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Marist Bulletin - Number 294


Charism - Foreign Marist Brothers take first lessons in Davao

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Sun Star – Weekend
Davao City, Philippines – vol XIX, no. 176 (March 4, 2007)

Inside the stark clean main room in the rear most building at the Retreat House of Sisters of Charity of Saint Charles Borromeo in Matina Aplaya, Brother Tim Leen rolls out a cabinet with wheels, takes out an LCD projector already connected to a laptop and double clicks on icons for some flashmedia slide presentations of Mission Ad Gentes.

It means going out of your own place, Brother Tim explained when asked what Ad Gentes meant.

I was to be oriented on what a group of 13 Marist brothers - all first-times in Asia with ages ranging from the young 30s to the more illature60s - are doing in Davao City for the past seven weeks already.

Theyve been all over - the city jail, the drug rehabilitation center, social welfare centers for the abandoned and the elderlies, on beaches, and farms – on their first time ever to be in the Philippines, they are getting themselves familiar with Asia.

Mission Ad Gentes…

Brother Tim explains the program aims to gather volunteers among the 5,000 Marist brothers worldwide to expand their mission in Asia.

The programme in Davao has a central aim of promoting a passion for the mission of Jesus and to discern ones ability to participate in mission Ad Gentes, a briefer on the program read.

The program has five main objectives:
* To grow in ones spirituality for mission Ad Gentes by continuing to develop a deeply personal relationship with Jesus and by exploring ways of making Jesus and Mary known and loved in a new cultural milieu by a passionate living of Champagnats spirituality;
* To grow in ones ability to live in an inter-cultural and international Marist missionary community by discovering, appreciation and affirming cultural diversity and through developing skills for inter-cultural communication and relationships;
* To grow in ones relationship with oneself in a new cultural milieu through an increasing capacity to learn, a humble acceptance of ones limitations and powerlessness and through a healthy development of friendships;
* To develop an awareness and sensitivity to Marist mission and solidarity, and;
* To develop a sensitivity and appreciation of Asian cu1tures religions and the local churches.

(Champagnat is Saint Marcellin Joseph Benoit Champagnat who was ordained a priest in 18i 6, and was part of a group led by Jean-Claude Colin which founded the Society of Mary, also called the Marist Fathers and Brothers).

All these brothers have been brothers for many years. We have 5,000 brothers in the congregation and we have invited every 5,000 brother throughout the world to come to mission in Asia. At this stage, 150 have volunteered, so they have left their previous country of mission and come to Asia, Brother Tim explained in an interview at the Marina Aplaya retreat house last Saturday.

Thus, coming over, volunteering and then contemplating on settling for six to nine years in Asian countries most of which have never before ventured in by the Marist order is already a great sacrifice, especially for the elder brothers who will to adjust to an entirely new cu1tt.ue, way of life, food, and language even toward their twilight years.

People need time to adjust to a new culture and the brothers need time to know what is motivating them in this mission. Particularly where is God calling them at this time of their life, he said. Its important that the process is began in Asia not at home.

Before the present batch, there had already been an earlier batch of 17 brothers who came over last year in August. The present batch of 13 brothers are the second group. There will be another batch coming in by July as the second batch will be ending their orientation, and two more batches in 2008.

For all these batches, Davao city will be hosting their introduction to Asian culture, climate, food, concerns, and possible ministries.

Its called charism... Gods calling, and they are trying to know what that call is, here.

What we have here is what we call discernment. To give the brothers five months to listen to what God is calling them to, whether its a mission in Asia and where in Asia is He calling them, Brother Tim said.

The Marist brother who is part of the three-man team spearheading the mission in the city. sees Davao as an ideal place to get their feet wet in.

Its a big city with a lot of young people, a lot of experience the brothers can pick up from. Its a very safe city, and thats what struck the brothers, he said adding that the brothers love to walk around a lot, their being safe then is not much of a worry.

Most of all it’s in Asia, the ultimate destination. Not that the brothers will be deployed here since the program intends to expand the Marist Brothers mission to Asian countries where they are not yet present.

Aside from the Philippines, we have strong presence in Korea, India, Pakistan, Sri Lanka, Singapore, Malaysia. These brothers, most of them, will not go there, he said. This is because the Mission Ad Gentes program is inspired. from Pope John Paul•IIs. writing in Redemptoris Missio where he wrote that mission Ad Gentes in the third millennium should be directed mainly towards the continent of Asia.

In their stay here, Brother Tim is most grateful for the, welcome and support given by Archbishop Fernando Capalla and Matina Barangay Captain Jimmy Poliquit.

Having .the support of the diocese facilitates their activities and movement, while having the barangay captain and his councilmen introduce them to the people around somehow eased the problem of being foreign walking around in a foreign city.

“Were a bunch of Joes doing walking around the city, it helps that people know why we are here,” he said. Before the second batch ends their program here, they will be deployed to live with poor families -lumad families, fisherfolk, and those in the hilly counties.

While they are not about to dictate on what the brothers will take up as their individual ministries, the continuing learning they get from the program tends to show them that their strength still lies in education and that education is most needed by the poor.

“We are a congregation traditionally of teachers, from what we are hearing with regards our continuing presence in Asia, people are telling us to remain in education. It may not be in school setting... how can we respond to the education especially the poorest of the children, those who, do not have the finances, Brother Tim said. The other ministry options, for as long as its with the youth – maybe through education, but that still has to be discerned and what the young will be needing because we will not be coming in and say this is what we are going to do, but for them to tell us what do they need.

One thing they are sure of, there will be no shortage of ministries in Asia because here is no shortage of youth here.

Brother Tim just hopes that some of these youths will join them in their mission to make a difference in the lives of others, outside the lure of the karaoke.

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