2020-07-07 AUSTRALIA

District of Melanesia will be integrated into the Province of Australia

Over the past few years, the leaders of the Administrative Units which make up the region of Oceania and the General Administration have been reflecting on how best to ensure the Marist life and mission in the region.  After further reflection and dialogue, Brother Ernesto Sánchez, Superior General, shared the General Council’s decision of 12 February 2020, which stated that: “From 20th July 2020, the current District of Melanesia (including communities, houses, and apostolic works) will no longer continue as a District and will be integrated into the Province of Australia. Consequently, the Brothers of the current District will become members by right of the Province of Australia”.

To mark the integration of the District with the Province of Australia, an assembly with the Brothers of Melanesia was to be held this month, July 2020. This Assembly would formally record the transfer of leadership responsibilities from Brother Jean Marie Batick, who completed his mandate as District Leader of Melanesia, to Brother Peter Carroll, Provincial of the Province of Australia.  Unfortunately, because of the on-going Covid-19 crisis and the restrictions on international travel and gatherings, it has been impossible to have the Assembly at this time.  However, 20 July remains as the date when the current District of Melanesia will become part of the Province of Australia. To mark this historic event, a virtual commemoration is being planned.

In his letter to the Brothers, Br. Ernesto said: “I would like to thank you, Brothers, for welcoming this initiative. I am sure that all Brothers and Lay Marists of the six countries – Australia, East Timor, Papua New Guinea, Vanuatu, Solomon Islands and New Caledonia — will be enriched in this new reality, journeying together as one Province.

Structural change responds to changing circumstances

It is clear that structural change has been a constant theme throughout the Marist history in Oceania and has been instituted to respond to changing circumstances. Over the years, there have been regular meetings within the region to share ideas and resources, especially around formation, and to investigate ways of increasing the viability and vitality of Marist life within Oceania. The realities of our world and our Institute have necessitated these changes and explorations.

Marist Brothers’ life and mission in Oceania began when Brothers accompanied Marist Priests into the Pacific and New Zealand. Between 1836 and 1859, a total of thirty-seven ‘Little Brothers of Mary’ had been sent to the region. The first Marist Brothers’ community was later established in Sydney in 1872. This was followed in 1874 with the first Brothers’ community in Noumea. The Province of New Zealand was established in 1917, and the Australian Province was divided into two Provinces – Melbourne and Sydney – in 1948. Since before World War II, Marists in the region have looked at ways to nurture Marist life in Melanesia. In 1984, the District of PNGSI began, and within twenty years, the District of Melanesia came into being. Each structural change was a response to the realities “on the ground” so that the mission of the Marist Brothers would continue to be vital in the years ahead. 

While there is always a sadness inherent in endings, the only thing that is really ending is the “canonical structure” of the District of Melanesia; the hope of a new reality of Marist life and mission in this region of the Institute will be re-imagined through this mutual integration and the on-going prayer and reflection which has culminated in this new reality.

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