What is a covenant?
A “covenant agreement” is an agreement between two communities wherein one community provides certain services or personnel for another. This is a temporary, commonsense alternative for communities wherein the future seems uncertain, but for whom other options (e.g. merger or union) are not desirable.
A community desiring such an option may receive various kinds of assistance from another community, for example:
Leadership personnel or services
Management and administrative personnel or services
A residence for living
Finance personnel or services
Health care personnel or services
Formation personnel or services
Canonical offices (e.g., formation director or community superior)
The covenant agreement is a legal arrangement defining the promises of personnel or services to be provided by one community for another. If the receiving community becomes viable again by an influx of new members, these services can be terminated and it can choose to re-govern itself. If the receiving community continues to decline, they may modify these agreements over time. Financial arrangements and compensation for such agreements are spelled out in the covenant.
The benefit of a covenant agreement is that it allows a community to remain juridically intact, even with some limitations, while they discern to re-found, reconfigure, die out or choose some other option. It buys them time. They do not have to dissolve or relinquish their identity or go through the hard work of cultural change should they decide to merge or form a union. It is a relatively new alternative that makes good sense for communities who do not wish to pursue more radical alternatives and wish to sustain life in much the same way as they have previously.
It fixes what is broken, but does not transform. It does not “save” a community from the hard work of discerning what to do, how to do it and with what other community they might form such a covenant. It might provide a path of least resistance, but it puts a community on the road to slow, incremental, and sure death.