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Marist Bulletin - Number 162


Course at San Lorenzo de El Escorial

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International Course at San Lorenzo de El Escorial (I)

In August, a course for Spanish-speaking and Portuguese-speaking brothers started at El Escorial, in Spain. Nineteen brothers are attending this course, which will finish in December. It is a chance for these brothers to step aside from their busy schedules so as to enjoy a renewal time of ongoing formation in a spirit of reflection, prayer and fraternity. Brother Javier Espinosa, accompanied by three other members on the team, is the facilitator of this course. The brothers come from nine different countries and are between the ages of 50 and 65. I took the opportunity to ask some of the brothers at this course a few questions and their responses will be printed in two bulletins.
Brother Lluís Serra

How do you see the Marist Institute from this space of peace and silence?
Javier Espinosa, El Escorial Accompaniment Team, América Central
Living with brothers from different cultures and provinces allows me to appreciate the beautiful rainbow colours of the presence and the mission, the communities and the different pathways of the Marist world. The dream of Champagnat allows for diversity, pluralism and creativity. The dynamics of the Course, based on an encounter with the essential aspects of the Gospel and our Marist Life Plan, make me very much aware at the same time of the great challenges facing our Institute, such as the significance of the Marist project for our time, looking to the future in hope and the wisdom needed to discern new pathways.

What aspects of the Marist vocation are attractive to young people?
Gerson José de Lima, Brasil Centro-Norte
1. A devotion to Our Lady, following the example of Saint Marcellin Champagnat, continues to be one of the ways that young people appreciate. It is a fundamental part of the Marist vocation.
In fact, Marist Brothers try to be a mirror image of Mary by living, in the Church and especially among young people, a life that is simple, humble and modest. This can be seen in the schools and the colleges in the big cities as well as in the communities living among the people in more humble means; as much in the parish setting through catechesis or working with youth groups as in other Institutions (Seminaries, for example) of Education and Religious Formation.
A Marist Brother lives his devotion to Mary in absolute filial confidence. This confidence also attracts young people in their relationship with Mary and with the Marist Institute.
2. Another aspect that attracts young people to the Marist vocation is the availability, service and devotion to others on the part of the brothers. Young people are influenced more by example than by words. The Marist Brother is a born worker. Young people do not admire devotion only. They are attracted by role models who encourage them to follow their example. Young people respond enthusiastically to this capacity to give and they themselves can feel the desire to give themselves completely to Jesus and to the Church.
3. The good formation of the brothers, in both academic and spiritual fields, is another aspect that attracts young people. They can be accompanied by the brothers. Therefore, they give them their confidence and feel at ease with them. Young people know they can go to a brother when in need of academic or spiritual help.

What importance does God have in your life?
Jesús Navarro, Ibérica
Without a doubt this is a fundamental question for each person. For me, God gives
meaning to my life; a meaning that I want to continue to discover more and more, becoming clearer each day. I believe that God is the creator of everything and so I am, we all are, in his creative hands; or better still, in our Father’s hands. My image of God has been evolving over the years towards that of the father in the story of the Prodigal Son. Well, I want my God to be like this, full of gratitude and mercy.

How many years have you dedicated to the mission and where have you found deep satisfaction?
Miguel García, México Occidental
I have worked in the apostolate now for thirty-four years, three of those given to Houses of Formation and fourteen as a Director of four different schools. The rest of my work in the apostolate has been as a Year Co-ordinator.
The following would be three of the areas where I have found great satisfaction in my Marist life:
Missionary experience in the works that the Marists have in the Region of the Tarahumara, in the State of Chihuahua, Mexico. Serving the least favoured, in the spirit of Marcellin and walking together with them, in their struggle to find a life that has more dignity, that is more humane and more Christian.
Working hard to develop a spirit of mission and solidarity among the members of a wealthy educational community.
Eight years of work accompanying and leading apostolic groups in secondary schools. Seeing the growth in the number of adolescents who came to be moved deeply by the Christian values of service, of solidarity and of commitment to Jesus and to those he preferred most, the poor.

What are the most important challenges for the Marist Brothers today?
Andrés Arnaiz Arroyo, Spain, Province of Mediterránea
The greatest challenge for a Marist Brother today, is to transform his life, his interior life, so that God is his only guide. That Jesus be the centre of his life, that he flood his heart and be his all! If we are not centred in Christ, we can accomplish a lot of things that are very good, but we lack the most essential thing: the rudder that has to steer our actions.
Another challenge is to unify our life, so that there is no divorce between our prayer and our mission that go together and complete each other. Let’s not forget how Marcellin lived in the presence of God in all the simple things that he did each day.
Our third challenge is to make our communities places where we live as brothers: we listen to the Word of God, we believe in it and we commit ourselves to live in love.

