General Conference 2013

Notre Dame de l’Hermitage, France | 8-29 September 2013

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General Conference -Opening session 7/8 September

On Saturday 7 September, the last 48 participants and those in charge of the various services, including the translators, gradually arrived. All were warmly welcomed by the Hermitage community. The following day, at 11:30 am, the opening session of the General Conference took place,  with inspiring words from our Superior General, Br Emili TurĂş. He placed before the participants the significance of the house of the Hermitage, where “everything speaks of  Champagnat”. It is possible to find elements which were saved and well measured by the architect during the work of reconstruction which clearly allude to Marcellin’s presence in this place.  Emili also brought to mind those first brothers who came to the Hermitage inspired by the same Champagnat. He read parts of two of his letters, in 1837 and 38, inviting the brothers to come to the Hermitage to recover their strength and relax after the year of work. He also mentioned the icons made by Br MatĂ­as Espinosa, which will accompany the development of the General Council.

Then Br Emili invited the members of the mixed community of the Hermitage to introduce themselves. Each of them expressed the reasons for their being part of the community. Then, by regions, each participant was asked to give his name, province and the countries composing his province or district. Finally, those invited: Br Seán Sammon, the directors of the  Secretariats, the facilitator, Br Michael French, de La Salle Brother, the chaplain, Fr Edmund Duffy, Marist father, and the auxiliary personnel. After these introductions, there was time for socializing and lunch.

In the evening, at 6:30, there was the Sunday Eucharist, presided over by Mons. Dominique Lebrun, bishop of the diocese of Saint-Etienne, which stamped the General Conference, placing value on the Marist presence in the Hermitage, in communion with the local and universal Church.

General Conference – 27 and 28 September

Friday 27 September began with some words from Emili Turú. Of the different aspects treated, some were more significant. He began with an allusion to the icon of the profile of the Virgin in the courtyard of St Joseph. A suggestive presence, in a certain form discrete and transparent, as it was all the time in this Conference. He indicated that there are signs that the dawn is being born, as has been seen during these days: the search for the best and most prophetic for the brothers, the Provinces, the Institute, the quality of fraternal sharing, the intercultural internationality, an “inexplicable hope”.

He continued with the image of the Hermitage, which for Br François was “the great reliquary of the Founder” and where “everything speaks to us of Fr Champagnat”. He recalled Marcellin’s dream as related by Br Jean-Baptiste in the introduction to the “Good Superior”. He expressed that today it means that the renovated house of the Hermitage comes to be seen as an act of faith in the future. And he held up as example Br François who spent so many years close to Fr Champagnat and on the death of the Founder wrote a letter to all the Brothers indicating that “it is up to us now”. If anything has to change in the Institute, Emili said, it has to start with me.

He then mentioned the message of Pope Francis to the Carmelites, to apply to ourselves the importance of the contemplative dimension it is necessary to live, cultivate and transmit. In conclusion, he expressed we return to the calls of the 21st General Chapter, but by a different road, with a new look.

Afterwards, there was a time for going through the house again, sharing, on three different levels, what spirituality, fraternity and mission mean for leadership: making a pilgrimage to the rock, the cemetery of the first Brothers and around the reliquary of St Marcellin in the chapel.

In the afternoon, there was an evaluation of the General Conference.

The Eucharist was a moving moment of conclusion, with the benches arranged so as to include the reliquary of Saint Marcellin and the tomb of Br François.