2014-06-24 SPAIN

Province of West-Central Europe

The Province of West-Central Europe held its Marist Education Conference from 6 – 9th June at the Marist Centre in Guardamar in Spain. The theme of the Conference was “Awakening a New Dawn,” echoing the message of the XXI General Chapter, the General Conference and the circular of Brother Emili, whose final chapter is entitled, “Mary, Dawn of new times.”

There were 70 participants from the five countries of the Province: Ireland, Scotland, The Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Sixteen Brothers from the Province participated. There were 50 lay people from Marist and former Marist schools, and from Marist projects in Scotland and The Netherlands. 

The purpose of the Conference was to create a network with practical ideas to facilitate Marist leadership into the future. Planning for the Conference began in 2011. The work involved in preparing for the Conference, along with reflection by the fraternities in Belgium, became the Province phase of the preparation for the II International Mission Assembly.

Over the past 30 years the Brothers have withdrawn from schools in The Netherlands, Scotland, England and Belgium. In Germany the schools have been handed over to local dioceses. We are still responsible for the secondary schools in Ireland. During the same period a range of Marist projects have developed in The Netherlands, Scotland, Belgium and Germany. The focus of the Conference was on facilitating leadership of Marist schools and projects into the future. In recent years there has been a growing desire for former Marist schools to re-connect with the Marist spirit and tradition. The Conference provided an opportunity for networking, formation, visioning and – in true Marist style – practical suggestions to take all of this forward. 

Brother Ronnie McEwan and Mr Paul Cummings from Kinharvie Institute in Glasgow facilitated the Conference. Everyone commented on the professionalism of the programme and noted the Marial spirit in which the Conference unfolded. Brother Michael Green and Mr Tony Clarke from Australia and Brother Richard Van Houten from the United States were involved as presenters. Brother Ernesto Sanchez, C.G., one of the link Councillors for the Province, participated and led a workshop on Marist Leadership. Brother João Carlos do Prado, the secretary of the Mission Secretariat, also participated and led a workshop on Marist Mission. Bernice Reintjens, a lay Marist in The Netherlands and one of the members of the group that produced “Water from the Rock,” led a workshop, along with Liesbeth van Gool from The Netherlands who works as an adviser to the Dutch bishops in the area of schools and education. 

The Conference opened appropriately on the Feast of St. Marcellin. The participants worked through Saturday, 7th June, and on the morning of 8th June – Pentecost Sunday – there was a release of creative and practical energy as the groups reflected on how to take the programme of Marist leadership forward. The participants met in school and national groups, and made proposals for the Provincial Council. There was plenty of time to relax and make contact with Marists from other schools, projects and countries.

Participants said that, more than any other Conference, this genuinely felt like a new dawn. There was inspiration, vision, hope, energy, new relationships, practical plans and abundant enthusiasm. The Brothers and lay people worked together and there was a sense of ownership of a joint project. The speakers dealt with the following topics: Marist Leadership, Marist Mission in the Future, The Inner Journey, a Marian Church, and Marist Spirituality. 

Brother Brendan Geary, Provincial, Mr Gerry Devlin, the Executive Director of Kinharvie Institute in Glasgow, and Mr Wolfgang Hacker, a teacher at the Maristenkolleg in Mindelheim participated in the Conference and will share their experience during the II International Mission Assembly in Nairobi. 




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