2023-12-04 GENERAL HOUSE

The Marist Symposium “Sources and Streams” begins

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The Marist Symposium ” Sources and Streams” began on Monday at the General House in Rome The event is a five-day academic conference that will cover topics in Marist history, spirituality, education, formation, leadership, and generally on Marist mission and life. At the opening of the meeting, Brother Ernesto Sanchez, Superior General, invited the participants “to listen to the voice of the Spirit, to its calls, personally and as an Institute, to live Marist life and mission with more passion, and to continue to generate and care for Marist life” (read the text in Spanish).

Researchers, historians, writers, formators, animators and those responsible for Marist mission and life from all the Administrative Units were invited. About 100 participants, lay and consecrated Marists, are living this experience, which will take place from December 4 to 8. It has been organized by the International Commission for Marist Spiritual Patrimony of the Institute, which has delegated Brothers Michael Green, Omar Peña and Vincent de Paul to form the organizing committee of the Symposium.

First day

The first day of the meeting began with the inaugural session, led by Brother Omar Peña from the Province of Central America. The Superior General then welcomed the participants. During his remarks, Brother Ernesto hoped that “the deepening of the Marist charism in these days will touch our hearts, allowing us to better embrace evangelical values.” And he recalled that “it is important to share it with current and future generations, using a language that helps them to connect better with Marist values in order to take them on board in their own lives.” Then Brother Antonio Ramalho, Superior of the Community of Notre Dame de l’Hermitage, and coordinator of the International Patrimony Commission, presented the Symposium project defined by the commission and approved by the General Council, “with the aim of deepening and broadening knowledge of historical and charismatic sources, in order to feed the springs that inspire and give life to Marist formation and mission today and in the future”.

The first in-depth talk was given by Brother Michael Green, from the Star of the Sea Province, who in the last twenty-five years, has been increasingly involved in writing and animation on topics of Marist history, education and spirituality. In his speech, Br. Michael heightened that the spirituality bequeathed us by St Marcellin and the early Brothers was one that was unequivocally centred on a loving and intimate relationship with Jesus, which was the wellspring of all their religious and apostolic practice. At the same time, he called the attention of the participant to some exaggerated focus on the person of Marcellin Champagnat and the cultural stylism of the Marist way, which at its extreme risked a kind of cultism. Both trends, he sayd, continue to pose risks for the integrity of Marist spirituality.

The second talk, in the afternoon, was given by Brother AndrĂ© Lanfrey, a Marist Brother of the Province of L’Hermitage, teacher of French and History-Geography in secondary and higher education in France from 1862 to 2010. His talk had as its theme “The origin of the Marist Brothers within the Society of Mary”. With his words, he tried to reinterpret the origin of the Marist Brothers within the Society of Mary, underlining three moments: at the time of Father Champagnat (1814-1840); under the tutelage of Father Colin (1840-1852); affirmation of their own identity in the face of papal authority and the Marist Fathers (1852-1863).

The last conference of the day was given by Danilo Luis Farneda Calgaro, Coordinator of the Spiritual and Religious Care Service (Psychiatric Hospital – Sisters Hospitallers of the Sacred Heart of Jesus – Malaga, Spain) and member of the fraternity “Virgen de la Victoria” (CMMF) and lay person linked to the Marist Province of Mediterránea. His intervention was an approach to the socio-economic, pedagogical and ecclesial coordinates in which the educational model of the Little Brothers of Mary was born. For Danilo, this “will allow us to have an adequate horizon to deepen our understanding of the motivations, objectives, ways of understanding and living education on the part of our Founder and the first Brothers”.

The day ended with the Eucharistic celebration.

