General Conference

The Marist Constitutions describe the General Conference as a consultative assembly that has two objectives: to strengthen the unity of the Institute and to study questions of general concern and to propose ways of answering them.

The custom of gathering a significant group of brothers in order to look at important matters of the Institute was one of the practices introduced by Marcellin to encourage the unity of the brothers. The origin of this structure at the service of the general government, as such as we know today, started to take shape and define its function as a form of a renewed style of government of religious institutes as called for by Vatican II.

Charles Raphaël initiated this practice in 1961 and repeated it in 1965. From these initial experiences it has evolved into a convocation between General Chapters once during the mandate of the Superior General. It gives an opportunity to evaluate the implementation of the Chapter decisions and it is included in our new Constitutions in the chapter concerning Government.

The General Conference is a consultative assembly and its function differs from that of the General Chapter. The latter has full autonomy regarding the General Council and constitutes the supreme extraordinary authority of the Institute. On the contrary, the organisation of the General Conference, its programme, its daily agenda and its duration are subject to the wishes of the Superior General and his Council. The Chapters generally resolve all the affairs by voting and present documents to the Institute. In the Conferences, there is no voting on decisions, but consensus is sought on the aspects that are to be encouraged in the Provinces or in the Institute, without expressing them in documents or official statements. These differences explain why there is a different way of working, of pursuing distinct objectives and adopting other means of attaining them.

The first traces of what is today the General Conference as a structure of government of the Institute of the Marist Brothers can be detected in the contributions from the seventh Chapter Commission of the XV General Chapter held in Grugliasco in 1958.

That on the occasion of the annual retreat study sessions be organised in the General House for the Brothers Provincial in order to analyse together, under the direction of the Superior General and his Council, the best means to solve present problems. (Circulars, Volume XXII, p. 281)

From the 4th to the 12th May 1965, a meeting was held of the members of the General Administration with the Brothers Provincial and Visitors of the Institute, which took place in Rome for the three-yearly meeting decided by the General Chapter. (Bulletin of the Institute Volume XXVI, p. 601) This meeting, in which sixty-three brothers participated, can be considered as the initial experience of the leaders of the Institute that was to be later legislated in the Constitutions under the name of the General Conference.

The idea of a General Conference as a structure of government to energise the Institute started to take shape more clearly during the XVI General Chapter (1967-1968), during the Government Commission’s work sessions.

The initial name considered was the “General Synod”, later changed to the General Conference. During the work of the XVI General Chapter the composition, the aims, the frequency and the powers of this collegial organisation were studied and the provision for an extraordinary General Conference was abandoned very early, even though one third of the Provinces requested it.
From its origins, the aim of the General Conference has been to encourage communication and to follow up the application of the Constitutions and the Chapter decisions.
Initially, the frequency was decided as every three years so that this meeting could take place twice between every two General Chapters, but after the 1986 Constitutions the frequency was reduced to one General Conference between two General Chapters.

The composition has never changed a great deal from the origins until today: the Superior General, the Vicar General, the General Councillors, the Provincials and District Superiors.
In the early proposal it was also suggested the Vice Provincials and District Visitors be included in the meeting instead of the District Superiors.

In the 1997 General Conference, some young brothers and laypeople participated as invited guests in the meeting for some days for the first time, at the initiative of the Superior General.
Concerning the powers of the General Conference, it was seen as predominantly consultative, as it did not have the right to modify neither the Constitutions nor the Chapter Statutes. It could study the application of the Constitutions and the Statutes, to choose ways of putting them into practice and to evaluate the activities that were being developed based on the Chapter decisions.
The right of the Superior General to invite other brothers to participate in the General Conference was realised in the first six convocations through various criteria, which also resulted in a variable number of participants.

In the Meeting of the General Administration with the Brothers Provincial and Visitors of the Institute, which was not guided by the Constitutions, there were a total of sixty-six participants, even though three could not take part. Currently, with the process of restructuring the number of Provinces has been reduced considerably and the number of members forecast for the seventh General conference is a total of thirty-nine: the Brother Superior general, the Brother Vicar general and the General councillors who form a group of eight. To them must be added the Brothers Provincial of twenty-six Provinces. This number is completed by the five District Superiors who have the right to participate due to the status of their District as a District.

VIII General Conference
Geral House, Rome – 21 May – 2 June 2007
Reclaim the spirit of the Hermitage fire and passion in marist leadership.

VII General Conference
Sri Lanka, 5-30 September 2005

The 7th General Conference is directed towards the East. Sri Lanka provided the entry for the Marist Brothers into Asia. Today the whole Institute is invited to look towards the enormous fields that have still to be evangelised in Asia. We are all summoned to raise the vitality of the charism and the Marist mission today.

