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Ad Gentes

 

Marist Fraternities of the ChMMF of Rio Grande do Sul

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28/11/2010: Brazil

Representatives of the fraternities of Porto Alegre and Montenegro came together for some general information on the Ad gentes project on 20 October. They were accompanied by Br. José Bernardi, co-ordinator of several fraternities of the ChMMF of the Province of Rio Grande do Sul (Brazil). The union was held in the house of one of the associates, a truly Marist house, with statues of the Good Mother and Marcellin Champagnat and other Marist references. Everywhere we went in Brazil, we found Marist symbols, from the University down to the most modest primary school, from the Marist Hospitals to the Social Works. Someone said, only half-jokingly: « the Brazilian is Marist », borrowing a Latin American dictum: « the Latin American is marial ». Someone else corrected this by saying: « many Brazilians are Marists ». For many, this was the first they had heard of the project AG and they felt a natural curiousity: what was it all about?Following good Brazilian custom, we were honoured with a « churrasco » and « caipirinha » (typical drink) for the informal meeting which lasted from 6 o’clock to one in the morning! It was not a question of a formal explanation of the project, but of an exchange « around the same table », animated by the co-ordinator of AG. The participants had the opportunity to express their concerns and their questions.One idea which emerged prominently during the exchange was: « How can we, the members of the Fraternities, be missionaries and collaborate in mission AG ? That was the moment to recall the great figures of the Church who were linked in one way or another with the missions. Certain travelled far away, others were missionaries in the places they worked in. And to cite Saint Paul, Saint Francis Xavier, men who travelled around the world, precisely on mission AG. But there was also the universally known figure of Saint Thérèse of the Child Jesus, who became patroness of the missions without leaving her convent. And who could doubt the missionary zeal of Marcellin Champagnat?Each was invited to reflect on how he or she could become a missionary where he or she lived. At the same time, the idea of being able to hear the call to go far away was not discarded. This Province of Rio Grande do Sul, after all, has had, and still has today, a great missionary tradition. Angola and Mozambique can be mentioned as examples: several brothers outstanding from the scientific or pastoral point of view were mentioned as buried in those countries: Pasa, Justino, Jovtei, Carlos Tesche. The latter was one of the great artisans of the University of Luanda (Departments of Physics and Computing) and a tireless worker in spreading Marial devotion in Angola. Others are buried in Brasil after spending practically their whole lives in those distant lands: Br. Inácio Gregory, who spent 44 years in Mozambique; Br. Antonio Bet, who also lived some decades in Angola. And there are still two « glories » alive and well in the Province: Br. Cláudio, aged 80, tireless in Marist work in Mozambique for more than 35 years, and Br. Firmino, who worked in Angola and Mozambique for more than 40!Another topic that surfaced around the table was the presence of lay Marists in the mission. This point is not new. There have always been lay people in the Marist mission. Some were able to cite some very concrete examples. What is new is their presence in AG. And why not? At the root of all mission is the sacrament of baptism. Anyone baptized can be called to mission AG. A very concrete example is the last AG group (the 7th), which may be considered an « historic group » in the history of the Marist congregation. It was the first which included « lay Marist missionaries », and they outnumbered the brothers: 5 laity (4 women and 1 man) and 4 brothers.The possibility of involving the lay people of the Province in mission AG in the future remains open. We were reminded of the tradition in Brazil, interrupted for two or three years, of sending, via the country’s Conference of Religious, three missionaries (priests and lay) for the Marist missions of Angola and Mozambique. It would be very helpful to « revive » this tradition. This is a message intended for UMBRASIL (the Marist supra provincial organization co-ordinating activities in the Marist world related to the Marist presence in Brazil).It is impossible to develop in this short article a conversation which lasted seven hours and did not finish until dawn… To complement the exchange, we had the very Marist songs of Br. Bernardi, marvellously appropriate to the world of Marist spirituality and mission and to the Fraternities of the ChMMF. A convivial evening, well worth the trouble, and ending on a very high note.________________Br. Teófilo MingaCo-ordinator AD GENTES

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