2024-06-03 ITALY

Course for formators 2024 – New Builders of the Hermitage

Photos in FaceBook

In the context of the celebration of the bicentenary of the construction of the Institute’s mother house of Notre Dame de l’Hermitage, in France, the Institute has implemented a formation program called “New Builders of the Hermitage”, for brothers who will be qualified for the pastoral mission of supporting the formation processes in the various houses and stages of initial formation in Marist life. The program begun last February, in Manziana, and will end next November. The course has been prepared by the Brothers Today Secretariat and by a team specially formed for this program, made up of Brothers Juan Castro (MDA), Michel Maminiaina (Province of Madagascar) and César Rojas (Province of Norandina). There are 20 participants: 19 Brothers and one Marist priest.

Here we share a testimony from Br. Ralph Fakaia, from Solomon Islands, Province of Star of the Sea, who speaks about the 4 first months of his experience.

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It has been four months since I arrived in Italy. A lot has happened to me during this intense formation program. Three important things that stand out for me so far are adaptability, interiority, and international community living.

To be frank, adapting to the Italian climate when I arrived was difficult for me. The temperature sometimes went down to negative four. Furthermore, I sometimes felt homesick. It was not easy leaving the lovely tropical atmosphere back home, family, close friends and the rebuilding projects into which I had put all my effort, energy and heart in Vanuatu. Moving and letting go is hard. I am moving into the unknown and the uncertainty of the future. I have been asking myself a lot of questions. Hopefully, by the end of this program, some answers will become more evident. However, these questions helped me to slow down and be in the present moment.

Adaptation is just about changing one’s mindset. Rigidity is a huge problem when I am not open to changes and do not embrace the difficulties with a generous heart. Experience has taught me that to adapt to a new place, I must live in the moment by trying to love the people, their food, culture, and the kind of sport they are so passionate about. This attitude of changing my mindset helps me adapt slowly to the environment, people, and events yet to unfold.

The topics presented so far are basically focusing on deepening our interiority (inner journey). This interiority requires contemplation with deep inner silence. It is hard sometimes to keep silent when I am preoccupied with something else. However, interiority is required to be aware of what is happening inside me. It is the only way to get in touch with myself and listen to what God wants of me. Moreover, where was God in my religious journey? This practice of interiority is so far helping me to encounter God. I am very aware of this because my life was circulating around doing or being a “doer” for the past five years in an apostolic ministry.

I also understand the complexity of finding balance in life. When I started this interiority exercise, the realisation of finding a balance in life emerged in my consciousness. It really helps me spiritually, physically, emotionally and intellectually. I have come to believe very much in having time set aside for self-reflection to discover the wonders God instilled in me. This program offers me valuable time and space to journey inward, and so far, I can now slowly find the balance of life.

Living in a multicultural community has not been easy. Just imagine Marist brothers from sixteen countries coming together, living under one roof and building a community. Fascinating and unimaginable indeed, isn’t it? For some, it is their first time living in a diverse community of brothers. There are so many differences amongst us, but the richness that each one brings to the community is a gift to live as one Marist global family. We are living the ideal, the written words in practice.

I have learned much from each brother despite the different languages and cultures. However, the Marist culture we all try to embrace gives us life and meaning. I must say, this is a wonderful opportunity for me, and it’s a once-in-a-lifetime experience. I feel that I must continue to open to the wonders, insights and experiences as they unfold in my life. My appreciation of living in an international Marist community is shaping up so positively because I feel responsible as well to contribute in ways, skills, knowledge and wisdom to make this international community a place of friendship, love and joy where our differences are not obstacles to growth.

As we prepare for our trip to the Champagnat country early in June, I am overwhelmed with so many graces and blessings as I look back. There is so much joy and life in this formation program as it intensifies with an abundance of giving and taking, and there is no other way to say, ‘Thank You, LORD.’

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Br Ralph Fakaia
Manziana, Italy – May 2024

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