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Marist Bulletin - Number 311

 

Shared mission, brothers and laity - Interview with Brother Joaquim Panini
12/10/2007

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Brother Joaquim Panini is a Brazilian Marist, a veteran in the field of education, with a sound formation in Philosophy, Romance Languages, Religious Education and Educational Planning. He is a fluent speaker of Spanish, French, Italian, and, of course, Portuguese. He can also get by in English.
He was director of the Juniorate and the Scholasticate, was a member of the Provincial Council on several occasions, provincial coordinator of the pedagogical-pastoral sector of the schools, member and coordinator of the two reflection teams which for many years advised the Provincial Conferences of Brazil (EMIR: Marist Team for Interprovincial Reflection) and Latin America (ELAMAR: Marist Team for Latin-American Reflection).
He was executive Secretary to the Department of Education of CELAM (DEC), for 4 years. He was consultant to more than 50 provinces or religious congregations, at world, Latin-American and national level, in the field of processes dealing with renewal of religious life, over a period of 20 years. He was national president of AEC/BR (Association of Catholic Education of Brazil (Brasilia) for a period of 10 years. Consultant to CLAR (the Conference of Latin American religious) and of the CRB/BR (the Conference of the religious of Brazil), for more than a decade. He was a Member of the Council of the OIEC (International Organization of Catholic Education, Brussels) for 5 years. At the moment he is a member of the Team of Marist laity and general Director of the Marist Archdiocesan School of São Paulo which has 3.500 students.
I met with him in Les Avellanes during this International Meeting on processes of combined formation for Brothers and Laity and I suggested to him that he give me his opinion on some aspects of the topic that had brought us together. The work in which we were involved took up a lot of time, so he asked me to give him the questions in writing. He then had to be hospitalized because of heart problems. During his recovery, he answered the questions that I had outlined for him.


AMEstaún. Brother Joaquim, this International Meeting on processes of combined formation for Brothers and Laity was convened so that we could reflect together on these programmes. To you, having already experienced many of these initiatives from the beginning, has the meeting been of value?
Panini.
Yes, very much so. Finally, Simeón can die in peace, because he is taking part in the dawn of a new era, that of the mission shared among Brothers and laity. It is a new era, not only for the Marist congregation, but for the whole Church. And not only a congregation of Marist Brothers, but a whole Marist congregation formed by Brothers and lay Marists, on equal footing in the essentials, which are:
a) in importance,
b) in evangelical efficiency,
c) in the option for the evangelical values;
d) in sanctity.
There is a difference in the modus vivendi: the Brothers follow religious life in community, striving to be a sign of the transcendent values and of the future life. The laity, married and single is called to be the immediate sign of the presence of God, the leaven of Christ in daily life and a sign of the Church in the world.
This new dawn, announced at the meeting, I have already lived in three ways:
a) through numerous contacts with prophetic bishops of the Church of Brazil and America, especially the wise and saintly Dom Hélder of Acnes Câmara, Dom Cândido Padim and Dom Luciano Mendes of Almeida;
b) through the active participation, in the search for renewal of the religious life, with their leaders in Brazil (CRB) and in America (CLAR);
c) because the provincial superiors allowed me to be carry out very original experiments in shared formation. Fifteen years before the publication of the circular of Brother Charles Howard on MChFM, I had already coordinated a national team of Brothers and laity which animated 15 Fraternities, with 10 more in preparation.
My dream is that, in the congregation, we will no longer have illiterate Marists, that is to say, Brothers or lay people who ignore the Marist charism as a gift and patrimony, put at the disposition of all those in favour of the mission that Marcellin bequeathed us. Ignoring communion and participation in the charism seems to me to be a betrayal of wounded identity that damages the inheritance left to us by Champagnat and the first Brothers.

