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Marist Bulletin - Number 8



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He put his own life at risk to save others

On January 30 in Carmagnola, near Turin, Italy, 94 year old Brother Alessandro di Pietro, Postulator General at the time of Marcellin’s beatification in 1955, was awarded the Medal “Upright among the Nations” for his work on behalf of the Jewish People during the time of the Holocaust. Yad Vashem, an Institute established by the Israeli Parliament in 1953, remembers those who died in the Holocaust, and awards this prestigious Medal to unsung heroes who put their own lives on the line to save others during the Second World War.

What took place and how Brother Alessandro came to be honored
During the War, the Marist Brothers in Rome ran San Leone Magno Institute on Via Montebello 124, now located at Piazza Santa Costanza.
In 1943-44, in the midst of the War, the Brothers took into their boarding facilities 24 boys from Jewish families, including some from Germany and one from Poland. Also some ten Jewish adults and a non-Jewish Italian. All the children and adults were provided with counterfeit ID cards that Brother Angelo Oreggia obtained for them with the help of friends. The Jewish children attended classes, mixing in with all the other students at the school, and shared life with the boarding students, eating and sleeping on the site. Day and night, for all practical purposes, their safety was assured.
For obvious reasons, the safety of the adults who received their meals and lodging at the school was more problematic, especially at night. During the day, they ate and then left the school to go into the city. The big fear was that authorities would appear uninvited to carry out nighttime inspections. Thus Brother Alessandro di Pietro, Principal of the school, met with the men and planned what to do in the event of such a visit. A warning signal was agreed upon and an escape route devised: the men would use a staircase leading to safety in the Aurelian walls east of the school, remaining hidden until the undesirable visitors no longer posed a threat. If inspectors managed to find them, the men were to jump from the walls; if that became necessary, they knew the lowest jumping-off point along the wall. As things turned out, there were no inspections, and everyone was able to leave and once more know true freedom, even during the difficult days right after the War.
One of the children the Brothers sheltered, Dr. Minerbi, now a Professor at the University of Jerusalem, never forgot his two years at San Leone Magno. He left no stone unturned in his efforts to locate Br. Alessandro and prepare the paperwork leading up to the ceremony for awarding this Medal.

It was a decision involving the whole community
In brief remarks during the ceremony Brother Alessandro said, “I am deeply grateful and accept this honor, not for myself, but as a representative of all of us brothers at San Leone Magno Institute who made up that community. In point of fact, it was the community’s decision to open our doors to those 24 Jewish boys and some ten adults. All the brothers worked together, each in his own way, knowing that we all ran a grave risk.”
As a result of this award, Brother Alessandro’s name has been permanently inscribed on the Honor Roll in the Garden of the Just at Yad Veshem in Jerusalem.

Brother Onorino Rota

Speaking at the January 30th ceremony honoring Brother Alessandro in Carmagnola, Brother Onorino Rota, Provincial of Italy, tied together the wartime story of the San Leone Magno community and the slogan of our General Chapter, Choose Life! He also recalled the recent plea coming from Assisi: No more violence! No more war!
“Last September and October I participated in the General Chapter of the Marist Brothers: 118 delegates from 41 countries, representing our Brothers in 76 countries on five continents, 21 different languages, cultures, mentalities, working in diverse fields … but we noted that there was among us but one heart and soul (Acts 4, 32). The slogan that guided our assembly was ‘Choose Life!’
“At that time I asked myself what did the Brothers of San Leone Magno – and other Marist communities – do? Wasn’t theirs a decision to put others’ lives first, knowing that they might lose their own? No one has greater love than this, to lay down one’s life for one’s friends (John 15, 13). I also asked myself, ‘Why did they do it?’ I’ve found the answer in Sacred Scripture. The reason for the power behind ‘Choose Life’ is based on that strong invitation that is being addressed to us this very day: Shema Israel – Hear, O Israel! The Lord is our God, the Lord alone!” (Deuteronomy 6, 4). Yes, the One who speaks is the Lord of life…”
“A second thought that I’d like to share with you today concerns the meeting held in Assisi on January 24th. Representatives of different religious faiths launched a call with one voice: No more violence! No more war! No more terrorism! In the name of God may every religion bring justice and peace, forgiveness and life, Love upon the earth.”

International Commission meets in USA

The members of our International Economics Commission, Brothers Julian Casey, Carlos Huidobro, Henry Sammon, Jude Pieterse, and Yvon Bédard, met in Roselle NJ USA January 15-18. The group concentrated on preparing material for upcoming meetings with Provincial Treasurers: documentation on Statutes approved by the General Chapter, funding, and auditing of accounts. In the coming weeks, the Commission will contact Provincial Treasurers to arrange meetings in different parts of the world.
Br. Benedict LoBalbo spoke with the group to provide a clearer understanding of investment strategies at this point in time when stock exchanges, interest rates, and the world’s economy are less than encouraging.

Union of Superiors General

Last January 17th in Rome, the USG hosted the first gathering of Congregations dedicated to the field of social communications: publishers, press, TV, internet and radio. Brother Álvaro Rodríguez, Superior General De La Salle Brothers and President of the USG, opened the conference. Topics covered by experts included reasons why provinces and individual religious work in this field, Congregations and their work from the point of view of costs, training for those entering the field, culture, Church presence in the media, globalization, and laity and religious working side by side in Catholic press organizations. The Marist Brothers were represented by Brother Lluis Serra, Director of Publications.

On the road to restructuring

Provincial Councilors from Italy, from Levante and Betica in Spain, and a delegate from Betica’s delegation in Lebanon/Syria met at the General House February 1-3. It was their third meeting to make plans for a new Administrative Unit. The delegation of Lebanon/Syria has been a part of Betica since the summer of 2000. Decisions are being made in accordance with documents from the 20th General Chapter. The Councils agreed to create study groups and Commissions for specific areas, including preparing for the first Provincial Chapter. Several interprovincial retreats are being scheduled, as well as an Assembly to launch the new Province. Much thought has been given to involving the brothers in this process. Having consulted the brothers, a proposal has been made to name this new Marist Unit the Mediterranean Province and locate its Provincial center at Guardamar in Alicante, Spain.

February 2nd was a Day set aside to celebrate the Consecrated Life. According to precise data in the Church’s Yearbook of Statistics, there are 809,351 sisters and a total of 195,425 brothers and religious-order priests in the world. In addition, there are 56,000 nuns in 3,559 monasteries, and 35,525 lay people and priests belonging to Secular Institutes. In all there are 1,096,301 professed members of the Consecrated Life.

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