Sharing 6 – Lay Marist Newsletter

Sharing. The Lay Marist Vocation (Lay Marist Newsletter)

Every diocese in the world figures in our plans…

Carole Wark – Extended Secretariat of the Laity

Greetings to our global Marist family from your brothers and sisters at the ends of the earth – OCEANIA! It is customary in this part of the world to establish your connections before any business can begin. I hope you get to know us a little better in our SHARING with you in this edition, as we walk together as Marists the process of the International Forum for the Lay Marist Vocation.  

Who are we, the people of Oceania?

The time difference between Tarawa, Kiribati and Rome is +10 hours. We are people living in the future of others. 

The distance from Apia, Samoa to Rome is 16,858 kms. We are people who understand distance. 

To travel the 9813 kilometres from the most western point (Perth, Australia) to the most eastern point (Kiribati) takes 19 hours and 37 minutes. From the most southern point (Invercargill, in Aotearoa New Zealand) to the most northern point (Wewak in Papua New Guinea) is 5324 kms and is a journey of days, not hours.  We are people who travel.

We speak over 1000 languages. We have ancient histories, some dating back more than 60,000 years. We have deep traditions and experiences of family and community. We are mobile, creative, innovative because change is a constant in our story. We bear the blessings and the burdens of colonisation. We are people rich in cultural diversity.

We are always looking to the changing horizon across the abundant natural beauty of our region. The ocean, the weather, and the stars connect and bind us. We are people who understand our place in the fragility of the earth and the rhythm of the universe and we look to the heavens for help when setting our course.

Our Marist origins in Oceania are intrinsically linked to mission. And interestingly enough, those origins are linked to canonical and civil recognition, one of the key topics for exploration in our Forum process. 

1836 was the year that the Pope gave approval for the Marist Fathers who then took on the Church’s missionary work in Oceania. Champagnat asked to join those going to Oceania, but due to his age and suspect health, Fr Colin convinced him that he could make more of a contribution by preparing younger men to go instead. Between 1836 and 1858 thirty-four Marist Brothers left L’Hermitage, France to help the Marist Fathers in the work of spreading the Good News in various places in Oceania. Life was difficult and extremely dangerous, and unfulfilling for some.  Perhaps it was Antoine Colomban, formerly Br Michel, who became Oceania’s first lay Champagnat Marist. He set sail from France with Bishop Pompallier and Fr Peter Chanel and was the first Marist Brother to set foot on Australian soil when they stopped in Sydney en route to Aotearoa New Zealand. Despite his significant contribution setting up the various early foundations in Aotearoa New Zealand, he later left the Brothers dissatisfied that he had not been given the opportunity to work at his vocation of teaching. (You can read more here)

1836 was also the year that Champagnat went to Paris to try to get the French Government to recognise his Brothers so that they could avoid the restrictions, regulations and challenges around national service and teacher training.  A return trip in 1838 was equally unsuccessful and the job of achieving the necessary recognitions fell to Br François after Champagnat’s death.

In 1872, thirty-two years after Champagnat’s death, three Marist Brothers arrived in Sydney to begin the first school at The Rocks. Following in the footsteps of those dedicated Brothers who came before them, the commitment of these three Brothers had a significant impact on Catholic education in Australia. Likewise in Aotearoa New Zealand where in 1876 four Brothers arrived to set up a school in Wellington.   

As it was from those challenging beginnings, education ministry has been the gift of the charism in Oceania. As Brothers and Lay Marists, we still connect our way of making Jesus known and loved among the young and most vulnerable to our vocation of teaching.  We have networks of schools across Oceania where the local Brothers and Lay Marists form communities in a variety of ways, deeply rooted in their diverse cultures and local expressions of Church, each of them homes of light for the young people they are privileged to educate and evangelise.

Change is our constant. A scan of our history shows us that restructuring has been a part of the Marist Project in Oceania since the beginning. We are currently living a new process of moving to the new Star of the Sea Province in 2022 which will encompass our entire region, all 8,525,989 square kilometres of its land mass and the ten countries where we have Marist enterprises! We are again being invited to look to the heavens, set our course by the stars, like the Magi, put our faith in God and each other, pick up the steps of governance and dreaming and enter the dance of mission with so many more partners.

