14).

This Scripture text leads me today to remember the Church and our Family of St John of God as part of it, at this particular moment. Just a month ago we saw the solemn launch of the Synod of Bishops on its journey, with the theme "For a Synodal Church: Communion, Participation, and Mission", whose Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops will be held in October 2023. The Church is calling all her members to rediscover the sense of synodality, that fundamental characteristic of the Church, and to participate in this newly initiated synodal journey.

At the Synod's inaugural Mass on 10 October, Pope Francis said: “Celebrating a Synod means walking on the same road, walking together. Let us look at Jesus. First, he encounters the rich man on the road; he then listens to his questions, and finally he helps him discern what he must do to inherit eternal life. Encounter, listen and discern. I would like to reflect on these three verbs that characterize the Synod.” Always in the light of contemplation and the Word of God.

This means journeying together, engaging together on the adventure of evangelization and, in the case of the Order, of hospitality. The scene of "the whole group together with Mary, Our Mother", is an excellent image of synodality which should help to awaken us and reach out of ourselves in order to unite the whole Christian and Hospitaller community in the mission entrusted to us, using the method defined by the three verbs indicated by the Pope: to encounter, listen and discern together, attentive to what the Holy Spirit is telling us, enlightening us and asking of us.

I call on all the Provinces, Communities and Centers of the Order to participate in this journey of preparation for the Synod wherever you may be in your community, parish, diocese, in consecrated life, pastoral care of the sick, the social ministry or in any other way you can. We make up the People of God and we must join with our local Churches and with the Consecrated Life entities in each country, to journey with them and offer what we are and what we have, the Church of hospitality, in the spirit of St John of God. An enlarged General Government group will be put in place to send its reflections to the Union of Superiors General. You will find the preparatory document and other documents that can help you in your dioceses and Provincial Curies and in several languages on the Internet:

Let us ask this question to ourselves: how is this "journeying together" being performed today in the Order, in the province, and what steps is the Spirit urging us to take, in order to grow as we journey together?

Synodality is also a fundamental feature of our Order. There are many ways of expressing this synodality. One very important expression of it is the provincial chapters. Next year, pandemic permitting, we will be holding chapters in all the provinces. Now is therefore a time of capitular preparation for the Order, we might say of synodal preparation. It is a unique occasion for the provinces to prepare and engage in this event together in a synodal way, with the participation of everyone, fostering the encounter of each one, none excluded, attentively and respectfully listening, and with the necessary discernment to ensure that Our Lord's will may always be done. I urge you all to journey together, synodically, towards the future of each Province and of the Order.

Mary Our Mother, Our Mother of the Patronage, is walking with us in this adventure. Her presence, her comfort and her help never failed St John of God and has never failed the Order throughout our history. As in the Upper Room with the disciples of Jesus, she is accompanying us on our present journey, in the forthcoming provincial chapters and in the life of the Order, wherever it is present.      

I wish you all, speaking also on behalf of the General Curia, a happy celebration of the Solemnity of Our Mother of the Patronage, and I ask her, as in the Upper Room, to always journey together with our Hospitaller Family and to bless our beloved Order and all our Family members.

 With my fraternal best wishes.


Brother Jesús Etayo

Superior General


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