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Marist Bulletin - Number 55


Meeting of Extended General Council in Hong Kong, China

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The city of Hong Kong was the site of the Extended General Council meeting for the region of Asia. It embraced Provincial Councils, District and Sector Superiors, and one delegate from each District
The General Council had established a programme of visits to all regions of the Institute; it started in Africa, and continued on the Asian continent, where this visit comprised three inter-related phases: the conduct of retreats, the visit to the Brothers, communities and apostolic works, and a final ‘extended General Council meeting’—in the present case, in Hong Kong, from the 23rd to the 26th of February.

Marist presence in Asia is organized within the following administrative units:

1. Province of China
Brothers: 36
Countries: China 18 (10 in Hong Kong and 8 in continental China, including 7 senior Brothers), Malaysia (11), Singapore (5), and outside Asia (2)

2. Province of the Philippines
Brothers: 48
Country: Philippines

3. Province of Sri Lanka
Brothers: 38
Countries: Sri Lanka (33) and Pakistan (5)

4. District of Korea, dependent upon the Province of Central Mexico
Brothers: 26
Country: South Korea

5. Sector of India, dependent upon the Provinces of Melbourne and Sydney (Australia)
Brothers: 20
Country: India

6. Mission of Japan, attached to the Province of Poughkeepsie, USA
Brothers: 3
Country: Japan

7. Mission of East Timor, attached to the Province of Melbourne (Australia)
Brothers: 5
Country: East Timor

8. Mission of Cambodia, attached to the Province of Sydney (Australia)
Brothers: 2
Country: Cambodia

Five retreats and one workshop have been conducted in this first phase:
- Retreat in Korea: 25 Sept. – 2 Oct: Luis G. Sobrado and Robert Teoh
- Workshop in Hong Kong, 29 Nov – 2 Dec: Luis G. Sobrado and Robert Teoh
- Retreat in the Philippines: 4 - 11 Dec: Seán Sammon and Ranjith Perera
- Retreat in Singapore, 4 - 11 Dec: Peter Rodney and Alfredo Herrera
- Retreat in Sri Lanka, 4 - 11 Dec: Emili Turú and Wency Calimpon
- Retreat in India, 28 Dec – 2 Jan: Peter Rodney and Michael de Waas


Preparing the Visitation Teams
From the 14th to the 16th of January the Brothers who would make up the Teams to visit all Brothers residing and working in Asia met in Manila under the chairmanship of Brother Superior General. These teams were made up of members of the General Council together with other invited Brothers, all of them delegates of Brother Superior General, to provide him assistance in this task. During this meeting the objectives and procedures of the month-long visitation were established.

Visitation Teams
Four visiting teams were formed: three for administrative units, and one for formation (novitiate and post-novitiate).
1. Brothers Maurice Berquet, (General Councilor) and Dennis Cooper (Melbourne, Australia): Province of China, District of Korea and Japan mission.
2. Brothers Théoneste Kalisa (General Councilor) and Brendan Neily (Province of Sydney, Superior of Papua New Guinea & Solomon Islands District): Province of the Philippines.
3. Brothers Peter Rodney (General Councilor) and Barry Burns (Province of New Zealand): Province of Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and Sector of India.
4. Brothers Antonio Ramalho (General Councilor) and Ernesto Sánchez (Western Mexico, Secretary for the Commissions on Religious Life and Vocations Ministry): Novitiates of Cotabato, Philippines, with six novices; Tudella, Sri Lanka, with 11 novices, of whom four were professed recently; Ansan, Korea with two novices; and MAPAC (Marist Asia Pacific Center) in Manila, with 30 Scholastics coming from Philippines (9); Korea (1); India (5); Papua New Guinea (9); Fiji (2), Samoa (1), Vanuatu (2) and the Solomon Islands (1).

This meeting was held from 23rd to 26th February at “Honeyville Canossian Retreat House” (Canossian Sisters) in Hong Kong, close to the sea, from which the uninterrupted traffic of boats and cargo vessels could be observed.
For further details about this meeting and our Marist presence in Hong Kong, please consult Marist Bulletin number 54, published 3 March 2003. Cf. www.champagnat.org

The following Brothers participated:
- Province of China: Tom Chin, Provincial; Anthony Cheng, Joachim Heng, John Chong and Robert Teoh, Provincial Councilors.
- Province of the Philippines: Ted Fernández, Provincial; Manny de Leon, John Tan, and Rene Reyes, Councilors.
- Province of Sri Lanka & Pakistan: Mike de Waas, Provincial; Mervyn Perera, Nicholas Fernando, Remigius Fernando, and Ranjith Perera, Councilors.
- District of Korea: John Vianney Kim, District Superior, and John Yang, delegate and Master of Novices.
- Sector of India: Chinna Devadoss, Superior, and Ray Arthur, visitor (representing the 2 Provinces of Australia conjointly).
- Japan Mission: Ramón Bereicua, representative.
- Members of the Visitation Teams: Brendan Neilly, Dennis Cooper, and Ernesto Sánchez.
- General Council: Seán Sammon, Luis G. Sobrado, Emili Turú, Antonio Ramalho, Pedro Herreros, Théoneste Kalisa, Peter Rodney, and Maurice Berquet.
- Others: Antonio Martínez, General Econome, and Lluís Serra, Publications Director.

