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Marist Bulletin - Number 282

 

An interview with Brother Spiridión, Superior of the MIC
08/02/2007

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Brother Spiridión Ndanga was born in Rwanda in 1946. After his years of Marist formation he served the Institute in various countries of Africa as community superior firstly, and then as a formator being both master of postulants and master of novices at different times. He has studied teaching principles, catechetics and theology. He participated in the Course for Masters of Novices led by Brother Basilio Rueda at Castel Gandolfo in Italy. In 1994 he was appointed District Superior in very difficult circumstances after the war in Congo, and since 2005 he has been the Community Superior of the Marist International Center in Nairobi (Kenya), the largest community of brothers in the Institute with sixty-nine students and thirteen formators.

F. AMEstaún. Brother Spiridión, what are the functions of a Superior of MIC?
Brother Spiridión. Until I assumed this position of the direction of MIC, it corresponded to one person called the Rector being both the Superior of the Community and at the same time Director of the School. When I arrived here in 2005 I found Brother Joseph MacKee responsible for both the academic side and the community life. But for a few years it had been thought that it would be better to differentiate the functions such that a brother would be the Community Superior and another responsible for the academic life. And this happened with Brother Joseph Udeajah being currently in charge of the College and I of the Community. MIC is a religious community and consequently it must have a superior. I assume the role of Community Superior, knowing that it is a special community of formators and of people in formation. I assume thus all the responsibilities of a Community Superior.

We can say that this responsibility is equivalent to that of a Provincial due to the number of brothers who are under your responsibility which is greater than some of the Provinces of the Institute, and also due to the diversity of origins and decisions that must be taken. Is this the case?
I am not a Provincial because the destinies of the brothers who belong to this Community depend on Provincials. But each time that the Conference of African Superiors meets, I attend as a member by right, as do the Provincials.

And how does a Community that has so many members function? How are the problems of co-existence and of study resolved in such a large group of young people so that the formation of the person does not suffer?
As superior I co-ordinate all the activities of the Community. As to the academic activities, the student brothers and the teachers are under the responsibility of the Academic Director. The College and the Community are in the same place sharing the same spaces but the competencies are different, though complementary.
The religious community is formed of sixty-nine student brothers and the team of formators composed of thirteen brothers. Even though I am responsible for this entire complex Community, I share the responsibility with the animators of the fraternities. The large group is divided into fraternities. We have six fraternities, five for the students and one for the animators and each one lives in a separate house. The one responsible for each fraternity for the daily affairs is a brother formator who is the animator of the fraternity and he is one of the members of the formation team. In the Champagnat fraternity eight brother formators live who are not fraternity animators.

Do they have a community plan for all or does each fraternity organise its own?
At the beginning of the year we choose what we call the “subject of the year” which will serve as the vertebral axis of what we will do during this whole period of time. And then each fraternity makes its fraternity plan to concretise the proposal made through the subject of the year. Consequently, each fraternity is to a certain point autonomous for certain things. Every day we eat together in the large dining-room but on Saturday mornings, breakfast is in each fraternity as is dinner on Sunday. Each fraternity has a budget for the maintenance and cleanliness of its residence, for the meals that are had together and for individual costs. Thus, the animator of each fraternity is the one who knows the daily activities of each brother; it is he who gives the necessary authorisations or the money that must be used for the ordinary costs.

As superior of this extended Community you are responsible for the spiritual animation of all its members. With such a large Community, how can you look after all?
As superior, I visit each fraternity twice a year. I spend a week in each fraternity. I preside over the meetings of the formation team, of the Community Council in which participate two student brothers. The Community Council is constituted by the Superior, by an Assistant Superior chosen by the formation team, by the academic Director who is a member by right, by two brothers chosen from among the team of formators and by two brothers chosen from those who are in their third or fourth year.
We also have eleven commissions in the Community: for the liturgy, the liturgical music, the care of the garden, sport, culture, the press, the decoration of the chapel, the library, the kitchen, maintenance, and drivers. In each commission there is a brother who is responsible.
As well there are eight groups of apostolic activities: activities of apostolic formation since everything that we do here is for the formation of young people, catechetics in the parishes, invitation to teachers in the surrounding areas twice a year to form educators, the festival with the young people, the promotion of vocations, etc.

These are the organising structures through which the young brothers can participate in the life of the Community. What is the experience of Marist spiritual life like in this Community?
Obviously we have activities proper to each Marist Community such as morning and evening prayer; on Sundays we recite together vespers and on Saturday afternoon we recite Marial prayer.
We realise spiritual animation through five retreats during the year at the most important times of the liturgical calendar. In September on the occasion of the start of courses, in December to motivate Advent, the last day of the year for thanksgiving, in February as a preparation for Lent and in March or April for the celebration of Good Friday.
We have as well personal accompaniment. All the brothers are not accompaniers, for example the academic Director and I are not accompaniers, but we receive the brothers in direction. The accompaniment is done in a systematic way. The brothers who are in their first or second year have a meeting with their accompanier once a week. Those of the third and fourth year meet once a month.
For a certain time we have maintained afternoon talks once a week; every Monday we meet to treat a subject of formation with important contents. But we have noted that the students are often tired and it is difficult to follow subjects due to the long time between one meeting and another; for this reason we have created courses which are a part of a plan of studies with a theme which was treated in the more informal talks and in this way there is more follow up to the themes treated.

What are the subjects of formation treated one day per week and are they now included in the academic programmes?
Those firstly, during this period where they are going through a process of transition from the novitiate to the scholasticate study spirituality; the theology of vows for those of the second year, Marist pedagogy for those of the third year and for those of the fourth year, discernment and spiritual direction.

And, how are the brothers distributed in regards the studies that they are doing? How many brothers are there in each year?
We have eighteen brothers in first year, eleven in second, twenty-six in third and fourteen in fourth. A total of sixty-nine students.

A group so numerous is at the same time complex by internationality, languages, places of origin with their customs, their way of being… It is a space where one can say that really diversity dominates. How do you experience this internationality at MIC?
In the pastoral visit that the General Councillors have just made, they affirmed that all the brothers appreciate the internationality of MIC as a great value. The choice of the fraternity in which each brother must live and participate is made by me as the Superior of the Community of MIC. As general criteria, when I choose the brothers for each of the fraternities I do not put two of the same nationality in the same fraternity. I mix them as much as possible because this diversity is a richness that must be shared. This does not mean that there are not some do not have to make some efforts to mix well with the others, but this is rather rare.

Thank you very much Brother Spiridión for your welcome and your interesting responses.

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