2020-09-04 NEW ZEALAND

Meeting of the Oceania Council and College of Leaders

As a result of the COVID-19 virus pandemic, the planned face-to-face meetings of the Oceania Council (OC) and Oceania College of Leaders (COL) have been replaced, for the foreseeable future, by Webex videoconference arrangements and other online initiatives.

The 17th August 2020 took place the Meeting of the Oceania Council and College of Leaders. Here you can read the executive summary of that meeting.

The unpredictable nature of the COVID19 virus and pandemic has caused a major interruption in what might have been considered normal operations and activities for our Marist endeavours in Oceania. At the same time with so many creative Marist minds at work, there are many good news stories and opportunities for creativity as well as realising and supporting one another and our projects in Oceania.

This week’s meetings of OC and COL brought us in contact with this new reality and the need to develop stronger and more reliable communication platforms, particularly to our remote areas, and be able to operate with greater confidence. Not all venues have the same strength and reliability of internet connections. We are presently exploring a number of options.

Time separation is a significant issue with participants in our meetings from Rome to Fiji and places in between – a time span of 12 hours.

Establishing a time structure for our meetings which is suitable for all participants is a challenge.

The Oceania participation in worldwide Marist activities and projects such as Global Schools Network, Brothers Today, Lavalla200> Projects, continues and emphasises the range of our commitments to international projects and hence the significance and importance of reliable communication networks.

The Administrative Unit Leaders presented their reports and important issues have been summarised and are listed below.

Developments

Since the April meeting of OC and COL there have been a number of significant and important changes in the structure and operation in the Region of Oceania

Reconfiguration

On 20 July, the District of Melanesia merged with the Province of Australia. An e-Gathering linked the event. The theme was “Growing in Communion” and it provided the opportunity to look back then to the future.

While the merger has been achieved, integration will occur over the next six months. In the meantime, Br Jean Marie will act as Transition Manager.

Financial Arrangements (FAN)

The merger has enabled for a rearrangement of the financial structures for Oceania. The Regional Trust Fund Board has been replaced by the Financial Administrators Network involving the Directors of Business Services of Australia and the Pacific. Actions in progress for 2020 include:

aligning budget structures and reporting and

submitting a consolidated Domus Report to Rome for the Province and the Region.

Oceania Partnership Commission (OPC)

With the membership of OPC and projects across Oceania from Australia to Kiribati, and plans for developing Marist Spirituality Programs to include Asia and Oceania, the importance of communication and limited for face-to-face meetings, planning is very important.

OPC has developed a Strategic Directions Project 2020-2021. Included in the Project are:

Develop some pathways and some narratives to lead and sustain ‘partnership in Marist life across the Region during upcoming completion and transition times for the Oceania Council. This is already active regarding Melanesia.

Participate significantly with other interested groups:

(Institute wise: Brothers Today Secretariat in collaboration with the Secretariat of the Laity;

Regionally … Young Professionals…Vocations in developing a Spirituality for the Region.)

Assist local Marists in ‘creating spaces for meaningful conversations’ and coordinate the development and distribution of resources to support such conversations.

Continuing to empower ‘leadership in Marist life’ at the local level.

Marist Oceania Education Network

Issues associated with the COVID19, particularly the lockdowns, closure of borders and quarantine restrictions have had significant impact on the ability to travel and implement and support educational programs.

The situation has been made more difficult with the destructive impact of Cyclone Harold in the Solomon Islands and Vanuatu with damage to the infrastructure including classrooms and dormitories. This was especially in one of the schools where the Marist Brothers live in Santo, Vanuatu.

The next phase of the Southern Stars program for the development of professional and formation for education leaders in the Pacific is under active consideration and a number of options are being considered. There are already positive outcomes from the first phase of the program.

There are now explorations how Marist Schools Australia and the Province of Australia could be able to support the schools in Melanesia.

Formation

This is an aspect of Marist life and mission which has been seriously disrupted by the virus. As international travel has effectively ceased, a number of options are being actively worked on to provide appropriate level and support for those engaged in or about to enter into formation as Champagnat Marists.

Next Meeting

As a result of the continuing uncertainties caused by the COVID19 virus, the next meeting of OC and COL will be held by videoconference on Monday 2 November 2020.

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