2022-11-03 GENERAL HOUSE

How did we get to the International Forum on the Lay Marist Vocation?

On November 4, the 3rd stage of the International Forum on the Lay Marist Vocation begins. How did we get here? Brother Guillermo José Villarreal Cavazos, Secretary of the meeting in Rome, explains this trajectory.

Since the origin of the Society of Mary, back in 1817, there has been talk of Lay Marists, they were referred to as the Third Order. The Third Order was further developed by the Marist Fathers and Sisters, from which the Marist Missionary Sisters emerged.  Among the Marist Brothers, throughout the 19th and early 20th centuries, the idea of a Marist laity was not really developed. However, the Marist charism was always shared with former students. In addition, as lay teachers were slowly integrated into our schools and as became knowledgeable in the Marist charism they felt called to participate in our spirituality and mission.

At the ecclesial level, the laity gained great impetus during the Second Vatican Council, being one of the main reflections during the drafting of Lumen Gentium (1964). The concept of the Church was changing, now the preferred concept of Church is seen as the People of God, as the Body of Christ, and as the Temple of the Holy Spirit. As a result of this, we are all called to holiness, that is, to live with passion for God and compassion for our brothers and sisters.

In the Institute, the task of renewing Religious Life, as requested by the Second Vatican Council, took the entire term of Brother Basilio Rueda’s government. However, since the XVII General Chapter (1976) we began to speak of a “Marist Family”, but it was not until the XVIII General Chapter (1985), after the drafting of the new Constitutions was finished and Brother Charles Howard was elected as Superior General, that a reflection on a shared mission and on the Champagnat Movement of the Marist Family, became the first formal structure of the Marist laity.

During the time of the Second Vatican Council and the election of Brother Charles Howard, the number of Brothers had decreased, however, the Marist mission had grown, the number of ministries and the number of students in our schools had increased significantly, thanks to the incorporation of lay people into the Mission. We no longer speak of collaborators but of a shared mission.

In 1988, Pope John Paul II published the Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Christifideles Laici, where he addresses the vocation and mission of the laity in the Church.

Over the years, the institute has invited some lay men and women to participate in the General Chapters. The first participation of lay people was in during the 19th General Chapter (1993), with 14 lay people. In the following chapter (2001) there were 17 lay people. And it continued with the presence of 10 lay people in the 21st General Chapter (2009).

The questions revolving around the idea that if the laity can share Champagnat’s charism and concerning the identity of the lay Marist were profoundly answered with the document “Gathered Around the Same Table” (2009) and the question about how to best accompany and form lay Marists was addressed by the document “Being a Lay Marist” (2018).

In 2002, for the first time in our history, a Laity Commission was created under the General Administration. The commission was made up of four brothers: three of them were General Councilors and a secretary.

In 2004, the General Council appointed an international commission to set up an International Marist Mission Assembly, which was held in Mendes in 2007. For the first time, there was significant lay representation that included provincial, regional, and international levels. Fifty lay people and 44 brothers participated in Mendes,

In 2006, the Laity Commission was transformed into the Secretariat of the Laity, led by a director, a brother, and that was included in the Mission Commission. In support of this new structure, the General Council approved the creation of an Enlarged Secretariat of the Laity (2007), led by two brothers – among them the director of the Secretariat – and three lay people.

In September 2014, the II International Marist Mission Assembly took place in Nairobi (Kenya). With more than 110 lay people and brothers who participated, the major themes as they related to the Marist mission, spirituality and the relationship between brothers and laity were deepened.

In 2017, after the 22nd General Chapter, the Secretariate for Laity was reconfigured, by having lay people, for the first time, serve as director and co-directors.

It is within this secretariat that we began to talk about the desire of organizing an International Forum on the Laity.


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