How blessed we are that dance, which beats so strongly at the heart of our indigenous cultures here, has the possibility of reverberating anew as we open ourselves to welcoming, nurturing, living and sharing our vocations in the hope of bringing renewed commitment and vitality to our Marist Project in this part of the world! May Mary, our Good Mother, and Star of the Sea, be our companion and guide, and may St Marcellin fill us with his zeal and passion for the Montagnes here at the ends of the earth.  Please remember to pray for us, Marist family, as we will for you, as we join each other in this spirited dance of love.

Marist Life in The Back Sheds of Australia | Nathan Ahearne

On the eve of the sesquicentenary anniversary of Marist life in Australia, we Marists continue to navigate the external pressures of governance; responding to the demands of an ever-evolving secular landscape, and practicing the agility of bringing Christlife to birth in the precarious and down to earth way of Mary and Joseph, who welcomed Jesus in the back sheds** of Bethlehem.

Despite our challenges, the Marist mission is alive and well in schools, ministries and local Association groups who breathe the spirit of life into our diverse and vibrant ecclesial communities. The Holy Spirit continues to produce fruit that lasts and relationships that sustain our eclectic, bruised and hopeful church.

Marist Association of Saint Marcellin Champagnat

The XXII Brothers’ General Chapter called us to be mystics and prophets in communion. To follow that challenging call, we need the firm foundations of community, spirituality and a mission to provide us with a sense of belonging, an encounter of faith and a purpose for being. The Marist Association of Saint Marcellin Champagnat seeks to provide an experience of welcome, nurture and sharing of vocation. There is a place for all in the back shed of our Marist Association; the shepherds, the wise men, the angels, the animals and the Holy Family all find refuge under this iron roof.

The Marist Association offers far more than shelter from a passing storm. The Association was conceived and has come to life over the past decade, born from a desire for co-responsibility of mission in the fertile fields of Australia and beyond. It has been a slow process of growth, ongoing development and self-realisation, of finding our place in the global family and maintaining our attachment to the founding charism.

A healthy and natural tension exists between the individual and corporate commitments of a governing body which has both canonical and civil duties, alongside its spiritual and pastoral leadership. We have always followed our intuition by adopting processes of synodality and genuine dialogue in the discernment of shaping life and mission at all levels. Pope Francis speaks of an ‘integral ecology’ that respects the interconnectedness and importance of interrelatedness of our environment, society and culture. This understanding can also be applied to our Marist mission and charism which are “more than what we have inherited from the past; it is also, and above all, a living, dynamic and participatory present reality”.

In Fratelli Tutti we learn that “our model must be that of a polyhedron, in which the value of each individual is respected” and yet, “the whole is greater than the part, but it is also greater than the sum of its parts” (Fratelli Tutti, 145). Geometry aside, we Marists are mindful of the collective Association that we belong to and the place of our Association in the context of the global Marist family. Pope Francis paints an image of community where differences “coexist, complementing, enriching and reciprocally illuminating one another, even amid disagreements and reservations” (Fratelli Tutti, 215).

Over the course of fifteen years of formation and accompaniment as a Marist educator, seven years as a Member of the Marist Association, three years as an Association Councillor and eight months in the Marist Mission and Life Formation Team, I have come to appreciate and treasure the gift of a Marist Spirituality. It offers me a vision and purpose that is truly audacious, inclusive and has taken me beyond the horizon in front of me. I feel called to be a game changer in the lives of young people, to animate the faith life of communities across Australia and to faithfully follow the star that led those curious shepherds across the dark fields of Judea. 

I am grateful for those who guide me in my vocational journey; the wise women and men who gently and carefully help me discover the golden threads woven through my life. Whilst I don’t face the perils of the Holy Family fleeing Egypt to escape persecution, I have seen the faith of friends and family undergo significant challenges, in a growing culture of indifference to religion. However, I look to the future with hope and joy, knowing that the same Spirit who impelled Marcellin up the rising staircases of Lyon, also drives my zeal to be one of the Marian faces in the Church today.

