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Marist Bulletin - Number 333


Testimony of Marist lays life - Pep Buetas i Ferrer

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My earliest experiences as a Marist go back to childhood. My elder brother began his education at the Marist Brothers’ school called Les Corts shortly after its inauguration, and he opened the way for those who followed. I am the third of four brothers, and there was one year when we were all four enrolled at the school. My parents were involved in the parents’ association and had many contacts with the Brothers of the time. I raise these points because, in my case, experiences with Marist Brothers had a family dimension that was very important; so much was this the case that my home was an extension of the school and vice versa. Even today all things Marist have a strong impact on the family.

During my school years, I had several Brothers as teachers. It was, however, in the sixth class - at the time 7th and 8th class of Elementary (12 to 14 years of age) - that’s where my greatest attention got focused upon the Marist charism and that I was drawn towards it. In this sixth class I had Brother Feliu Martin as my homeroom teacher. On several times, when speaking with my parents and myself in a pleasant informal way, he would tell them that he was going to take me to the juniorate to become a Marist Brother. At that time knowing that a friend of mine in a higher class had gone into the formation program, I was touched very deeply, and I recall that I cried when my parents did not accept the proposal. “When you are eighteen years old, when you are of age, if you still wish to do so, you will be allowed to go.” So I had to wait.

I remember that in seventh class, a school competition took place dealing with the life of Marcellin. The competition caused me to get immersed in the biography of Marcellin and in the origins of the Marist Brothers. So Brother Agusti Cassu invited the whole class to study Marcellin’s life in depth. To those of us who wanted, he provided the opportunity of reading Brother Jean Baptiste’s biography of Father Champagnat. And there I was, with a friend of mine, asking Brother Agusti for the book. at thirteen years of age. I believe that during these two years a love of the Marist Brothers entered my life very deeply.

What did I learn about Marcellin and the first Brothers that touched me so much? The personality of Marcellin which one could sense in the documents, his way of approaching children, young people and the Brothers themselves, his love for them, his understanding and affability, his ability to be touched by the needs he saw and his response to the needs. I was also drawn by his plans and projects - which were not “his” - he had a treasure and was not hesitant about wanting to share it with others. I suppose that everything that I was coming to discover I saw actualized in the Brothers with whom I was involved.

Apart from such issues, I followed the usual educational path, but always with the Brothers’ presence. We set up some youth groups. My older brother and older sister were members of the scouts and the little one who was next in age followed in their wake.

At seventeen years of age, several incidents - accidental? - brought back to life quite forcefully everything that had been present when I was twelve to thirteen. I sum them up as follows: the chance, unexpected of being named camp prefect, from which followed - unexpectedly - my participation in a program to obtain a monitor’s certificate, and during this program was born a friendship - unexpected - with a young man from Lleida with whom we shared our interests in the Marist Brothers. I asked my family about the possibility of entering the novitiate, and this time they accepted. Then, for almost two years I attended the Marist novitiate although I did not go on to the profession of vows at the end. This was because something inside caused me to see that my path did not lie in being a Brother. I have always insisted that those two years were foundational for my Marist character and in my way of being a Christian.

On leaving the novitiate, I followed my interest in teaching so as to dedicate myself to the formation of young people. Clear indeed was the fact that I would dedicate myself to children and young people.

After a certain period of time, convinced that faith must be lived in community, I chose to participate in a Marist group of young university students who gathered to reflect together on their lives. I completed my studies and began to work as a teacher in a school unaffiliated with any religious order.

In the Marist group, encouraged by Brothers Pau Perré et Emili Turú, we initiated the process of forming a fraternity within the Champagnat Movement of the Marist Family. It was here as well that I met Merce the woman with whom a short time later we began family life. She too was a teacher with a Marist tradition in her family, and with a significant sensitivity to all social issues. She took part in the first mission camp which occurred in Paraguay during l992.

After two years at my first school, I came clearly to see that my place was in a Marist school; and, given the possibility of becoming part of the Marist teachers’ association at the Immaculada School in Barcelona, I did not hesitate to make my decision.

With the Fraternity now set up, Merce and I heard the words of Brother Benito Arbués, Superior General of the time, requesting volunteers for Rwanda. Although we did not meet the required conditions, the occasion served to give life to a goal that we have nourished over the years: to have an experience in the Third World. And so, having participated in a mission camp for Bosnian refugees (summer 1995) we offered ourselves to the Brothers as international volunteer assistants for a one year period. “We were destined” for Mariscal Estigarribia, Chaco, Paraguay; and we lived there our best experience of a Marist marriage (1996-1997). We formed a part of the Brothers’ community and followed their pattern of life in every way: prayer, celebrations, pastoral projects, etc. We were able to enjoy community life with its attractive points and its difficulties, in a context - Paraguayan - that seems to make things easy. There, we truly shared a “mini-novitiate” and we increased yet more our appreciation of all things Marist.

After this experience, we continued our work as teachers, each at a different school with a “little” change. Now we were parents.

With the Marist Brothers at Immaculada School, I took up responsibilities as animator and coordinator of the elementary section for eight years. I also joined administrative and animation teams at the Provincial level. In daily life, my Marist life took the modest form of trying to live the Marist reality in a profound and confident manner, in simplicity, family spirit, joy, and love of work.

Over the period of time in question, the Fraternity ceased to continue its activities, and Merce and I looked for a place in which to share our faith. We found this place, fortunately, in our own parish, within the confines of Family Easter, and in the Kairoi group with whom we have had wonderful experiences.

Parallel to such experiences, we were counted upon to join the Province team which was reflecting upon Marist identity. We have been invited as well to participate in the Provincial Chapter. As an outcome of these reflection periods, along with other lay people, we decided to take the steps needed to bring together all of Marist lay life that one finds in Catalonia. To this project, we have given the name “Lay Marist Movement” and, in company with the Brothers, we are committing to it a significant part of our energies. We know that the way of the laity has multiple forms of expression and that the Marist charism is in many hearts that beat in harmony with it. The reality is that Marcellin’s project is sound and has many ways of being put into action. My dream then is that the charism’s vitality, the vitality of the Marist mission dwells as much within the Brothers as within the laity. Now, we have to confront it with the same attitude which Marcellin had, doing our best to bring about the fruits of the dream, while being conscious that it is not “our” project, but God’s. At the present one must take as a goal that the Marist laity become aware of their identity and that they identify themselves with the mission which makes the dream become a reality. It is also necessary that the Brothers continue to deepen their relationship with the Marist laity so that the process be a source of enrichment in which Brothers and laity share.

Even if the priority is unquestionably mission, nonetheless we must not fail the “treasures” which lie deposited in the hearts of so many persons in the overall realization of the mission (former students, parents, etc.). These treasures are, that’s certain, a source of life and breath for all of us who are in direct contact with the educational mission. It is necessary to channel this source of life and breath and draw profit from it. Equally it is a manner of living Gospel qualities in the Marist way, wherever the lay person may be.

Pep Buetas i Ferrer, Barcelona, Catalonia, Spain
Marist Province of L’Hermitage

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