What do extreme situations of poverty and injustice in the world evoke for you?
Gerardo Relloso, Venezuela, Norandina
For me, situations of poverty and injustice are calls from God - from this God who gave his life in Jesus who struggled to get rid of injustices and invited women and men to live in unity, in sisterhood and in brotherhood, in solidarity, in forgiveness and in service. It is a call to give my life in order to live with the poor and the forgotten, to take new pathways in my life and to turn on the lights of hope that let us see God’s love for us and that allow us to be saved by Him.

Do the Marist Brothers have something to say to street kids?
Eloy Pérez, Chile, Santa María de los Andes
Let’s look at the problem first: we find street kids mainly in nations who are experiencing problems in development. We are horrified by what we see on the television about them: how children and young people of both sexes live together, under bridges or in rundown or abandoned houses. We have met them in the streets with their dirty faces and their dirty clothes, surviving on charity and petty theft, going in for drugs and sometimes prostitution.
We have learned that some have gone missing, because others wanted some of their organs to be transplanted into the bodies of their “dear little ones” to give them a better chance at life. Some have been sexually abused by adults who are culturally and economically well off.
They are people, children of God, even if they often do not know much about Him. As a congregation, we have responded to this distressing problem modestly by starting new colleges in areas of risk such as Villas Miseria, Poblaciones Callampa, etc. These are preventative means that promote human and Christian values. Some brothers, individually, give a part of their free time to care for victims of injustice.
And you, personally, have you had any contact with these children or young people? What kind of experience?
Street kids, real orphans, were also a part of Marcellin Champagnat’s vision.

Do you relieve that the aim of sharing the mission between brothers and laypeople is vital for the future of the dream of Marcellin?
Ricardo Herrero, Puerto Rico, Province of América Central
Yes. Today, the dream of Marcellin Champagnat of providing a Christian education for children and young people is possible in our education centres because laypeople and brothers work together. In the future, this daily collaboration will be more important and necessary. The work of evangelisation in our existing ministries or the opening of new areas in the apostolate will only be possible through a strong sense of co-responsibility in the mission between the brothers and the laypeople. Naturally, a shared mission has its price because it demands an openness to, an acceptance of and a co-responsibility for a formation process in order to deepen our sense of Marist identity and the different ways of belonging to the Institute.

In what areas do the brothers need to benefit from a more solid formation?
Rafael Escolá, Catalonia, L´Hermitage
a) Initial Formation:
To have an academic formation that gives them the competence needed for their work in education.
Also to have a religious formation (at least a Diploma in Religious Studies) that gives more substance and more value to the mission of catechesis that we brothers carry out throughout our lives.

b) Ongoing formation:
To programme systematically further training in spirituality, catechesis and professional studies approximately after every ten years of continuous educational work.
To facilitate this formation through exchanges and with brothers from other countries where there is a Marist presence.
To recommend and promote the knowledge of languages, and thus facilitate an open mentality among the brothers to the possibility of more brothers being available to the needs of the Congregation anywhere in the world.

What meaning does an Institute that is present in 76 countries have for you?
Dionisio Balestrin, Rio Grande do Sul
The Marist family was born under the protection of the Virgin Mary, has grown in wisdom and has immigrated to countries that are far away with many different cultures.
Today, it is a notable presence, a highly significant mission, a miracle of God, a special protection of Mary, an open and ever present expression of Champagnat and an abundant blessing of hope, of peace and of love for all the countries where it works.
A great deal of understanding, a great deal of good, and a great deal of life…
Certainly, the seed of evangelisation sown by Champagnat has germinated and produced abundant fruit, helping the world to be more human, more Christian and more holy.
“To teach a child well, you first have to love him!” (Champagnat)

In what sense is the Virgin Mary a spiritual reference for your life?
Teófilo Minga, Accompaniment Team of El Escorial, Province of Compostela
In the sense that, since my childhood, my whole family helped me to come to know her and to love her. The feast day in honour of Our Lady of Grace was a very tangible moment for me when I came close to Mary and felt embraced by her.
By chance, the Juniorate where I studied was very close to Fatima in Leira. So, Mary’s presence that I had felt and lived throughout my childhood, continued all through my early Marist formation.
This continued at various times of my life when I was trying to come to know her better and to love her more until I realised that I could not be a Marist without loving Mary. On the contrary, my love of Mary led me to love my vocation, Jesus and the Church more deeply. Marial spirituality has led me to see that Mary is never separated from her Son or from the Church. Thus, for me, to love Mary is to also love Jesus and the Church.

Hugo Rivera, México Occidental
Mary is more than a reference in my life. She is everything for me. Through the study that I did on “Xanta Malia Tetl Coatlaxopeh” (Saint Mary, she who stamped on the rock serpent), allowed me to discover the true God for whom we live, who is mother and father at the same time.

The second part will be available in another Bulletin.

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