2018-09-26 GENERAL HOUSE

Blessed and martyr

We are in the eve of a significant event for our Institute: very soon, Brother Henri Vergès will be enthroned to the roll of our holy brothers. He will not be alone! He will be part of a pleiad of martyrs, victims of religious extremism of the 90s in Algeria.

When our Marist Brothers schools was nationalized by the State, Brother Henri, who had been director of one of them (Saint Bonaventure School, in Algiers), decided not to return to France, his homeland, but to remain in the country in order to keep and deepen the fruitful ecumenical dialogue that he maintained with Muslim leaders. Since he could not renew his contract with the National Education, at the request of the bishop, he begin to work in a library, where he welcomed young students from the quarter of Kasbah. In the daily service to the more than a thousand young people who attended the library, Henri gave witness to the Gospel and the love of the merciful God by concrete gestures of affection and words of life. We know the history. One Sunday, May 8, 1994, he died in his work place.

In 1976, During the XVI General Chapter, I had the opportunity to work with Brother Henri, both participating in the same Commission on Formation.  Even though he was a missionary to Algeria, he represented in the Chapter, as an elected member, one of the former French Provinces. His rich, lulled and thoughtful contributions to the discussions contribution almost always revolved around the need for those in formation to be made aware of the importance of interreligious dialogue and ecumenism, two themes now present in the calls of the Global Charismatic Family.

Who would have predicted that, years later, this peaceful and generous Brother would give his life out of love for a people he learned to love? Living saints do not wear haloes, nor are they distinguished by spectacular gestures. What characterize them, for sure, is the authenticity of their convictions and the coherence of their options. Throughout my life I have lived with holy brothers and I have met men and women of God, each illuminating, as a true lighthouse, the existence of those around them. I could mention Brother Basílio Rueda, Cardinal Eduardo Pironio, Dr. Zilda Arns, the gaúcho Brother Firmino, missionary to Africa, Bishop Hélder Câmara and many others! Extraordinary men and women in the ordinary actions of the every day life!

By incredible blindness we have left to recognize the saints only after they have left us! Are not we at this moment shouldering some saint? Look out! Praise and thank God for the saints who work alongside us!


Brother Claudino Falchetto
Image Br. Henri Vergés: Monique Matheus


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