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Marist Bulletin - Number 306


Marist International Mission Assembly - Three aspects of mission

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Br. César Henríquez

As we prepare for the International Mission Assembly, a concern often comes to my mind: can we decipher the will of God at this present time in history to continue our Marist mission in fidelity to our origins, the Church, and especially to the needs of the children and young people of our countries?

The pathway that we have travelled and which remains before us is a privileged time for discerning the will of God in the mission of every Marist, of our Provinces and of our Institute in general. Even though the Preparatory Commission has said that the production of a document is not the principal objective of the Assembly that will take place in Mendes, I hope that the Assembly will propose some convictions that reflect the fruit of the reflection, prayer and discernment that have been made, and that these convictions animate, illumine and give a new thrust to the Marist mission in the coming years.

There are three aspects that should be present in any consideration of the Marist mission: the “Organisation”, the “Recipients” and the “Source” of the mission. Each of them have a different function at the time of configuring the Marist mission and must be reflected in its just dimension.

The organisation responds to the following questions: Who carries out the mission? How? With what means? With what methodology? When I speak of organisation I am referring to all those elements that are more a “visible” part of our Marist mission. We possess an infinity of examples and experiences related to this aspect. Especially, the witness of so many lives, generously given for the mission, brothers, laymen and women, teachers, young animators of groups, volunteers and so many other people who have contributed directly or indirectly to the Marist mission. We count on multiple resources and methodologies for our educational and evangelising work with young people. The shared mission of brothers and laymen and women, in concrete forms of common work, is situated in this aspect of organisation: we are “associated” for the mission. Due to the different situations in which we currently live (the quantitative diminution of brothers, the lack of understanding of the vocation of lay Marists, economic difficulties in some countries, the slow and sometimes difficult process involved in the refoundation of some Provinces…) there is nothing astonishing in the fact that the organisation is the aspect that is most present in the discussions on Marist mission and is thus reflected in a few documents resulting from Provincial assemblies.

The theme of the recipients is also as important as the preceding one. The recipients of our mission are children and young people: those who are part of our Marist works… but also those who do not have this privilege and opportunity. The first ones are very visible for us; the second, perhaps not. How many references to the situation of children and young people do we find in the final documents of Provincial Assemblies? Or rather do we only look at what we do and how we do it? It will never be enough to repeat that the Marists were born from an experience of solidarity. We are invited to constantly see the faces of the “Montagnes” of today: immigrants, the children and especially young girls who die before the age of one year, those orphaned by AIDS, those obliged to prostitute themselves, who are forced to fight in armed conflicts, who live on less than a dollar a day, who are excluded because their rights are denied… And we must remember that in order to go to the meeting with the young Montagne, Marcellin had to leave his house and walk a fair way. Reviewing the Marist Mission from the entire life of Champagnat should lead us to making the sensitivity of the Founder to the needs of children and young people our own.

The Constitutions of the Institute, number 2, remind us that this sensitivity of Marcellin comes from a “founding” experience: “Led by the Spirit, Marcellin was seized by the love that Jesus and Mary had for him and for others.” The text continues: “His experience of this, as well as his openness to events and to people, is the well-spring of his spirituality and of his apostolic zeal. It made him sensitive to the needs of his times, especially to the ignorance concerning religion among young people and the poor circumstances in which they were placed.” The “Source” of the mission is recognising the action of God in each of our lives so that it reveals to us the tenderness of his Love and makes us understand that God’s Plan is a Life Plan for everybody, especially the poorest. Without the continuous reference to this “Source” – this is not a theory but a vital experience – the mission loses all its meaning. Without a deepening of this founding experience, that of Marcellin and that of each one of us, our going to meet the Montagnes of today will not be authentic; on the exterior, our organisation will be impeccable but it will lack meaning in its interior.

May what we see as urgent not turn our attention from what is essential! Organisation is important, but what must be fundamental is not found here. We need to realise that what makes us look at the situation of children and young people and give our lives through concrete service is the transforming experience of the Love of God. Having strong roots will help us to face the difficulties mentioned above and to respond to the calls that come from the situation of children and young people and that ask us for a concrete commitment to justice, peace and solidarity.

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