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Short Marist laitys history

 

This history should start from Father Champagnat and the first brothers. But while waiting for one of the Marist researchers(1) to help us with this, we are publishing a brief chronology of the most important facts since 1985. So far, the references to laity found in the Chapter documents of the Institute are the following ones:

  • The creation of the members affiliated to the Institute at the General Chapter in 1932, together with the recognition that they deserve.
  • The encouragement of the Associations of Former Students and their Provincial/National Federations, as well as the foundation of the Former Students World Union (1955). See the following General Chapters: XV (1958), XVI (1967-68) and XVII (1976).
  • The elaboration of an ‘educational project’ underlining the integration of all lay collaborators in the educational community (General Chapter, 1976).
  • The vision of an Extended Marist Family(2), presented by the Former Students World Union, ‘meant as a community of people sharing in the same Marist ideal, spirituality and way of acting in the footsteps of Marcellin  Champagnat’. While requesting that the matter should be deepened, the participants in the XVII General Chapter (1976) welcomed the proposal as being ‘not only interesting and suggestive but also highly desirable’.
 
XVIII General Chapter (1985)
 

CharlesBrother Charles Howard, (Province of Sydney-Australia), was elected Superior General. 

“The General Chapter officially recognises the Marist Family Movement, which consists of people who wish to live their Christian life according to the spirit of Marcellin Champagnat and who undertake to follow the statutes of the Movement.” (Acts, chapter 10.1)

“The General Chapter asks the General Council to form a commission, composed of brothers of the different countries where we are established with the task of drawing up the Statutes of the Movement, ‘The Marist Family’.” (Acts, chapter 10.4)

 
TOWARDS THE “CHAMPAGNAT MOVEMENT OF THE MARIST FAMILY”
 

The General Council appointed the said commission formed by Brothers Benito Arbués, V.G., Eugenio Magdaleno, C.G., Richard Dunleavy, C.G., Antonio Eguía (Venezuela), Carlos García (Norte-Spain), Anthony Hunt (Sydney-Australia), Alexandre Lefebvre, (Beaucamps-St-Genis-France), Roque Salet, (Sainte Marie-Brazil), and Tomás Tizziani (Luján-Argentina). They worked during 1987-89, requesting suggestions from a lot of other brothers, laypeople, former students, lay associations, etc. …

From the 29th July to the 1st August 1989, a European Colloquium of the Champagnat Marist Family was held at Lyons (Francheville) during the celebration of the Champagnat Year (the bicentenary of his birth).

In the V General Conference of Provincials, celebrated at Veranopolis (Brazil) from the 21st September to the 15th October 1989, the text of the “Life Project of the MChFM” was presented for final suggestions and recommendations.
The “Life Project of the Champagnat Movement of the Marist Family” was approved by the General Council and presented by Brother Charles Howard to the entire Institute for the closure of the Champagnat Year (16th July 1990).
“Let us consider this document as a first step that you yourselves will complete in future years.”

Circular of Brother Charles Howard: “Champagnat Movement of the Marist Family” (October 1991

 
XIX General Chapter (1993)
 

BentioBrother Benito Arbués, (Province of Catalonia-Spain), was elected Superior General.

“The Chapter was, in addition, marked by a dialogue with some laypeople involved in implementing Marist spirituality and invited for that reason to spend a few days with the Capitulants.”  (Acts, Introduction.)

“… were certainly an historic moment(3). With them, and thanks to them, we became more conscious that the only way for us to take on our mission in the Church is in close communion with them.” (Message. 14.)

“Let’s make real partners of everyone who wants to share in our spirituality and our Mission. Let’s take the risk of losing a little power and be daring enough to collaborate freely with lay people, not because there are far fewer of us now, but because we recognise their vocation and mission as baptised Christians.” (Message 19.)

“We commit ourselves to develop and deepen our ‘partnership’ with laypeople, both in our community practices and in our apostolic work. This implies:

  • involving lay people in all aspects of Marist works, including their direction;
  • promoting and accompanying a systematic formation of laypeople: spirituality; Marist education, leadership, justice and solidarity;
  • Communicating the Marist charism and spirituality to laypeople and being open to be enriched ourselves by their way of living the Christian vocation” (Our Mission, 34.)

“Each Administrative Unit will prepare and develop a project to promote the Champagnat Movement of the Marist Family.”  (Our Mission, 36c.)

“The XIX General Chapter reaffirms the determination of the capitulants to share, ever more and more, their spirituality and their mission with lay people. The Chapter requests the Brother Superior General and his Council to invite the brothers and communities of the Institute to travel further along this path of communion.

The XIX General Chapter recognises that the Champagnat Movement Guidelines offer a sure path for laypeople who are seeking to live a Marist spirituality. The Chapter asks the Brother Superior General and his Council to assist the consolidation and the autonomy of the Movement, particularly by encouraging the formation of its members and communication among the Groups.” (Sharing with laypeople, 1-2.)