_______________

* Nathan Ahearne was elected to the Council of the Marist Association of St Marcellin Champagnat in 2018. He will finish his tenure at the end of 2021. He is currently on secondment from Marist College Canberra working in the Marist Mission and Life Formation Team. He is married with four children.

** Shed is a term used in Australian English to refer to a simple roofed structure used for storage of tools, gardening implements, boats, etc. It also has the connotation of being a place where jobs and projects get done, things get repaired, built. You can’t live in a shed but you can escape to a shed to forget about your concerns through tinkering or working.  It can be used for shearing sheep, but generally it is not used for sheltering animals. Sheds are frequently found at the rear of houses, in what Australians term the ‘backyard’.

A talk with Marist Lay people in Australia

The process of the International Forum for the Lay Marist Vocation has four ‘big questions’ that the Secretariat of the Laity wishes to explore with Marists across the Institute.  They revolve around questions of vocational choice, formation, belonging and legal structures which would support Marist life and mission globally. The Forum process has a component which allows for dialogue and discernment at the local and regional levels before the in-person Forum experience planned for November 2022 in Rome.

As we begin the preparatory process here in Oceania, we thought it would be great to hear from some of Australia’s committed Lay Marists, and to share those thoughts with others through the Forum’s SHARING Bulletin. So, Carole caught up with Katie and Daniel Lynch, two members of the Marist Association of St Marcellin Champagnat, currently living in Perth, Western Australia.

Carole:

Do you agree, as Marists in our part of the world, across Oceania, not just here in Australia, that we look at the Church and the world through the lens of FAMILY. How does this Marist view of FAMILY inform the way people work and live and grow as Marists?  Does it colour or shape the way you both live and work, and actually grow your own young family?

Daniel and Katie:

We would agree with this to a significant extent. Marist spirituality is of its origin and expression deeply relational and familial, drawing on the witness and fidelity of Mary the

Mother of Jesus and first disciple. The understanding of Mary as the Theotokos, “God-bearer”, informs a distinctive outlook on our work or ministry, and the way in which we

live and grow as witnesses to Jesus Christ through the faith-filled witness, abiding love,

fidelity and self-sacrifice of His mother. The Marial emphasis and dimension of Marist

spirituality lives authentically within the context of our ministry to each other in the

sacrament of marriage and through the life and love celebrated in our marriage through our

two children and our love for one another.

Carole:

What attracted you to the Marist charism?  What’s kept you faithful to it as a way of being a Catholic Christian?

Daniel:

I was, and remain, attracted to the Marist charism for different reasons. The Marist charism, as a school-aged student, initially offered me an accessible, practical, familial and relational context through which I could come to passionately explore and develop my journey of faith at a critical time in my life as an adolescent. Over time, my own spirituality has been enriched through my appreciation of the woman of Mary, and through her, my ongoing relationship with Jesus. The Marist charism offers a place within the life of the Church where I can express and experience my faith in a local, national and international community. I have been continually renewed in my commitment to this way of living as a Catholic Christian through the fidelity, witness and faith of those committed lay women, lay men and Marist Brothers who have accompanied me on my journey. I have come to appreciate the unfolding of the ‘Good News’ in my own life, and my own following of Jesus has been sustained through my Marist journey.

Katie:

The Marist charism was and still is a wonderful and unexpected addition and enrichment to my faith journey. As a newly graduated teacher, the Marist charism offered a tangible, accessible and authentic context for me to witness faith in an educational environment but it also invited me as a young adult to engage with my own faith journey. The five pillars of the Marist charism have had different influences at different times for me as a single person, a teacher, as a wife and mother. It is truly a charism that invites us all, lay and

religious, wherever we are internationally to be faithful to it as a Catholic Christian through

its focus on Mary to Jesus.

Carole:

Many people when they experience the Marist charism more deeply in their lives, speak of feeling like they have “come home” which brings with it an increasing sense of wanting to connect more, do more, be more. Have you observed this personally or in others in your Marist context? What’s been the response? Were there challenges and joys that this connection offered?