Sunday 23rd February
- Opening of the Meeting
Brother Seán opened the meeting by greeting those present and posing the fundamental question underpinning the work of the days ahead: “What is God’s Dream for Marist Asia?”
- Getting to Know Each Other
Later on participants introduced themselves to each other one-to-one in a personal manner and with enough time to go beyond a merely formal acquaintance.
- Fraternal Meal at St Francis Xavier’s College
The Provincial Council of the China Province together with our brothers in the two Hong Kong communities extended a warm welcome at Saint Francis Xavier’s College, Kowloon in the course of a fraternal meal.
- Clarifying the Meeting Objectives
In a climate of listening and discernment, we endeavoured to draw up a plan for Marist Life in Asia that would foster viability and vitality.
- Community Prayer

Monday 24th February
Three tasks in particular were accomplished during the course of this day:
- Individual Reading and Reflection on four Reports: on the administrative unit; concerning MAPAC (directed to the Formation Team); concerning MAPAC (directed to the Student Brothers); and on each of the Novitiates.
- Meeting of the Visitation Teams and the Provinces/Districts, keeping in mind the following 2 lists of questions:
a) The three greatest resources; the three greatest challenges; the three greatest blind spots; possible omissions from the report.
b) The best procedure for distributing the report, it’s call for participation, the development of a process for initiating this encounter, and a study of the implications of the plan for implementing the report.
- General Assembly for submission of MPAC Reports by Brothers Antonio Ramalho and Ernesto Sánchez, followed by dialogue.

Tuesday 25th February
Today’s goal could be summed up in the following question: “What are the local and regional challenges, including the blind spots, and what resources do we possess for responding to them?”
The answers provided yesterday were analyzed in detail, and thus furnished a basis for dialogue and reflection both in groups and in the final plenary session.
The questions posed were the following:
1. General evaluation of the situation
2. What must be done to assure our future?
3. What resources are necessary?
4. What is the dream?
5. What price are we willing to pay?

In the evening, an Open Forum was held. Participants had the opportunity to obtain the views of General Council members, or put forward their own views on a whole range of questions.
The day’s work was concluded with a family get-together. Brother Seán seized the moment to thank in a particular way the China Province for having hosted the meeting. All were presented with a souvenir comprising a wooden image of the Good Mother with an inscription in the recipient’s language (English, Singhalese, Korean, Chinese, French, Tamil, Urdu, and Japanese). There is a plan to present each Brother in Asia with a similar souvenir.

Wednesday 26th February
Today’s goal: to arrive at a concrete action plan to foster the implementation of ‘God’s Dream for Marist Asia.’

Brother Seán Sammon’s contribution
In the first morning session, Brother Seán Sammon spoke on the meaning of Saint Marcellin’s phrase: “to become a Brother is to commit oneself to becoming a saint” in the context of the five Chapter calls. Are we aware of Champagnat’s importance for the Church and the world? A Vatican Radio journalist had asked him this question in the days preceding Saint Marcellin’s canonization. We are talking about a charism that belongs to the Church and exists for the benefit of society. The General Chapter invites us to spread the fire of Gospel contagion. We are not entrepreneurs but apostles; hence our preference is directed to children and young people, especially poor ones. After Mary’s example, we live this charism in our communities, which are places of pardon and reconciliation.
Brothers in Asia have a crucial task: to transmit this charism to their continent.

Brainstorming and Personal Reflection
After this, a brainstorming was conducted, starting with the previous days’ reflections.
Thereafter, some personal time was devoted to silence and reflection, in order to respond to the deep question: “In the light of what we have lived, said and written in these last three days about ourselves, our Brothers, our lay partners, the future of Marist life and mission in this part of the world, What do I believe God is asking of me? What do I think God is asking of my Province / District / Community? What do I think God is asking of us as a Region?”

Meetings of respective Councils
Provincial Councils met by groups in order to deepen their answers to the last two of the above questions. Results were written up and presented to all in the plenary assembly that followed.

Plenary Assembly
Five guiding principles were enunciated:
1. Create a common mentality to think and live as a region.
2. Strategy of small steps. A journey of a thousand miles begins with one first step.
3. Vitality and viability.
4. External and internal reorganization.
5. The process that needs to be utilized.

A “Provisional Action Plan” was worked out to ensure “that Marist life and mission in Asia will grow in vitality and viability.”
Objective: to stimulate the Asian administrative units to establish a stronger regional identity and work towards increased responsibility for the well being of all its brothers. There are three aspects to this:
1 Education:
This demands creation of a mentality that gives a sense of unity and belonging to the Asian Brothers. To this end, those who direct the Provinces have a particularly important role to play.
2. Sharing resources:
Both in the formation field (leadership training and preparation of formators capable of assuming this work) and in helping Marist Asia meet current challenges successfully (e.g. in preparing Community superiors, long term planning, financial planning, community life, apostolic reorganization, sharing mission with lay partners, greater collaboration between administrative units).
3. Implementing the Reports:
Utilizing concrete and measurable means.

Intensifying the meaning of regionalization, reflecting on the above-mentioned themes, approving the broad lines of the action plan... all this has opened for us new horizons of hope. The evaluation as finalized reflects commitment, joy, self-giving, and gratitude for the steps already taken, but it also bespeaks a fine overall climate and a magnificent availability in all participants.

A meeting of this type, with so much participation, is a first in Asia, and impels us to continue our work in a continent where but 3% of the population is Catholic. The Brothers, once again, have placed their bets on St Marcellin’s charism and its Asian inculturation: a task full of challenges and possibilities.

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