What is your understanding of what, in this meeting, we are calling “combined formation of the Brothers and laity?
The fundamentals that legitimise this combined formation are to be found in the identity of the Brothers and lay Marists. In this respect the words of the Brother Superior General are very illuminating: The foundation of the co-partnership among the lay Marists, men and women, and the Brothers of Marcellin rests in a common mission and in a prophetic call that we share through our baptism. To be joint means much more than working together; it is sharing the same faith, loving Jesus Christ profoundly and having the common experience of letting Marcellin conquer our hearts and capture our imagination. (Meeting of lay Marists and members of the Commission of Laity, Rome, May 2005)
The main foundation is the theological principle of the universality of the call to sanctity, proclaimed by Vatican Council II. Through baptism, we are all consecrated in Christ and called to know him, to follow him and to assume the responsibility of the mission of making him known and loved.
In baptism the universal vocation is based on sanctity and missionary commitment. We share the formation and testimony of life; we are enriched in our complementarity and reciprocity, while being distinct in the vocational incarnation of our response to the Lord... When showing our identity jointly, within our own particular surroundings, we will be able to assume processes of combined formation, in search of new paradigms.
It is important to examine:
1. what it means for us, Brothers and laity, to share the Marist identity.
2. what type of processes of combined formation this demands.
3. which are the axes that give consistency to our identity and to the process of combined formation?

Does this approach of combined formation for Brothers and laity mean that we will have a specific formation for the laity and a specific formation for the Brothers?
Yes and no; particularly today, given the substantial increase in the second generation of the laity that never lived with the Brothers, and the decrease in the number of first generation laity that lived with the Brothers for many years. Be that as it may, in every formation process, either combined or individual of Brothers and laity, it is necessary to safeguard the three basic principles of a formation process:
1. The principle of the situation of people, according to their history;
2. The principle of the formative content which ought to be that of an integral formation which guarantees the three basic dimensions:
a) the human / personal dimension, at the anthropological level with the physical, psychic, ethical and moral aspects as well as human spirituality;
b) the professional dimension subdivided in two levels:
- the academic level, such as teachers: teaching-learning;
- the educational level, pastoral, social and administrative;
c) and the Marist institutional dimension in its three levels:
- at the level of the Marist charism, a gift granted to Marcellin that is the patrimony of everyone;
- at the level of Marist mission: To make Jesus Christ known and loved through Mary;”
- at the level of Marist, apostolic and marial spirituality.
3. the principle of continuous formation understood as formation in service, that is, lived in the work place by Brothers and laity, in their daily coexistence. And in that specific context, in which everything can be lived jointly to facilitate a formation as a process and not just as a simple event.

Do you believe that, in the future, we will have laity as formators responsible for the processes of Brothers formation?
Yes. It is necessary to deliberately programme such formation processes with lay formators, perhaps even from the initial formation of the Brothers, not only in continuous formation. That would help us, among other things, to avoid falling into the notion that the Brother is the only one who can form the laity. A team of formators consisting of Brothers and laity will always be enriching.
Perhaps it would be opportune to remember here the great pedagogic principle of Paulo Freire: Nobody forms anybody. One is formed by oneself, through the community. The mixed team of Brothers and laity will add diverse experiences, differentiated synthesis and pluralistic ideas. Let us not forget a principle that is already generally accepted: Formation that is not the daughter of participation will be the daughter of perdition.

What are the starting bases on which the combined formation” of Brothers and laity is based?
I would summarize those starting bases, in 11 bases able to guarantee a possible new paradigm in the process of shared formation, Brothers and laity, in the Marist mission. Here I can only enumerate them, without explaining their contents. Anyone interested in follow up the elements of each one of these bases, can consult the Bureau of the Laity: www.champagnat.org.
To base the “combined formation of Brothers and laity, it is essential to guarantee:
1. a formation process in which one is clear about the identity of Brothers and laity;
2. a formation process as integral education;
3. a process of permanent and continuous formation that takes into account the diversity and complementarity between one and the other;
4. a formation process as an experience, not just a simple academic course;
5. a process of shared formation;
6. a formation process illuminated by the charism, the spirituality of Marcellin and the mission that he bequeathed to us;
7. a process of contextualized formation;
8. a formation process promoted by provincial and local teams of formators;
9. a formation process based on human resources, material and financial, whether at provincial level or local;
10. a formation process characterized by unity, at a level of principles, procedures, languages, feelings and peoples commitments;
11. a process with mediations which keep it alive and revitalizing.

