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A conversation with Daniel Lynch, Marist postulant (Sydney Province)


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16/09/2009: Australia


hspace=5By Sharyn McCowen - 26 July, 2009
An interview with a Sydney Province Postulant which has been published in the Catholic presss in Australia.
His grandmother’s faith and a Marist education had a great influence on Daniel Lynch, now in his third year of a double degree in secondary education and arts at the University of Sydney.
So great were these influences, and so strong his own faith, that 22-year-old Daniel is now on the path to becoming a Marist Brother.

“The involvement and the presence of the Brothers in my education at Marist was very influential as to the young man I became,” says Daniel, naming Brs Mark Fordyce, Bill Sullivan and Peter Carroll as having the greatest impact on him.
“I was very fortunate to be taught by a number of young Brothers at school, and their presence sowed the initial seeds for me.
“Without their impact in my life, I don’t think I would be asking the questions I am asking now, so I owe a lot to those Brothers who played a huge role in my formative years.”

And Daniel’s grandmother, who had been a member of the St Vincent de Paul Society for 40 years, inspired him through her lifelong example of “faith in action”, an example he has continued in his own life.
A former Marist College North Shore vice-captain, Daniel was heavily involved in social justice campaigns at school including the Vinnies Night Patrol, and was among a handful of the college’s students to travel to Cambodia on an immersion trip.

“The Cambodian experience was life-changing, and I found myself making the decision to defer my uni studies and take a gap year,” he says.
“I returned to the Marist school, Salla Lavalla, just outside Phnom Penh, to work in the region as a volunteer for six months.”

Salla Lavalla is run by the Sydney province of Marist Brothers, and is the only school in Cambodia for handicapped children.
The primary school currently has 100 students, who come from across Cambodia to go to school.

“That gave me an opportunity to see where our ministry is working in a different part of the world, and the different expressions of being a Brother,” says Daniel, who learnt Khmer in order to teach English at the school, as well as working on the school’s model farm to educate children about agriculture.
“We also now have a secondary school component, and two years ago our first primary students started university, handicapped kids who otherwise would have been begging.
“To see that we were pioneering something in another country, in collaboration with other NGOs (non-government organisations) and Catholic organisations, was amazing.
“That is our foundation.
Wherever we can be involved in education for the poor and most neglected is where we are called to be.”

Daniel, then just 18, also volunteered in the Maryknoll AIDS Hospice in Cambodia (Maryknoll is a US-based Catholic mission movement).
“Volunteering at Maryknoll was a great contrast to the school,” he says.
“Here I was, in the school with young people who had suffered huge disadvantage in their life, but there were still opportunities for their future, compared to people at the other end of the spectrum who were dying and were rejected by their family and their village, who had no-one else.
“I learnt a lot about life and about myself during my 12-month gap year.
“Without faith, all of this is good works, and good works have their place, but faith was the foundation for reaching out to the poor and standing in solidarity with the poor.
“It was the foundation for coming back at the end of the day and knowing why I was motivated to do this.”

The time away was a period of great reflection of Daniel, one in which he considered his future path and the role the Marists would play in it.
“There has never been one light bulb moment when I thought I wanted to join the Marist Brothers.
“It seemed to me to be the most natural path to take, where I could live out my faith day by day and make a difference, a contribution.
“I have always wanted to teach, and to follow in Marcellin Champagnat’s way as a Marist Brother is the most fulfilling way of life for me.”

Although he admits it could be seen as “quite a radical career choice”, Daniel says his friends and family have been “very supportive and encouraging”.
“It certainly wasn’t a surprise to those close to me,” he adds.
“They had certainly seen the ongoing theme of Marist and Marist Brothers in my life.
“And my sister Georgia, who is 18 months younger than me, now has not one but close to 200 extra Brothers!”

While his decision has also been welcomed by his non-Catholic friends, Daniel has had to dispel certain myths and misunderstandings.
“I have a lot of non-Catholic friends at university, and their first question was: ‘When do you graduate and become a priest?’
“I had to explain that this is a very different vocation; equally valid, but we do things differently.
“It’s been as much about sharing my vocation with them as it has been discerning it for myself.
“For a number of people who have had no experience with the Catholic Church, there is a great mystery.
“I think there’s still a mystery for some people in the Catholic faith about what happens to people in religious life, and I see my job as helping others to understand.
“It would be better if more people would be able to see that our lives are about service, but just as there is mystery in marriage, there is mystery in vocation, and the more we can invite people to see what we do, then some of those myths will disappear.”

Now in the second of three stages of entering the brotherhood (aspirancy, postulancy and novitiate), he describes it as a “fairly lengthy process … to complete each of the three stages over a period of a few years”.
“As a postulant, which is kind of like work experience, I live in the community but I’m not under any vows.
“I still go to university and I keep my employment as I have to be financially independent of the Brothers.
“And I make a contribution in rent every week.
“At this stage I will finish more of my degree, then at the end of the year we will make the decision whether I will do another year of postulancy or go on to the next stage of the novitiate.”
Daniel says living and working among the community “is vital to the order”.
“The support within the Marist Brothers is tremendous.”

He resides at Lidcombe with four Brothers and a fellow postulant, Gerard Barklimore, also 22.
“We’re the same age so it’s good to have another young person there to bounce off.
“The companionship is important, and we live independently without housekeepers; we do all our own shopping, cooking and cleaning and so on.”

Daniel works part time at St Joseph’s College, Hunters Hill, as a boarding supervisor, as does Gerard.
His ultimate goal is to return to Marist College, North Shore, as a teaching Brother, and to inspire young to explore religious vocations.

“I think the picture of education is incomplete without Marist Brothers.
“It’s not about having a huge, overpowering force, but vocations in Australia have diminished without the presence of Brothers and other religious in schools.
“As I say to kids at school, if you can’t see a Brother, why would you want to be a Brother?
“Being visible is the key for us, because young people nowadays need to see that vocations are viable.
“For our order, it is definitely viable; we have a number of young men all at different stages, either initially professed or perpetually professed.”

Daniel also believes there is a greater awareness of vocations in the wake of World Youth Day 2008.
“There has definitely been an impact on interest and initial inquiries, and WYD was a good opportunity to put vocations on the agenda,” he says.
“My message to young people is to have a go. Don’t let anything put you off, be it that mystery or anything else.
“If you do feel inclined, have a go; there is nothing to lose. Just don’t die with the question.
“We are definitely open for business; we want people to come and see if this life is for them.
And Daniel has already made up his mind.
“If you can go to bed everyday exhausted but content, and wake up full of energy and excited about what the next day will bring - if you can find that in life, you’re in the right place.”
Copyright © 2008 The Catholic Weekly - Sydney

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