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Hugh Fynn - South Africa, Cape Town


Southern AsiaPersonal experiences

I joined the Marist family in 1999. Until then my spiritual formation had been largely Ignatian. My father had trained for 7 years towards becoming as Jesuit priest. He had attended the same Jesuit high school as I did. At school I was a member of the Sodality and as an adult the Christian Life Community (CLC) was an important part of my life. My spiritual guide in Cape Town was well versed in Ignatian spirituality. My father had introduced me to the powerful and holistic thinking of Pierre Teilhard de Chardin. My mother was also a very spiritual person. She was a very active member of the Christian Science faith. She was well versed in the scriptures and made sure that as children we were more exposed to the bible stories than I imagine most Catholics of my generation were. Her understanding of God was that God is love and the all things lacking an element of love were not of God. Between them both I was brought up to be a questioning person in my beliefs. It hurt me as a child in the pre-Vatican II days of the church that my mothers faith could be so criticized and even condemned by the Catholic Church. I didnt believe that a just and loving God could be so judgmental.

The last eight years of my life have been a further enriching of my spiritual formation. The sometimes austere aspects of Ignatian spirituality have been overlaid with the softer side of Marian theology and spirituality. In many ways I find the Marist way to be more humble. St Marcellin Champagnat himself came from a far more humble family than did St Ignatius. The way in which Marcellin went about things was in a far more modest manner. His ten attitudes towards young people and understanding of the five ways of Mary are very accessible and universal.

I have felt very welcomed into the Marist family by all the Brothers with whom I have interacted. I have been immensely impressed with the manner in which they all appear to live out their vocation. There is a deep internalization of the spirit of Marcellin overlain by the individual character of each Brother. I think immediately of the presence that Br Kevin showed moving among the students young and old and being loved by them all. When it comes to simplicity the accommodation in which the St Josephs community and even the Generalate in Rome and the bothers in the Hermitage live is living proof of this being the practice from top to bottom in the order. The family spirit which they manage is evident in the way in which new brothers are welcomes into the community and soon are an integral part of it. I have witnessed this over and over with brothers from all over the world being a part of the Cape Town community. The love of work is evident in all of them with no task being too menial. As an educator I feel both challenged and inspired by this attitude of the brothers. Br Laurence is never too busy to attend to the little tasks that have to be tackled on a daily basis. I have heard inspirational stories of Br Benjamin from his former pupils. He was saintly in his acceptance of his physical condition while on dialysis when I knew him in his twilight years. The love of Mary and her way of doing things is a constant beacon in the lives of these men. It has been a richly challenging way of seeing Mary. I have found the realism refreshing. I am not one for pomp and ceremony or for too much of what in my opinion borders on idolatry when it comes to the saints. I also find the place accorded to Mary by the Marists a softener to the amount of male chauvinism unfortunately present in the Catholic Church.

As the head of a Marist School I feel it very incumbent upon me to make sure that I am continually measuring all that we do against the yardstick of St MarceUin himself. I have felt most reassured and encouraged by the support and approval that we have received from the Provincials and their representatives on the Marist schools council and our own Board.

The opportunity of going on pilgrimage to Rome and the Hermitage was immensely powerful in helping me wear the mantle of Marcellin. Other huge helps in this process have been the formation which I enjoyed in 1999 when I attended a three day workshop on CIA heart which knows no bounds. The Marist Leadership course run by Br Joseph and Robin Picas on Marist ethos was very powerful, as have been the courses run for staff by Br Mario.

I was delighted to find that a man largely influential in St Marcellins life was a Jesuit, St John Regis. It was also fascinating to learn that when he was in Cape Town, Teilhard de Chardin stayed with the brothers at St Josephs. Other intimate links symbolic of the marriage of my Ignatian and Marist spirituality include the fact that a person who taught my father at St Georges College in Harare, Fr Gavin Duffy was also Chaplain to St. Josephs. For the first seven years at St Josephs the Chaplain was none other than Fr David Rowan who had been a newboy in my dormitory when I was his prefect at St Georges in 1965.

Certainly one of the most rewarding aspects of this demanding position has been the exposure to the Marist way. I am most grateful to the brothers for their whole hearted inclusion in their spirituality and family.

Hugh Fynn, Head of School, St Joseph’s Marist School, Rondebosch, Cape Town, South Africa
Southern Africa