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Marist Bulletin - Number 110


Brother Aureliano Brambila is the Director of CEPAM, International Center for Studies in Marist Spiritual Patrimony

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Br. Lluís Serra

Brother Aureliano Brambila de la Mora, 70 years old, was born in Mexico City, Mexico. He attended Marist Brothers in that city from February 1939 until November 1950. On December 28, 1950 he entered the Marist Postulancy. After two years at the Scholasticate in Poughkeepsie, NY, he taught in Monterrey, Mexico. While there, in addition to teaching, he majored in Chemistry at the University of Nuevo León. In 1965 he was sent to Rome to study theology at the Lateran University and Jesus Magíster, and Mariology at the Marianum. Returning to Mexico in 1969, he was put in charge of animating and directing various stages of Marist formation. In 1971 he was named Provincial of the Province of Western Mexico. From 1977 to 1982 he was Master of Novices at the novitiate serving our two Mexican Provinces. From 1982 to mid 1988 he studied Marist Spiritual Patrimony at the Hermitage in La Valla and Rome. From 1989 to the present, his Province has asked him to work full-time directing the International Study Center for Marist Spiritual Patrimony. This interview took place at CEPAM’s headquarters in Guadalajara.

I searched for CEPAM on the Internet and the Google search engine placed it at the top of the list. Please tell us what CEPAM is.
The initials stand for Study Center for Marist Spiritual Patrimony. The Province of Western Mexico saw the need to open a Center where material related to our Marist Patrimony would be centralized and studied. Brother José Guadalupe Romero Torres, Provincial, gave the Center its name CEPAM and officially inaugurated it in Morelia, Michoacán in April 1989, designating yours truly to be in charge of it. Morelia was the Center’s home until September 1992. In 1993 there was a special five-month course in Rome. In the summer of 1994 the Center was moved to a new location, Loma Bonita in Guadalajara, enjoying its own facilities. Currently CEPAM has branches in Monestir de Santa María de Bellpuig in les Avellanes, Catalunya, Spain; in Viamão, Porto Alegre, Brazil; and in Cochabamba, Bolivia. CEPAM offers ordinary courses (nine weeks), special courses (three to four weeks), and short courses (a weekend). In addition, it organizes and maintains an updated Internet site at geocities.com/athens/oracle/3630.

Do you think these months of study provide participants with a new vision of Marcellin Champagnat? What are the most outstanding characteristics of those who attend?
CEPAM aims to make Marcellin and his work especially loved by making them better known. CEPAM is not merely a place where you can find a centralized collection of documents about Marcellin. It is also, especially, a way of focusing, a style of research into our Marist Spiritual Patrimony. To a certain extent, this is what makes it innovative. At CEPAM we think it’s the opportune time to implement the Plan “Drawing closer to our sources.” This plan, whose name seems to be foolish linguistically, veils a noble purpose: “Since it’s not possible to bring all the brothers to the sources, let’s bring the sources to the brothers.” Approaching the sources is “doable” by means of the faithful reproduction of our documents, in a bilingual way that allows us to savor the original expressions and control the translation. A complete ordinary course lasts close to three months.

Methodology is an important factor of the course. What methodology do you use and what values does it offer?
At CEPAM we look upon the history of our charism as a journey animated and presided over by the Holy Spirit, along the route laid down by the Founder. In our opinion, the field of study is not to be confined to Marcellin alone; rather, all of our Marist patrimony is material to be examined – one needs the whole picture. Each document is examined using a process that involves the following steps: Informing: seeing what the document says from a completely objective standpoint; Reconstructing: recreating the environment, specific situations, and the attitudes of the various people who played a role, especially the attitudes or repercussions in the life of the Founder; Inferring: according to how often they occur, trying to grasp unchanging realities that could easily escape a cursory and superficial reading of the material; Interiorizing: deeply assimilating the basic attitudes and constants, making them one’s own; and Projecting: i.e., by using the basic material and taking on original points of view, making plans for a preferred future starting from where we are now. In this way all the steps just mentioned won’t result in a vain attempt to simply reproduce an unrepeatable past. The charism is ever on the move, not an occurrence frozen in time. It opens up a particular and secure panorama. In addition, as much as CEPAM prides itself on its serious scientific approach, as a constituent part of the method we are very interested in the prayerful frame of mind of our participants, for we know that it’s not possible to study about Marcellin based on a range of psychological and sociological factors alone. The person behind his persona belongs to the realm of mystery.

