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Marist Bulletin - Number 33



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Brothers Efraín, Héctor, and Carlos tell of our Marist presence on the island today

The idea of returning to Cuba was born in June 1993. We received our initial appointments from Brother Charles Howard. At that time the plan called for seven brothers and two communities. Part of the plan has been realized. In 2001 Brother Benito took part in negotiations necessary for three brothers to enter the country. Last summer two of us, Efraín and Carlos, took up residence here. On October 20th our community became complete with the arrival of a third brother, Héctor. We earnestly hope that the verse in Ecclesiastes is fulfilled in us: “a rope made of three strands is hard to rip apart.”

Some call Cuba “the pearl of the Antilles,” referring to its natural beauty. Others say it’s “the sleeping alligator of the Caribbean” because of its shape on a map. The island is approximately 1200 kilometers long and has 11 million inhabitants. About 30% of them are of African descent. The Cuban people are joyful, expressive, and hospitable; partygoers, great dancers, and fierce competitors Their island has a tropical landscape, with lush greenery and abounding with palm, silk-cotton, and mamey trees, bananas and mangoes.

We live in the city of Cienfuegos, the same one the brothers arrived in 1903 and left from in 1961. Our residence is in a section called Buenavista and we work with the parish communities of Buenavista and Caonao. We live and work on the outskirts of the city. It’s an area that’s half urban and half rural, combining five-story multifamily dwellings with sugarcane plantations. Cars and horses traverse its streets Every day we are as likely to come across people going about barefoot and shirtless as we are people all dressed up for school or work in an office.

Our focus has been on pastoral ministry in our two parishes, including the animation of their liturgical life, social ministry, and catechetical programs. Our charism and personal inclinations have led us to concentrate on accompanying children, teenagers, and young adults and being involved in formative activities, catechetics, and counseling for youth groups.

We’ve been blessed with the tireless support of our bishop, His Excellency Emilio Aranguren, a Marist alumnus. We’re making every effort to carry forward a “shared mission” with a very enthusiastic though small team of lay people and a reduced number of priests and sisters. We rely on the impetus we receive from a diocesan pastoral plan and on a basic infrastructure that, although it has its limitations, allows us to deal with the most pressing needs.

We’re excited about the idea of making Marcellin Champagnat’s charism present in a socialist country, of being close to children and young people – most of whom are unfamiliar with the Gospel, and of offering words of hope and guidance to boys and girls who come from broken homes. We’re buoyed by the possibility of being involved in formation programs for laity and catechists. Every step of the way we have felt the strong support of the General Council and our respective Provinces. We would like to take advantage of this opportunity to express our gratitude and ask for your prayers. Our community is being born under fragile conditions and we are convinced of Jesus’ words, “Without Me you can do nothing.”

We want to keep our eyes and ears open to what the Spirit may be asking of us. We pray that God will grant us the gift of creative fidelity and bless us, and the Church and the Cuban people, with vocations in the near future. We also ask God for the wisdom of those who have grasped the rich meaning of the parable of the mustard seed, a patience that knows how to hope, and the sensitivity needed to discover “the strength of the small” in simple activities capable of opening up unending highways to “new life.”

May the Virgin of Charity of Cobre, patroness of the Cuban people, who holds the Child with her left arm and the cross with her right, grant us the grace to place the person of Jesus at the center of our motivation and planning, and to be ready to pay the price of “the sacrificial lamb”, the cost of being one of His followers.

In Cochabamba, Bolivia

El Escorial’s 69th Spanish language session on Spirituality is being held in Cochabamba, Bolivia from September to December, directed by Brothers Santiago Cisneros and Félix Rodríguez. Eleven brothers from 10 Marist Provinces are participating. Pastoral witness and the vitality of Christian communities in Latin America, together with the welcoming atmosphere and commitment to social realities that many of our Marist communities offer in these developing countries are truly ideal.
The first phase of this experience lasted for six weeks, from July to September, in Marist insertion communities in 10 different countries. Evaluations from those solidarity experiences were unanimous in emphasizing the richness of being in contact with the poor and simple, and the witness of daring in hope offered by our Marist works in Latin America.
During phase two we are sharing life and topics concerning human development, taking advantage of professors in the area like Father Gregorio Iriarte for “Analysis of reality,” and invited guests like Brother Aurelio Brambila, speaking about “Marist patrimony” for the last two weeks.

- On November 4th at the General House in Rome, the General Council began plenary sessions that are expected to last until the end of the month.
- A congress concerning the problems faced by young people was held at the Lateran University in Rome from November 1st to 3rd. The theme for the event was “Maria Goretti: the courage to choose.”
- April 15-18, 2004, the II Conference of the Lay Marist Family will take place in Boston MA, USA. Everyone associated with the movement is invited. People from the USA (including Hawaii) and England attended the first Conference.
- A new book by José Delgado García, Marists in Granada, has been published. It commemorates the 75th anniversary of the opening of a Marist school in that Spanish city.
- A new library has been formally dedicated at the Marist Asian Pacific Center (MAPAC), a school devoted to the formation of young brothers in that part of the world.

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