Katie:

Yes, I have observed this in others – while there may be an appreciation of experiences and interactions with other charisms, overwhelmingly I have observed those who experience the Marist charism, associate strongly with this feeling of “coming home”. I can relate – in moving across the other side of the country with my husband 5 years ago, and leaving the majority of our family and friends in the Eastern states of Australia, we both took on roles at Newman College Perth and the Marist charism was undoubtedly “alive and well”. It immeasurably assisted our transition to our new lives in our new city and it felt like “coming home”. To have a tangible, familial, authentic charism within our ministry and life in a new geographical location was life-affirming and we deeply appreciate the joys this connection offered us and still offers us.

Daniel:

I grew up with the Marist charism – it has spoken to me as a school student, a young adult, a man in formation for life as a Marist Brother, as well as a married man and father. I feel strongly that the Marist charism has been the continuous ‘thread’ connecting the many journeys and experiences of my life (regardless of vocational state!) allowing me to participate, connect, do more and be more. ‘Home’, therefore, continues to be within a wider context of Marist life, admittedly at an exciting and dynamic threshold for the Marist Project across Oceania and the world. I have a resounding feeling of ‘being at home’ with lay

Marists, Marist Brothers and in the context of ‘formal’ Marist ministry. I have always felt free to respond with my own ‘yes’ to all the invitations I’ve received to be connected in various ways in my ongoing Marist journey. I have been so fortunate to have been invited. To share this journey with my wife and children continues to be the greatest gift.

Carole:

What role has formation played in your journey as a Marist?  What are some of the formative experiences that have shaped your sense of Marist identity, specifically as a lay person?  What’s been key in nurturing your vocation as a Marist lay person?

Daniel:

Marist formation for me has been about osmosis; surrounded by countless lay women, lay men and Marist Brothers who have all offered me their witness, faith and boldness for living Marist life. I feel fortunate to have experienced Marist Formation within the context of my discernment for the vocation of a Marist Brother. Undoubtedly this gave me a rich and rare experience of Marist formation which has shaped me to this day. As a Lay Marist I have been fortunate to experience the offerings of the Marist Mission and Life Formation Team, retreat experiences at The Hermitage, Mittagong, as well as the many and varied ongoing opportunities offered through the Marist Association of St Marcellin Champagnat. I do feel that there exists a new ‘edge’ in nurturing vocational Marists, grappling with the differentiation between ‘Marists in ministry’ as leaders and animators, and those who are discerning themselves as ‘vocational Marists’, though of course these are not mutually exclusive!

Carole:

Neither of you work in schools now, so Marist ministry is not the thing that is helping you sustain your Marist life.  What keeps your outlook missionary and Marist?  What keeps you passionate about mission?

Katie and Daniel:

While not being in a Marist ministry for the first time in our “working lives”, I (Daniel) am fortunate to minister within the context of the local church of the Archdiocese of Perth and I (Katie) am fortunate to minister within the context of relief teaching in Catholic education in Perth. Undoubtedly the regard for the Marist Brothers and those committed to Marist education in Western Australia has created a long-standing relationship and context for Marist life in both Perth, and in the state of Western Australia. This helps in keeping us passionate about Marist mission, as “the West” is, by its very nature, a very missionary place! Knowing that we are connected more broadly to the Marist Association of St Marcellin Champagnat in what is a very geographically isolated part of Australia, creates a wider frame of reference to the legacy and traditions of Marist presence within Western Australia. New life and possibility may emerge from the foundations that exist around us in this part of the world. We do feel, however, that the local character and expression are key.

Carole:

In Australia, we have a formal way of belonging and associating as Marists through the Marist Association of St Marcellin Champagnat.  What made each of you say “yes” to the invitation to join?  What does being a member ask of you?  Do you think that being visible as a Lay Marist is necessary?  Is being visible as a Lay Marist entity necessary? Why?