Working with Marcellin’s letters means looking into his most intimate correspondence. What is Marcellin like as revealed in his letters?
His letters occupy a privileged place in our Marist Spiritual Patrimony. They come straight from his heart, and in many instances, since we are dealing with drafts, we have his original expressions, revealing his innermost thoughts. We see him like he truly is: profoundly human, filled with psychological and spiritual qualities, yet not without his deep concerns, doubts, and anxieties. We get to know him very closely, as if we were next to him at his desk. An integral part of the correspondence he produced is the collection of Circulars that he addressed to the brothers. These constitute one of the best expressions of his thoughts concerning the founding of his religious family. They are also replete with affection and concern for the Institute that was taking shape. When we compare them the rest of the Founder’s personal correspondence, we notice they are more carefully edited, their style more polished and orderly. His expressions of affection addressed to each and every one of the brothers are more intense; the brothers he is writing to become somewhat universal in space and time. And for what it’s worth, these letters provide a wonderful example of collegiality because frequently he wrote the Circulars as a team, with the members of his Council.

Are there other important texts that you use, and what research value do they have?
Yes, the correspondence he received, all of it, for it completes the picture we have of Marcellin’s person and work. In them he frequently refers to letters that he wrote that have not come down to us today. Besides, this correspondence tells us how people approached Marcellin, what dealings they had with him, and the circumstances in which they found themselves. It reveals the rudeness with which they sometimes treated our Founder. Other texts include related correspondence (letters in which Marcellin’s contemporaries wrote about him among themselves), testimonials, legislative material, and an endless number of pertinent documents contained in the monumental work Marist Origins by Father Coste.

How many people have enrolled in your courses, and what do they think of them?
You need to bear in mind that for courses lasting a month or more, because of the dynamic process involved, the usual maximum number of participants per session is eight. 170 brothers have gone through these unabridged CEPAM courses given at various venues. They come – or came – from such Provinces as Central America, Belgium-Holland, Bética, Brazil Norte, Castile, Catalunya, Colombia, Córdoba, Chile, Ecuador, Iberville, León, Madagascar, Central Mexico, Western Mexico, Spain Norte, New Zealand, Peru, Porto Alegre, Poughkeepsie, Quebec, Rio de Janeiro, Río de la Plata, Rio Grande do Sul, Santa Catarina, Santa María, São Paolo, Sydney, Uruguay, and Venezuela. If we add to this our courses lasting two weeks or less given in El Escorial, Cochabamba, Rome, Seoul, the Province of León, Mar del Plata (for the Southern Cone area), Nairobi (at the MIC) and Manila (at MAPAC), you get the impression that the subject and our methodology create a lot of interest among the brothers.

Have lay people participated in your courses? If so, what do you think attracts them most about Marcellin? Would you recommend they enroll?
Yes, CEPAM also welcomes groups of Lay Marists, mainly those from Fraternities of the Champagnat Movement of the Marist Family, as well as teachers and parents from school communities. It does so using ad hoc modules that are incorporated into a ten-hour day. The Center has worked on developing 20 such modules. So far we have made use of the first six. These educational units are made up of a varied and predetermined series of documents about the patrimony (letters to and from Marcellin, testimonials, his biography, biographies of Brothers in the Mexican Provinces, and a history of Marist life in Mexico). It turns out that lay people find the figure of the Founder and those of the brothers fascinating. They’re very interested in the studies the modules provide and are very involved throughout the day. They’re greatly attracted by Marcellin and the brothers’ capacity to love, as manifested in their total selflessness for the purpose of educating young people and in their kindness and straightforwardness in dealing with others.

The past that you research and make known – what’s so interesting about it in terms of living Saint Marcellin’s charism in the world of today and tomorrow?
CEPAM attempts to enter more deeply into our spiritual patrimony, naturally giving pride of place to the figure of our Founder. And this, not to stir up nostalgia and take us back to the past, but to inspire us to authentically get on with the work of “refounding,” with our sights set on the present and future. Reaching this goal will pay excellent dividends. The studies that people undertake will help the spiritual growth of many (within and outside of the Institute). They will be able to serve as a basis for research work of greater substance, and to guide Provincials and communities in their decision-making process. CEPAM doesn’t get carried away with the past. If it studies it, it is to project it forward to better understand the present and prepare for the future. We are continually making reference to current statutes and up-to-date Chapter instructions.

Do you think that today the Marist Institute is being faithful to the fundamental intuitions of Champagnat?
Thanks to a return to sources as advocated by Vatican II, the Institute has experienced a dynamism that is drawing out many elements implicit in our Marist charism, ones that have been there all along but dormant. Having defined our apostolic field as the Christian education of children and young people, in whatever situation they find themselves, within and outside of formal educational structures, we have brought back into view vast and unsuspected horizons.

Please allow me a personal question. Beyond the courses that you offer, what does Saint Marcellin mean for you?
That’s not easy for me to express in words. Nevertheless let me say that in regard to my personal life and my spirituality, Jesus, Mary, and Marcellin form an inseparable triad. The figure of Champagnat has accompanied all the comings and goings of my life and has shaped it from the day I entered a Marist school when I was five years old, from the time the brothers were addressing him as Venerable until today, when we call upon him as a Saint.

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