What has already been carried out with regard to the combined formation of Brothers and laity?
The answer to this question should be given on the congregational, provincial and local level.
1. To my way of thinking, the successes concerning the Institute are significant. I would like to enumerate them:
a) The launching of the Champagnat Movement of the Marist Family by Brother Charles Howard in 1990, an event which I regarded as a blessing and felt great happiness on seeing the growth of the founders charism in the heart of so many people, and the growth of new sources of life
b) The document of the 20th General Chapter Opt for Life (2001), in article C: With the laity: to increase the space within the tent. In this we find wise and brave guidance on the shared mission of Brothers and laity.
c) The foundation of the Bureau of the Laity in order to create conditions that help to increase the space within the tent of the communities and to welcome the countless Marist lay vocations that God so generously sends us.
d) The recent international Meeting on processes of combined formation for Brothers and laity for the Marist mission. To my way of thinking it was like a great radiance that woke up the Marist world, in the sense that it made us revise seriously the current paradigm adopted by the administrative Units with regard to the processes of combined formation.
e) The meeting of Marist laity, coming from 20 provinces of the five continents, with the members of the international Commission of the Marist Laity, which took place in Rome, on the 26 – 29 May 2005, seeking three objectives:
1. To hear some representatives who are actively involved in the animation of the movement of the laity.
2. To become aware of their aspirations and their needs for support.
3. At the same time to request their opinion on the best way of proceeding together.
f) The last Circular of Brother Seán D. Sammon, Superior General: Making Jesus known and loved - The Marist apostolic life today, directed to Brothers and laity. In this there is no mention of the apostolic life of the Brothers, but of the Marist apostolic life, that is to say, of the Brothers and the laity who want to be true Champagnats in the present time.
g) Marist Educational Mission - A project for today, the official document of the General Council that directs the educational mission of the Institute and which was drawn up in response to the mandate of the 19th General Chapter, in 1993.
2. At the provincial level, the experiences presented in the international Meeting on processes of combined formation of Brothers and laity for the Marist mission, revealed the significant efforts being made by the administrative units to invest in the valuation and formation of lay Marist vocations.

3. In the area of communities and apostolic works we still have a lot to do, beginning by realising that the importance of shared formation is not even completely recognised.

Could you make a personal evaluation of the programmes of combined formation that were presented at the meeting?
I have already mentioned them, synthetically, when explaining in the 6th question the idea that I have of the bases that guarantee a possible new paradigm in the process of shared formation, Brothers and laity, with regard to the Marist mission. The experiences presented in the meeting in Les Avellanes, point out positive aspects and, at the same time, some deficiencies. I would like to point out the main ones:
1) Common positive aspects
a) Efforts made by the Provinces to favour the formation of the laity.
b) Creativity in the programmes, regarding the needs and possibilities.
c) Significant support structures at province level, and even local support, in several cases.
d) The intention of putting in place formative processes and their accompaniment, in spite of the fact that they have not been very frequent;
e) The fact that all the experiences are centred in the person of Champagnat, as well as in the charism, in the spirituality and in the mission that he bequeathed to us.
2. Aspects insufficiently achieved
1. The formation processes are insufficient in that they lack clarity concerning the identity of the Brothers and laity. In light of the theological principle of the universality of the call to sanctity, proclaimed by Vatican Council II, we should look more deeply into what unites us and what separates us.
2. I find insufficient the integral factor in the formation process, in which it is necessary to contemplate the three basic Marist dimensions: human (personal), professional and institutional. That is to say, the Brother and the Marist laity, with their respective diversities, in each one of those dimensions, in their entirety.
3. I especially consider as insufficient the process of permanent and continuous formation from the point of view of distinction and complementarity. The formation in service, lived in the work place is fundamental.
4. It is necessary to reinforce formation as experience and process. Really, what is existential and participatory only generates significant learning. Because of this, we should avoid offering solely academic formation processes or those which are guided for, and not with, the laity, in those that they are less participatory and co-responsible.
5. It should also be guaranteed that the processes of combined formation are coordinated by a provincial team and by mixed local teams of formators, up-to-date and supported, in turn, by weekly and daily mediations that keep them alive and revitalized.

Do those programmes reflect the road that the Brothers and laity will travel in the future?
I believe so, although not completely. Yes, because the experiences presented show a journey already carried out, at least in the maristising sense by the laity and the work of the different administrative units of the congregation. But they do not translate into total reality, because I am aware of some provinces that have already travelled a lot more than has been presented here, while others, at this moment, only feel the call to think more seriously about the shared mission, mainly because the concept of identity is not very clear. I do not want to criticise anyone about this. In order to plan and to promote a process of shared formation it is necessary to have clear the for what, mainly in terms of identity, as much the Brothers as the laity.

