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District Melanesia Newsletter - Issue 4 - August 2013


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05/09/2013: Papua New Guinea


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Dear fellow Marists.
Last week the District Council spent two days together and with the help of Graham Neist we reflected our Marist future in the District. A couple of significant issues were raised during the meeting and they are important for all of us to reflect on.
The first of these is the sondage for the District leader. We have received permission from the Superior General to start the sondage of the Brothers of the District.
The process asks us to reflect on the future direction of the District. In the recent past a number of symbols have been used to help us understand better the role of leadership as Marists. Br Emile, the Superior General, talks about leadership in terms of the church of the apron. The apron is worn by those who are at the service of others. At the gathering of Brothers at the end of 2012 the symbol used was the basin and the towel. This also reminds us that in taking on leadership in whatever context, as Marists, we are taking a role of service.
Leadership as service can be difficult for us in Melanesia to understand. Our experience often tells us that leadership is anything but being of service. Even the language we use “paramount chief” “grand chief” and “bigman” to describe our leaders does not help in our understanding of leadership as being of service. There are also the continuous re-ports of the corruption, dishonesty and self-centeredness of the leaders in the coun-tries of Melanesia.
For us in Melanesia, taking on a role of leadership as a Marist is taking on a role that is counter- cultural. We have to continually remind ourselves that being in leadership is not about our own status, or about being powerful or about being in the centre of the community. It is about being of service.
During the council meeting we also discussed how best to develop Marist life in the District. This is about the relationship between Brothers and Lay Marists, our shared life and the Marist vocation. The future of Marist life in Melanesia will depend on the strength of the relationship between Marists. This is a challenge for all of us. For some of us Brothers this is a challenge to our identity. Some of us have developed an identity that puts the Brothers apart and of higher status.
This relationship where we are all responsible for the Marist mission will also have its challenges for Lay Marists as they work towards being co-responsible for mission.
To help with the development of our Marist life the District Council has decided to establish a Marist Life team. This is building on the work of Wendy Tame and the Mission Commission. Br Mark Kenatsi will be the team leader and the team will be to be responsible for the life of our mission. It will develop and sup-port the community life of the District. This has a variety of forms. There is the community of Brothers involved in each ministry. There is the community of Marists sharing life and mission in each ministry. There are those who take inspiration for the charism of Champagnat and are not directly involved in our ministries. The Marist life team will work with all these groups.
The team will also take on the promotion of the Marist vocation in all its forms. This reflects that all of us are responsible to ensure the future vitality of the Marist charism in this part of the world. This will in-clude providing a variety of different formative experiences at the local level.
We see the development of this team which will have both Brothers and Lay Marists as responding to the call of the spirit for a communion of all involved.
The District Council also recognised the desire of our ministry leaders to be supported. In talking with ministry leaders in recent times there is a concern that they are working in isolation from others involved in the Marist Project. They desire connection to other Marist ministries. They desire professional develop-ment. They desire formation for their staff. They desire to be an evangelising presence among young peo-ple. In order to help to support our ministries the District Council decided to create the position of Execu-tive Officer for Ministries. This is a further development of the work that Tony Burrows did as part of the mission commission. The Executive Officer will also have responsibilities to work with Boards of Gover-nors and with Catholic Education Offices in promoting our Marist ministries.
The District Council believes it is the right time to make these decisions. They reflect the Council’s strong belief in the future of the Marist life in Melanesia. We have had to learn through our recent experience that our Marist future is not what we envisioned. It is more vulnerable and more fragile than we had hoped. Yet we continue to be open to the call of God’s spirit in the belief that all of us share as co-creators in God’s Kingdom.
Br. Ken Mc Donald

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