The Provincials and District Superiors have been invited to familiarise themselves with some of the realities in this part of the world before meeting up with their Brothers in Negobono (Sri Lanka).

VI General Conference
Nairobi, 1997

The 6th General Conference was scheduled to take place in Nairobi, the rationale being that many of the participants had contact with countries in Africa and Madagascar and they knew better the hopes, the human and spiritual richness, and the challenges of that continent. But last minute difficulties forced it to take place in Rome, since there was no possibility of finding an alternative site that facilitated the means and necessary space for this type of assembly.

V General Conference
Veranópolis (Brazil) – 1989

The 5th General Conference was held in Veranópolis (Brazil), which was the first time that such an event took place outside of Rome. It was also convoked with the novelty of a logo made up of the signature of Champagnat and the letters FMS in the form of flames rising from the signature. Brother Charles Howard convoked it from September 20 to October 15 1989.

IV General Conference
Rome, 1982

As on previous occasions the General Conference returned to Rome (Italy) from 3rd to 17th October 1982, also under the generalship of Brother Basilio Rueda. 57 Brothers accompanied by fourteen members of the General Council attended as well as four Brothers especially invited by the Superior General.

III General Conference
Rome, 1979

The 3rd General Conference was developed in Rome (Italy) from 1st to 13th October 1979, during the generalship of Brother IIIBasilio Rueda. 61 Brothers attended, among them Brother Charles Raphael former Superior General and thirteen members of the General Council. Brother Basilio Rueda, Superior General, invited the three superiors of the formation centres dependent on the general Administration.

II General Conference

Rome, 1974
Brother Basilio Rueda convoked the 2nd General Conference in Rome (Italy) from 7th to 21st May of 1974. The total number of Brothers taking part was 57 to whom were added the presence of the General Council, which at the time consisted of fifteen members. Brother Charles Raphael, former Superior General was also invited on this occasion.

I General Conference

Rome, 1971
The first General Conference took place in Rome (Italy) from April 28th to 15th May 1971, during the Generalship of Brother Basilio Rueda. 57 Brothers took part, including the former Superior General Charles Raphael and the General Council. In some of the preparatory drafts the conference was referred to as: ‘ the postconciliar and postcapitular conference’. There were three days of conferences and group discussions facilitated by the Jesuit Fathers Ramón Mijares and Brother Arvesú, followed by twelve days of prayer, reflection and sharing.

The Marist Constitutions describe the General Conference as a consultative assembly that has two objectives: to strengthen the unity of the Institute and to study questions of general concern and to propose ways of answering them.

The custom of gathering a significant group of brothers in order to look at important matters of the Institute was one of the practices introduced by Marcellin to encourage the unity of the brothers. The origin of this structure at the service of the general government, as such as we know today, started to take shape and define its function as a form of a renewed style of government of religious institutes as called for by Vatican II.

Charles Raphaël initiated this practice in 1961 and repeated it in 1965. From these initial experiences it has evolved into a convocation between General Chapters once during the mandate of the Superior General. It gives an opportunity to evaluate the implementation of the Chapter decisions and it is included in our new Constitutions in the chapter concerning Government.

The General Conference is a consultative assembly and its function differs from that of the General Chapter. The latter has full autonomy regarding the General Council and constitutes the supreme extraordinary authority of the Institute. On the contrary, the organisation of the General Conference, its programme, its daily agenda and its duration are subject to the wishes of the Superior General and his Council. The Chapters generally resolve all the affairs by voting and present documents to the Institute. In the Conferences, there is no voting on decisions, but consensus is sought on the aspects that are to be encouraged in the Provinces or in the Institute, without expressing them in documents or official statements. These differences explain why there is a different way of working, of pursuing distinct objectives and adopting other means of attaining them.

The first traces of what is today the General Conference as a structure of government of the Institute of the Marist Brothers can be detected in the contributions from the seventh Chapter Commission of the XV General Chapter held in Grugliasco in 1958.

That on the occasion of the annual retreat study sessions be organised in the General House for the Brothers Provincial in order to analyse together, under the direction of the Superior General and his Council, the best means to solve present problems. (Circulars, Volume XXII, p. 281)

From the 4th to the 12th May 1965, a meeting was held of the members of the General Administration with the Brothers Provincial and Visitors of the Institute, which took place in Rome for the three-yearly meeting decided by the General Chapter. (Bulletin of the Institute Volume XXVI, p. 601) This meeting, in which sixty-three brothers participated, can be considered as the initial experience of the leaders of the Institute that was to be later legislated in the Constitutions under the name of the General Conference.

The idea of a General Conference as a structure of government to energise the Institute started to take shape more clearly during the XVI General Chapter (1967-1968), during the Government Commission’s work sessions.