What challenges does the Institute have at the moment when trying to give an answer to the Marist laity?
The way I see it, the challenges that the Institute should confront in the current situation, starting from the efforts and successes already achieved, are at three levels: at the level of the Institute as a whole, at the level of administrative units and at the level of communities and works.
1. The challenges at the level of the Institute could be, from my point of view:
a) To continue strengthening the Bureau of the Laity in Rome, by means of a team that includes laity, and to stimulate access to the Bureau’s blog, so that there are wider exchanges of reflections and proposals.
b) To value more the pronouncements of the General Council, in order to legitimise the new dawn that is born, in connection with the shared mission of Brothers and laity.
c) To continue working on the first draft of the Document on the Laity, which will be presented to the General Chapter of 2009.
2. The challenges at the level of Administrative Units:
In this area we must go beyond the existing programmes, trying to generate processes of combined formation which move towards the existence and mission characteristic of Marist educators.
3. Regarding the challenges at the level of communities and works, we should convince ourselves that this is where the true problem lies and, therefore, the core from where we must work. And this is for several reasons: the decrease in the number of Brothers, something which creates difficulties for shared formation; the importance of authority, legitimised by the testimony of life and professional competence; the increase of the laity who have had little contact with the Brothers; and the care with which it is necessary to design the local processes of combined formation, avoiding confusing them with programmes and courses.

At some time I seem to have heard it said that the Brothers put obstacles in the way of a good integration of the laity in the Marist work.
To my way of thinking, we Brothers should be the main characters of the process of widening the space of the tent of the Marist charism, extending the curtains, lengthening the ropes and making the tent-pegs firm (cf. Is 54,2), because we are the first recipients of that gift and common patrimony that Champagnat bequeathed to us.
But we can, perhaps, be victims of traditionalist cultures that harm the process of shared formation, such as the pyramidal vision of the Church, the idea that the consecrated life is a state of perfection and the laity is not, the idea that only clergy and religious know and teach, and the insufficient importance given to testimony and professional competence, basic factors of reliability, as Paul VI affirms: Today men and women listen more to the witness than to the teachers; and if they listen the teachers it is because they are witness.

We are on the way to Mendes, for the First International Meeting of the Marist Mission. What is your opinion, Brother Panini, of this initiative of the Institute?
For me the First International Meeting of the Marist mission is an invitation and an opportunity to celebrate, to strengthen co-responsibility and to look for new avenues for the realization of the Marist mission in todays world: To make Jesus Christ known and loved. Because of that, I do not have the slightest doubt that this meeting of all the provinces of the congregation concerning the mission will become a promising new dawn that will provide us with:
a) new horizons;
b) common processes;
c) and the joining of forces for mutual help, on a national, regional and world scale.
I pray that, starting from Mendes, there will surge from the whole congregation a vital flow that revitalizes the whole Marist family, encouraged by a single heart and a single mission. That this heart be irrigated with blood purified by two powerful lungs, the Brothers and the laity, giving, in this way, life to a new era of the Marist mission.

What expectations do you have, personally, for the meeting in Mendes?
My greatest hope, though not the only one, in relation to the International Meeting of the Marist mission - one heart, one mission, is that the objectives are achieved by those involved in the meeting. Then it will provide a new dawn in the Institute, announcing a new step, a new era, in the Marist mission, assumed by Brothers and laity through a shared commitment.
To give a new impulse to the commitment that we already, live it will be necessary:
a) to deepen the pairing identity of the Brothers and laity;
b) to know and keep alive the charism bequeathed by Champagnat and the first Brothers;
c) and, mainly, to establish processes of combined formation.
May God, through Mary, our Good Mother, and Saint Marcellin, our Father and Founder, help the Brothers and laity to contribute generously to this new dawn that is already shining in the Marist Institute:
- One heart, one mission;
- And shared mission, Brothers and laity.

São Paulo, June 23 2007
Brother Joaquim Panini
Marist Province of Brasil Centro-Sur

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