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Marist Bulletin - Number 106


Expanded General Council - Marist Region of Europe (Day 2)

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From analyzing to pinpointing strengths and weaknesses

What can we do to make Champagnat’s dream thrive in today’s Europe? What are our strengths, in spite of weak points, to carry out this task? What challenges do we need to confront if we are to remain faithful to Marcellin’s charism? How can we describe the common challenges in Europe in three or four specific categories?

Those are the questions that the expanded General Council of the Region of Europe mulled over today, Tuesday. The highlights of yesterday’s opening session were our General Superior Brother Seán Sammon’s presentation of guidelines for these days of fervent prayer and discernment, and the study of reports drawn up by the visitation teams. Following personal time for reading these reports, the provincial councils met with the visitation teams to analyze them thoroughly.

Except for the Province of West Central Europe, which has been on the path of restructuring for some time now, our European Provinces are just beginning to get organized - Compostela will start up on January 2, 2004. More time is needed but the steps already taken are promising. Each provincial council has finalized its report concerning two strengths and two challenges in carrying forward Champagnat’s dream. In plenary sessions this Tuesday morning and afternoon, the findings are being shared and debated, with efforts to find common ground.

The challenges listed point to central themes such as identity, processes of personal and community accompaniment, shared mission between brothers and our lay partners, a mission that gives pride of place to evangelization and the redirection of our lives, to community, spirituality, and what’s new... The final synthesis will be presented in a future Bulletin.

Talk given by Leonor García, Secretary of CONFER

At the conclusion of the morning session and before Eucharist, Sister Leonor García gave a brief talk setting out the daring demands that CONFER (Spanish Conference of Religious) has proposed. Leonor, a Sister of Our Lady of Compassion, is Secretary General of the Conference. Before taking this post, she was Superior General of her Congregation, which like the Marist Institute, was founded in 1817. CONFER brings together Spain’s 291 women’s and 100 men’s congregations, their 7526 communities (5545 women’s, 2071 men’s), and 49,505 sisters and 15,461 brothers and priests.

In 1999 the VI General Assembly of CONFER decided to take on these four challenges: 1) proclaiming in a credible way, with the prophetic testimony of our religious life, that Jesus is alive today and reaching out to us 2) sharing a transparent lifestyle in a spirit of solidarity, very much in tune with calls to inter-congregational collaboration and shared mission with the laity 3) doing something about our urgent need to be creators of peace and justice in a violent and abused society, making efforts to live close to the people and overcome all kinds of discriminatory barriers. And 4) proclaiming the gospel everywhere on earth, fully aware that Jesus Christ is a gift for all. Some of these challenges have opened up new areas of thought in later Assemblies. There is a desire to take a closer look at the area of inter-congregational collaboration, particularly by providing for joint formation programs and encouraging the youngest members of Institutes to work together. Efforts are being made to speak with one voice in order to have more of a say in social policy, and to establish greater presence among the poor. We want to unmask ways of thinking, deciding, and acting that embody all kinds of injustice, and when necessary to denounce unjust situations.
Sister’s presentation led to a lively discussion.

This afternoon, the brothers met in inter-provincial groups to arrive at a synthesis of the strengths and challenges that the charism of Champagnat poses for our life and mission in Europe. Tomorrow, Wednesday, we will receive the results of their work.

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