Katie and Daniel:

We both said “yes” to the invitation to join the Marist Association because we wanted

to contribute to and participate in an evolving expression of Marist life in the places we were at that time. Being a member invites us to share Marist life in a local context which is both with members of the Association and the context of being in a parish. Yes, we feel it’s

necessary to be visible as a Lay Marist therefore we support the further discernment of how

this visibility may be further explored. Why? The evolving expression of Marist life warrants a committed discernment and exploration.

Carole:

There is a lot of structural change taking place in our part of the Marist world.  What are some of the questions you are asking about the future of Marist life and mission in our part of the world and globally?

Katie and Daniel:

How do we interculturally, intergenerationally and ecclesially come to terms with our diversity across Oceania? The risk is always concluding that the expression of “white Marist life” in Australia is normative across Oceania.

Carole:

Thank you so much Katie and Daniel!  Blessings on you both as you negotiate everything that God has put on your path for now, especially the gifts of love that are your two beautiful children.

In Oceania, from Mexico

Rodrigo Gris Castro – LaValla200> Oaxaca, Arco Norte Region
Mt Druitt Community, Sydney, Oceania Region

The Region of Oceania was so fortunate to share in the very special gift of community and mission given to us through the LaValla200> Community at Mt Druitt in Sydney.  As well as the extraordinary experience of living out their vocational call as Lay Marists in a mixed community in one of Sydney’s most vulnerable areas for young people, Argelia Hernández and Rodrigo Gris Castro joined one of our local Marist groups, the Sydney City Marists.  We were able to welcome each other, nurture the growth of each other, live and share together the experience of global family.  Rodrigo shares his experiences here:

A New Beginning: LaValla200> Communities

Participating in the new LaValla200> communities was a great experience full of learning and challenges. We make “global availability” a reality, boldly responding to emerging needs, creating intercultural communities that serve youth on the margins of life. By participating in the new communities’ program, with my wife Argelia Hernández, we were partners of the Spirit, we raised our hands for something new, exciting. This is our way of understanding the call of the “Annunciation”, of responding to the daily invitation to “Be a Marist”.

“There is no viable future for international religious orders unless they seriously undertake the transition from international to intercultural”, Anthony Gittins.

Each of the participants in the program received the invitation in different ways: through discernment, walking with uncertainty, but somehow with the ability to respond and fulfill the mission. People told us that it is the courageous and generous leave the comforts of the family, their own culture, language and family to live and work in a foreign land. Maybe it is, but with the eyes of faith, the way that we have before us is an opportunity given by God, not only to serve in a life-giving way, but also to receive much, sharing the experience of being part of a great Marist family.

In 2016, we began our training for the LaValla200> program and for 4 years our community located on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia, we worked closely with the Diocese to solve the problem of young people who, due to various situations, dropped out of school, participating in meetings with the directors of the educational system to find solutions to the urgent situation of young people. We also worked closely with the local parish, with Jesuits, through the activities of the parish, sharing and celebrating with the family spirit.

Thanks to the accompaniment of Brother Lawrie, we understood that a formation was necessary when we arrived in Oceania, a different culture. We were far from home, we had to learn a lot and adapt. The language was an ever-present challenge. Learning English and Spanish was a priority for us, although Australian English became the primary language used in the community and, by necessity, in our ministry. Language, although intimately related to culture, was only the tip of the iceberg as we learned many differences between ourselves.

Confronting sexism in some of the communities, food preferences, understanding time, family relationships, stress management, grief and mourning, overcoming various illnesses, connections with people outside the community, spirituality and forms of prayer, Understanding how communication works, attitudes to money, adaptations to culture, conflict management, and a host of emotions were just some of the differences we observed and had to learn from each other.

We also had to understand the unique community dynamics that living with people of different age, gender, and marital status entails. It was important for us not only to tolerate and accept differences, but to deeply understand and ultimately celebrate them.

Brother Emili in his letter “The future has the heart of a tent”, addressed to all the Marists of Champagnat, wrote: “Would you dare, like Champagnat, to take the risk of a new beginning?” Community is worth living. Let’s celebrate a new beginning, let’s celebrate being lay people and Marist Brothers with global availability. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?