The initial name considered was the “General Synod”, later changed to the General Conference. During the work of the XVI General Chapter the composition, the aims, the frequency and the powers of this collegial organisation were studied and the provision for an extraordinary General Conference was abandoned very early, even though one third of the Provinces requested it.
From its origins, the aim of the General Conference has been to encourage communication and to follow up the application of the Constitutions and the Chapter decisions.
Initially, the frequency was decided as every three years so that this meeting could take place twice between every two General Chapters, but after the 1986 Constitutions the frequency was reduced to one General Conference between two General Chapters.

The composition has never changed a great deal from the origins until today: the Superior General, the Vicar General, the General Councillors, the Provincials and District Superiors.
In the early proposal it was also suggested the Vice Provincials and District Visitors be included in the meeting instead of the District Superiors.

In the 1997 General Conference, some young brothers and laypeople participated as invited guests in the meeting for some days for the first time, at the initiative of the Superior General.
Concerning the powers of the General Conference, it was seen as predominantly consultative, as it did not have the right to modify neither the Constitutions nor the Chapter Statutes. It could study the application of the Constitutions and the Statutes, to choose ways of putting them into practice and to evaluate the activities that were being developed based on the Chapter decisions.
The right of the Superior General to invite other brothers to participate in the General Conference was realised in the first six convocations through various criteria, which also resulted in a variable number of participants.

In the Meeting of the General Administration with the Brothers Provincial and Visitors of the Institute, which was not guided by the Constitutions, there were a total of sixty-six participants, even though three could not take part. Currently, with the process of restructuring the number of Provinces has been reduced considerably and the number of members forecast for the seventh General conference is a total of thirty-nine: the Brother Superior general, the Brother Vicar general and the General councillors who form a group of eight. To them must be added the Brothers Provincial of twenty-six Provinces. This number is completed by the five District Superiors who have the right to participate due to the status of their District as a District.

VIII General Conference
Geral House, Rome – 21 May – 2 June 2007
Reclaim the spirit of the Hermitage fire and passion in marist leadership.

VII General Conference
Sri Lanka, 5-30 September 2005

The 7th General Conference is directed towards the East. Sri Lanka provided the entry for the Marist Brothers into Asia. Today the whole Institute is invited to look towards the enormous fields that have still to be evangelised in Asia. We are all summoned to raise the vitality of the charism and the Marist mission today.

The Provincials and District Superiors have been invited to familiarise themselves with some of the realities in this part of the world before meeting up with their Brothers in Negobono (Sri Lanka).

VI General Conference
Nairobi, 1997

The 6th General Conference was scheduled to take place in Nairobi, the rationale being that many of the participants had contact with countries in Africa and Madagascar and they knew better the hopes, the human and spiritual richness, and the challenges of that continent. But last minute difficulties forced it to take place in Rome, since there was no possibility of finding an alternative site that facilitated the means and necessary space for this type of assembly.

V General Conference
Veranópolis (Brazil) – 1989

The 5th General Conference was held in Veranópolis (Brazil), which was the first time that such an event took place outside of Rome. It was also convoked with the novelty of a logo made up of the signature of Champagnat and the letters FMS in the form of flames rising from the signature. Brother Charles Howard convoked it from September 20 to October 15 1989.

IV General Conference
Rome, 1982

As on previous occasions the General Conference returned to Rome (Italy) from 3rd to 17th October 1982, also under the generalship of Brother Basilio Rueda. 57 Brothers accompanied by fourteen members of the General Council attended as well as four Brothers especially invited by the Superior General.

III General Conference
Rome, 1979

The 3rd General Conference was developed in Rome (Italy) from 1st to 13th October 1979, during the generalship of Brother IIIBasilio Rueda. 61 Brothers attended, among them Brother Charles Raphael former Superior General and thirteen members of the General Council. Brother Basilio Rueda, Superior General, invited the three superiors of the formation centres dependent on the general Administration.

II General Conference

Rome, 1974
Brother Basilio Rueda convoked the 2nd General Conference in Rome (Italy) from 7th to 21st May of 1974. The total number of Brothers taking part was 57 to whom were added the presence of the General Council, which at the time consisted of fifteen members. Brother Charles Raphael, former Superior General was also invited on this occasion.

I General Conference

Rome, 1971
The first General Conference took place in Rome (Italy) from April 28th to 15th May 1971, during the Generalship of Brother Basilio Rueda. 57 Brothers took part, including the former Superior General Charles Raphael and the General Council. In some of the preparatory drafts the conference was referred to as: ‘ the postconciliar and postcapitular conference’. There were three days of conferences and group discussions facilitated by the Jesuit Fathers Ramón Mijares and Brother Arvesú, followed by twelve days of prayer, reflection and sharing.