Historical Summary of the General Conferences

1 1971 Br. Basilio Rueda 28.04 to 15.05.1971 Rome (Italy) Superior General’s meditation spoken out loud before his Brothers Provincial
2 1974 Br. Basilio Rueda 07.04 to 21.05.1974 Rome (Italy) Preparation del XVII General Chapter
3 1979 Br. Basilio Rueda 01 to 14.10.1979 Rome (Italy) Consecrated Life, Community Life Plan, Poverty and Justice The Marist Family, Marist Patrimony
4 1982 Br. Basilio Rueda 03 to 17.10.1982 Rome (Italy) Evaluate the progress of renewal in the Institute and prepare the publication of the Constitutions and Statutes
5 1989 Br. Charles Howard 21.09 to 15.10.1989 VeranĂłpolis (Brazil) The Marist Brother and his mission for the future.
A group of young brothers was invited
6 1997 Br. Benito Arbués 12.09 to 04.10.1997 Rome (Italy) Refoundation of the Institute. 8 young brothers and 8 lay people were invited
7 2005 Br. Seán Sammon 05 to 30.09.2005 Negombo (Sri Lanka) To foster the vitality of the charism and Marist mission today

Historical Antecedents

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.