“The invitation to leave ourselves out of love for God and neighbour is presented as an opportunity to share, serve and intercede, the mission that God entrusts to each one of us makes us go from the fearful and closed self to the self-rediscovered and renewed by the gift of himself “, Pope Francis.

Let us live a new Marist beginning, with the joy of the Gospel. Let us have that global availability, it is worth going out to meet, leaving our comfort zone, without fear of being different. Many times, Pope Francis reminds us that the Church is not a welfare organization, a company, an NGO, but rather a community of people, animated by the action of the Holy Spirit, who have lived and are living the wonder of the encounter with Jesus Christ.

Rita Rokocakau, Fiji | Marist Brothers High School

I am forever grateful to the Brothers who have been a source of strength and inspiration for me over the years. Their example and learning about the five Marist pillars has been a motivating factor in how I have tried to live out my life as a mother, helper at the school and a Lay Marist.

I strive each day to live out this charism through my daily interactions with family, the children at school and the wider school community and church and social contact.

If I can aspire to lead others to Christ through Mary, our Mother, through my presence, simplicity, love of work and family spirit in all aspects of my life, then I know that I am living out my calling to make Jesus known and loved.

ALL TO JESUS THROUGH MARY.

Loveridge Roau, Solomon Islands | St Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School – Tenaru

My name is Loveridge Roau, from the Solomon Islands in the Oceania region.

I first came across the Marist Brothers in 2009 as the assistant bursar at St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School at Tenaru. I became part of this great family back in 2017. It was no accident but a blessing to be working in a Marist School as the Bursar.

I am thankful to our Marist Life Formation Team for workshops, retreats and family prayers that have helped me to deepen my understanding of the Marist Charism and spirituality in the tradition of St. Marcellin Champagnat.

It is a journey that requires discerning God’s call of making Jesus Christ known and loved to those I encounter. It is the giving of myself selflessly and being part of the Marist Mission working with the less fortunate in my place of work, community and my own family.

Being Marist also challenges me to put into action the Marist spirituality through the pillars.

This has helped me in my Christian life, commitment in my relationship with God and faith journey.

Personally, for me I see Mother Mary as my model and guide and I find I can relate to her. Her journey was not easy and she had difficult and uncertain paths to cross as a woman of faith, mother and woman. Recalling the events at the foot of the cross, where her dying son Jesus gave Mary to us to be our Mother (Jn19:27). “An Icon of wisdom, strength, courage and joyful hope.” (Pope Francis).

Being a widow and single mother myself, Mother Mary gives me hope and courage to say ‘Yes’ to God’s call of being a Marist Disciple. Being Marist also means bringing up my children well, to instill in them Christian and moral values to grow in their Catholic faith in this fast moving, chaotic world.

Jasmine Brown, Australia | Assisi Catholic College, Gold Coast, Queensland

“Trust in the Lord with all your heart, And lean not on your own understanding; in all your ways acknowledge Him, And He shall direct your paths” Proverbs 3:5-6.

The words of Proverbs 3:5-6 have been my source of truth for as long as I can remember. These words of following Jesus, in Mary’s way, see me inspired by Mary’s beautiful “yes” to live a Marist life of service.

Like Marcellin, I have a profound passion for, and sincere commitment to young people. As a teacher, I have had countless ‘Jean-Baptiste Montagne moments’ where I know my calling is to show this young person how they are truly loved by God. Responding to the needs of students by relating to our young people in a Marial manner, loving them like Mary Our Good Mother does, nurtures a relationship for the foundations of deep trust. I try to inspire in them a love of work through modelling my own involvement in various opportunities to serve.

Unfortunately, Covid 19 prevented a planned mission to work with students at the Marist Education Centre in Pailin Cambodia, with Br Francis Kofi Amoako Attah. As soon as our international borders reopen, my Marist heart and I will be hoping to live the dream of serving with our fellow Marists in Cambodia. Most recently I was blessed with the opportunity to be a part of the 2021 Marian Lecture and am now a part of the working party for the Australian Association National Assembly 2022. Both opportunities deliver witness to the depth of what it means to be a part of an extended Marist Family.

