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Marist Bulletin - Number 143

 

EXPANDED GENERAL COUNCIL – REGION OF OCEANIA
14/05/2004

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Mittagong, NSW, Australia – 13 May 2004
EXPANDED GENERAL COUNCIL – REGION OF OCEANIA (Day 2)

OVERALL VIEW OF THE REGION

Brother Seán opened the second day of meetings asking participants to broaden their horizons, to look beyond their own Administrative Units, with two objectives in mind: first, to come up with a portrait of the Region from three distinct perspectives: formation, strengths, and challenges, and second, to understand the process of restructuring as originally envisioned.


THE REPORT ON FORMATION

Brother Antonio Ramalho, General Councilor, presented a summary of the report that he co-authored with Brother Ernesto Sánchez, covering the visit they made to the formation centers in the Region. In addition, each center was given its own individual report. It should be noted that Oceania presents two different scenarios when speaking about vocations. The first reflects conditions in Australia and New Zealand, which have very secularized societies and few vocations. The second refers to life in the Pacific Islands, where there is a noticeable increase in vocations. The overall report analyses three main points:

Signs of hope: the creation of an inter-provincial formation team; the joyful involvement of the brothers in vocation ministry and personal accompaniment; the dedication of human and economic resources to support and maintain the formation centers in the District of Melanesia, the Pacific Islands region, the Novitiate in Lomeri, Fiji, and the MAPAC (Marist Asian Pacific Center) in Manila, the Philippines.

Concerns: a negligible growth in vocations owing to the tremendous forces holding sway in a secular context, both in Australia and New Zealand; the feasibility of improving communications among centers on the same level, like those at the pre-novitiate and novitiate stage; the preparation of future formators, especially brothers from the Pacific Islands; and a plan for accompanying brothers in temporary vows.

Recommendations:
To the Provinces: continue supporting formation programs such as the Inter-provincial Commission for Formation; bring about greater involvement of the communities in each Province; work on developing a network of brothers and laypeople who are dedicated to vocation ministry; and explore new areas in promoting vocations and sharing Marist life and mission.
To the District of Melanesia and the Pacific Islands region: continue supporting the Pacific Initial Formation Commission; identify and prepare future formators; provide more years of formation to some postulants so they can better discern their vocation before entering the Novitiate...

The presentation of this Report led to a lively discussion, showing the participants’ great interest in the topics it covered.


STRENGTHS AND CHALLENGES FOR THE REGION

This second part of the meeting took place three consecutive stages: a) time for personal reflection based on a questionnaire covering two points, the strengths and the concerns of each individual Province or District; b) an exchange of views in four groups, composed of brothers from different Administrative Units, discussing the questionnaire; and c) a plenary assembly, with each brother having the opportunity to spontaneously express his viewpoint about the topics under discussion in an atmosphere of careful listening. The analysis was done in realistic, humble and hope-filled climate, far removed from triumphal attitudes


IN THE LIGHT OF STATISTICS

Statistical data concerning the Provinces of Melbourne, New Zealand and Sydney, covering the period from 1967 to 2003, was collected in material handed out to the participants. Brother Seán presented the results of this study, including the total number of brothers (in perpetual and temporary vows), their country of origin, and the average age in each Province.


THE PROCESS OF RESTRUCTURING

The restructuring of the Marist Institute has followed different rhythms but come to a conclusion in most regions. In every case, efforts have been made to ensure the viability of the new Administrative Units as well as their vitality in serving the Institute and the Church. The region of Oceania has reflected on this process in due course but the circumstances have not been right for achieving concrete results in its restructuring efforts.

Brothers Sean and Luis García Sobrado presented points for gaining an understanding of the process such as it was originally conceived and indicated some future directions. The topic will be taken up again tomorrow.

Brother Barry Burns summarized this second day during a time of prayerful reflection. The meal took on a festive air with a birthday celebration for Brother Brendan Neily, the District Superior of Melanesia, who blew out the candles on his cake as the community was singing “Happy birthday...”

You can find more news about these meetings and the region of Oceania in the Archive on our web page: www.champagnat.org

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