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Marist Bulletin - Number 73

 

Seán D. Sammon, FMS, Superior General - Cochabamba
31.01.2003

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REMARKS DELIVERED AT THE OPENING OF THE EXTENDED GENERAL COUNCIL MEETING IN COCHABAMBA, BOLIVIA (May 27-31, 2003)

Brothers, a word of welcome. If my capacity for languages is not my strong suite, my welcome is sincere and heartfelt. I welcome you also in the name of Luis and the General Council members: Emili, Peter, Pedro, Antonio, Theoneste, and Maurice. Each of them, along with Ernesto from the General Administration and a number of other brothers who served on the visiting teams, has been in the region for several weeks now. The members of the General Council, working together with our other brothers on the visiting team, also have just completed a very productive four days preparing for this gathering.

This meeting is the third phase of the visits to this region. We began our work with a series of retreats, believing that the Chapter’s message was quite clear: a spiritual awakening and a change of heart are necessary for genuine renewal to take root and deepen. Pastoral planning and other methods of organizing can help, but unless Jesus is the center of your life and mine, and our reliance on Mary as strong as Marcellin was, we will fail to fully embrace the challenge before us: the rebirth of this Institute and mission that we love so well. What is called for is a revolution of your heart and mine. .

One hundred years ago this year, 900 of our 1500 brothers in France at the time left their country. The laws of secularization were such that they faced a potential disaster. Our brothers though, creative in thought, daring in action, unquestioning in their faith took steps that led to our Institute being present today in 77 countries, working to carry out our mission of evangelizing poor children and young people. They left France and set out for lands where they did not know the language, fully understand the culture, or, perhaps, appreciate the risks that they were taking.

Today we are challenged to be as creative, as daring, as trusting as these 900. This region of the Institute is rich in human and spiritual resources. You have large numbers of young brothers, a vast array of institutions, well formed and prepared brothers in positions of ministry, Province and district leadership, and formation. At the same time, like any other part of our Institute, this region faces challenges that must be addressed if renewal is to be complete. During these days together I pray that we can talk together about these issues, coming as we do from the same common roots of Marcellin Champagnat’s passion for Jesus, his unquestioning reliance on Mary, his charism, his dream.

He would be stunned at the resources to be found today in our Institute today, and, I think that, at times, he would loose his patience with us. After all, when he founded us he had little more than two uneducated farm boys, and a house that could politely be described as “in need of repair.” But Marcellin Champagnat had a dream and that dream made all the difference because, after all, it was God’s dream for Marcellin’s life.

That dream has changed the lives of more people than we will ever know, that dream has brought the Good News of Jesus Christ into the lives of so many poor young people, that dream challenges us today to face the future of Marist life and mission here in Latin America with boldness, with hope, with faith in Jesus Christ and his Good News.

Welcome.

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