To me, being a Lay Marist means to share the learnings of Marcellin’s experiences, to teach the values of our Marist spiritualty to our young people. This allows our future generations to give of themselves. This giving of self to those whose needs are the greatest, is not necessarily by means of financial aid, but rather through actioning family spirit in presence, compassion and unconditional love. To do God’s work as a Marist, provides our young people with purpose and hope. I am beyond grateful for my Marist Family, for the privilege to mirror Mary’s beautiful “yes” in a vocation that allows me to always make Jesus known and loved.

Abraham Hihiru, Solomon Islands | St. Joseph’s Catholic School, Tenaru

I guess my initial connections with the Brothers began in the mid-1980s when I was still small. During those days, we would listen to recollections by students of St Joseph’s School, Tenaru who would come home during their Christmas break.

Based on those stories I gathered interest and made it my personal commitment to follow the footsteps of these students. Although I missed out on going to St Joseph’s myself, I continued to interact with those who did during sports programs, liturgies and cultural activities.    

After completing my secondary education, I was awarded a government scholarship to study in PNG-University of Goroka. At UOG I met an ex-Marist Brother and during one of our St Marcellin Champagnat Feast-days, we sang the “side by side Marcellin” hymn and it has remained with me ever since. While at the University, I also met Br John Malamo, who was also doing his studies with us.   

When I completed my studies, I took up teaching at Bishop Wade Secondary school, Tarlena. I spent a total of six years at Bishop Wade. It was during these years that I had the privilege of learning and deepening my own spirituality and understanding of Champagnat and his style of education. The Brothers helped organized workshops and on one instance, we were lucky to have Br Brendan Neilly and Br Graham Neist speak to the staff on Marist education. I still treasure those moments.

In 2007, I returned to the Solomon Islands and joined the teaching staff of St Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School, Tenaru. At St Joseph’s, I participated in the “Sharing Our Call” and attended a number of workshops which had sharpened my own understanding of the Champagnat spirit. I am therefore, very grateful for all that the Brothers have done in shaping my own journey of faith.

In a world that is distorted by the forces of materialism and secularism, I see my Marist role as defending the truth and proclaiming it to our young people. Today, the challenge of educating our young generation in the 21st century is far more challenging than what it was before. As Marists of today, we are confronted with a new type of war that is threatening the lives of our young people. The social media technology today contributed a lot to the changing of our basic core values and customs and forcing our young people to undermine them today.

We have a huge responsibility to restore our traditions and bring back our basic core values of justice, fairness, respect, responsibility, accountability, compassion, community living and solidarity. The very basic social unit of society- the family which has been regarded as the first line of defense of Catholic Faith is being destroyed today. I see Marist educators as humanity’s last hope in defending the Faith and society. To me, it is the most effective vaccine for all educators in the 21st century.

I think there is hope for the future and I am inspired and encouraged by the work that is happening around the world today. As Oceania people, we have a huge responsibility to work, dialogue and interact in ways that we have not seen before and let us all join forces in creating a better Marist World where justice and solidarity are embraced by everyone.      

Abraham Lamusi Haiuasi, Solomon Islands

I came into contact with the Marist family in 1985 when I was first came to a Marist school as a year 7 student at St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School, Tenaru in the Solomon Islands.  My Marist connection continued when I revisited the school as a teacher and became a Lay Marist in 2007. Indeed, I have grown in my understanding of what it means to be Marist as the saying goes “I can’t keep calm, I’m Marist”.

A lot of reflections about this great man have formed me and are the base of my foundation as a Marist.  The Marist mission is indeed the mission of God, where the attributes of our Blessed Mother Mary is often used to rail my journey.  Though challenging at times, scripture has revealed that even our Good Mother had gone through a lot challenges to become the mother of God. Marist mission is always performed in context and not in a vacuum. And I am grateful indeed that I have been given opportunity to carry out this mission at St.  Joseph’s Tenaru Catholic Secondary School, Solomon Islands as a Marist.