During the term of office of the General Council (1993-2001), Bro. Pedro Marcos was appointed as a link councilor for the Champagnat Movement of Marist Family.

In the second part of Bro. Benito’s term of office (1998-2001), different international meetings at a regional level took place (meetings of the Provincial councils in a region, meetings of Brothers according to life stages to discuss specific matters), some lay people being invited to them to reflect together with Brothers.

 
Document “IN THE FOOTSTEPS OF MARCELLIN CHAMPAGNAT – A VISION FOR MARIST EDUCATION TODAY (1998)
 

The XIX General Chapter (1993) requested the new General Council to create “an international commission to describe the characteristics of a ‘Marist Education Project’.” (Our Mission, 35a.)

On the 15th August 1998, Brother Benito Arbués, S.G., presented to the Institute the new document “In the footsteps of Marcellin Champagnat – A vision for Marist education today.” It is “an official document of the General Council to orientate the educational mission of the Institute.”

In the International Commission that developed it, ten brothers and two laypeople Alberto Oliveira, Bolivia, and Emma Casis (Philippines) were interviewed.

“There is a very significant change here from previous Marist documents: the ‘we’ in the text addresses both Brothers and Laypeople who are the Marist educators of today.” (Introduction)

The title of the second chapter says it clearly: “Brothers and Laypeople, together in mission, in the Church and in the world.”

The XIX General Chapter requested of the leaders of Administrative Units “that, in every ministry within the Institute, the document ‘In the Footsteps of Marcellin Champagnat: a Vision for Marist Education’ be studied, reflected on and put into practice.” (Choose life, 45.1.

 
XX General Chapter (2001)
 

 Brother Seán Sammon, (Province of the United States of America), is elected Superior General.

LaicosFor the first time in a General Chapter, two of the five calls to the Institute are for the brothers and laypeople at the same time:

  • “We feel called to deepen our understanding of the specific identities of Brothers and Lay Marists, in sharing life: spirituality, mission, formation…” (3rd call: Choose Life, 26.)
  • “Go forward, Brothers and Laypersons together, in a clear and decisive way, drawing closer to the poorest and most marginalised of young people, through new ways in education, evangelisation and solidarity.” (4th call: Choose Life, 31.

In the Chapter message, “Choose Life”, there are twenty recommendations and requests in the subject of the laity to the brothers, communities, Administrative Units and to the General Counci

One of these says:

  • “The General Chapter recommends that the General Council establish, in the next few years, a process and the necessary structures (studies, meetings, networks, Secretariat, International Commission …) which will help brothers and laypeople to make their Marist identity more explicit – what they have in common, what is specific and what is complementary in our vocations – and to clarify the different ways of being a lay Marist.” (Choose Life, 47.2.)

 

XXI General Chapter (2001)
Br Emili Turú (province of l’Hermitage) is elected Superior General.

 

class=imgshadowWhat this Chapter decided on refers as much to the brothers as to the laity. The second  horizon of the fundamental call refers explicitly to « a new relationship between Brothers and lay people, based on communion, searching together for a greater vitality of the Marist charism for our world today ».

The Chapter recognizes the value of the lay Marist vocation. It regards the Marist future as a  communion of persons in the charism of Champagnat, in which the specific vocations mutually enrich one another. It wishes to promote the development of local communities of brothers and laity, where Marist life, spirituality and  mission are shared. It also wishes to continue to support the  Champagnat Movement, work with other persons who feel drawn by our charism to explore new ways, and to give new vitality to the vocations ministry through the joint work of brothers and laity.

Brothers and lay people hear the call of God to go to a new land, which promotes the birth of a new epoque for the Marist charism. Both are asked to be capable of moving, of  engaging in an itinerary of personal and institutional conversion.

 

 

Footnotes

1. The most important document that we have found on the history of the Marist Laity is the essay by Brother Alexandre Lefèbvre: “Le Mouvement Champagnat de la Famille Mariste. Ses causes.” (The Champagnat Movement of the Marist Family. Its causes.) (Mulhouse France), 1997. It covers the time span from “Les Amicales Maristes” (1865), until the XVIII General Chapter (1985.)

2. The genesis of that proposal has been accurately investigated and registered by Bro. Alexandre Lefebvre in the work mentioned in the former footnote.

3.  Except for the presence of the Marquise de La Grandville, benefactor of the Institute, in a session of the Second General Chapter which took place at the Hermitage in 1852-54, this is the first time in the history of the congregation that laypeople have participated actively in a General Chapter.

4.  In reality, it could be considered as the second European meeting, but the one that took place at Lyons, (Francheville), in 1989, was organised by the fraternities of France and bore the name of “Colloquium of the Champagnat Marist Family.”

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