Marist schools are often perceived as centers of learning, where we mold young people, where we impart necessary knowledge and skills to better equip them in preparation for the real world encounter.   I also believe that it is an opportunity where educators can help spread the good news of our Lord Jesus Christ. This is the source of values input within each individual child.  Some theorists refer to this as values education.  As a Marist mission educator, I firmly believe that, learning English without values, mathematics without values or other subjects without values is more like a toddler trying his best to walk.  Our world now is in great need of values education.  A system of education that not only educates the intellect but the heart which I believe would enhance peace, joy, harmony and prosperity.

In our schools, we Marist educators have a big task ahead of us to lead students to:

Learn to know

Learn to do

Learn to live together

Learn to be competent in their various work places

And moreover, help them to grow as a person, both personally and professionally.

For us to overcome these challenges, as Marist educators, we need to build within ourselves, the values of making sacrifices and being resilient.  Being a Marist educator for 15 years and Deputy Principal for 14 years at St. Joseph’s Catholic Secondary School, Tenaru, it is indeed a very important undertaking.

Igor Pletikosa, Australia | Youth Ministry and Outreach Coordinator, Mt Carmel Catholic High School

My life as a lay Marist did not begin in the conventional sense. I did not attend a Marist school, nor did I know much about this charism until I started working at a Marist College in Sydney, Australia, in 2017.

I firmly believe that there is no coincidence that my experiences in life have brought me to my life as a Marist today. I would like to begin this sentiment with words of one of my favourite theologians Henri Nouwen. “Pay attention to the people God puts in your path if you want to discern what God is up to in your life”.

One of these central people was my grandmother. She had pure devotion, trust and love for our Lady. It is clear to me now that Mary’s plan for me started long before I could even recognise it as a young child. I was born in Croatia and I would regularly visit my grandmother who lived in Medjugorje, a sacred Marian place. I still fondly remember sitting by the statue of the “Queen of Peace” with my grandmother praying the Rosary.

Once I moved to Australia with my family and I became an adolescent, I must admit my faith was more a communal family obligation rather than a personal relationship. When I finished high school, I commenced a Law degree at university. Despite feeling unfulfilled, I studied hard and was successful in this field. In 2011 my father asked me to accompany him on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem and to Our Lady of Lourdes. It was during this time, that I had a transformational experience, that took time to completely understand.  This eventually led me to recognise Mary’s stream of grace, instigating my change from studying law to following my vocation of becoming a teacher of Religious Education.

It was during this time, that it became so apparent to me that God had other plans for me. These plans were to evangelise and model my love for God to the young people I encounter. It is this that eventually led me to apply to a Marist College, as the writing of Marcellin Champagnat penetrated my heart and his message was simple and profound. “In order to teach, love as Christ did without any affliction or predisposition.”

During my early days at Mt Carmel Catholic College I met some wonderful Marist Brothers who continue to have an immense impact on me and my life as a Lay Marist. Their spiritual direction has been significant in continuing to nourish my faith and my work as Lay Marist today.  I truly see being a Lay Marist as a stream of Mary’s grace enabling me to live my faith authentically with the students and colleagues I encounter each day.

Br Michael Flanagan, Australia | Marist Association of St Marcellin Champagnat

I’m both a Marist Brother and a member of the Association because to me the Marist Association is the future of our Marist Project here in Australia.

A charism is defined as a gift of the Holy Spirit to the Church and to the world, and charisms are given through a person and passed on to groups of people who keep it alive.  And our Marist charism has always been kept alive with an element of community, of family, if you like, of association.

The importance of the Association also is that as Brothers become less and less in the picture and lay people become more and more, it will be very important for those lay people to join together.  And by joining together with like-minded people, this gives us strength, and gives us direction, and gives us people who can be our companions as we travel this journey, which can sometimes be a difficult one.

That’s what I think spirituality is – it’s kind of like electricity, or it’s the spark, the life-giving force within us that keeps us going, keeps us on track, that gives our lives meaning.  It takes us deeper into things so that we don’t live on the surface. 

If the Marist story means anything to you, if you’re attracted to it, then you should be part of the Association, because the Association will pick you up and carry you with it, and you too, in your turn, will become a very important part of our Marist Project here in this part of the world.

Come join us!