Symposium’s objetives

The “Sources and Streams” has these objectives:

  • To bring together Marist scholars, researchers, writers, formators, animators, and directors of Marist mission and life so that they can get to know one another, and work together to in the care, preservation, and enhancement of Marist spiritual patrimony
  • To foster new scholarship and writing on Marist themes, and provide a forum for this to be disseminated and discussed among Marists from a range of backgrounds and expertise
  • To nurture new and potential Marist researchers and writers, and to build inter-generational links
  • To connect with the different branches of the Society of Mary to enrich Marist spiritual and missionary patrimony
  • To build links and networks at an “inter” level (International, intercultural, intergenerational and intercongregational)

Superior General’s welcome address

I thank you for being present at this Marist Symposium which is a significant event for the Institute. A meeting like this strengthens our “journey as a global Marist Family”, a call we received from the XXII General Chapter which leads us to listen, dialogue, share and create networks of support.

Besides your presence here, I am grateful for what you are doing in the Institute in relation to our Marist charismatic patrimony. Many of you work in centres and programs that study this field and make it more widely available.  

Thanks to the Commission of Marist Spiritual Patrimony for organizing this event. To Br. Antonio Ramalho, the coordinator of the Commission and a member of the Symposium Planning Committee, along with Br. Michael Green, coordinator of the Committee, with Brs. Omar Peña and Vincent de Paul Kouassi. And to the Secretariat of Brothers Today for your support of the Commission through Angel Medina being a member. Thanks to the General House and the Hotel for your hospitality. 

Thanks to all those who will make presentations, for sharing your reflections and your experience. 

Thanks also to those who have come from the other Marist branches.

We know that our charism is a gift of the Spirit which we have received through St. Marcellin Champagnat, the first Brothers and over the course of 206 years, through so many Brothers, lay men and women.

In the coming days we will have the chance to listen to presentations from people who have studied at depth various topics related to our Marist charism; the chance to listen and discuss. I invite you to listen, especially, to the voice of the Spirit, calling on each of us personally and as an Institute to live Marist life and mission with greater passion, and to keep on caring for Marist life, generating new life.

May getting in touch with the Marist charism more deeply over these days move our hearts to be more open to the values of the Gospel. Champagnat invited us to follow Jesus like Mary.  She is our inspiration and walks alongside us on this journey.

If the themes we study touch our hearts, it will be easier for us to share and disseminate the Marist charismatic patrimony. It is crucial to share this heritage with current and future generations, using a language that helps us to connect better with Marist values and to embrace them in our own lives.

In a few months’ time, in May 2024, we will celebrate the bicentenary of the beginnings of the house of N.D. de l’Hermitage.  Marcellin had a great capacity to “look beyond” in those early days of the Institute, thanks to his attentive ears and his audacious heart.  I invite you to do the same during these days, so that the reflections we hear and the dialogues we engage in will help us to “look beyond”, and to seek the best ways to live, share and spread Marist values wherever we are in the world.

In the month of October I had the privilege of participating in the Synodal Assembly, a gathering in which we sought to carry out a dialogue in the Spirit, trying to connect Gospel values with our present-day context. I was happy to meet a good number of Cardinals and Bishops who know of us, some of whom even shared with me that they had been Marist students. When we went to the Eucharist in St. Peter’s Basilica, we would pass in front of the statue of St. Marcellin Champagnat. I would tell them that the child on his shoulders could symbolize Marcellin Champagnat who, besides “looking beyond” himself, taught his students to “look beyond”, a phrase that the Holy Father used in his address to us in the Audience that we Provincials and District Superiors had during the General Conference of 2021. When I greeted Pope Francis, I told him that, when he leaves his house in Santa Martha, the first statue he sees in front of him is that of St. Marcellin, our Founder, and he said to me, “Of course I know him”. I think that seeing the statue inspired him to use that phrase in speaking to us.

Next year we will also be celebrating the 25th anniversary of Champagnat’s canonisation, a gift for our Institute, for the Church and for the world.

Thank you for your attention. Let us entrust this meeting into the hands of Mary, our Good Mother, remembering that this is her work.

Br. Ernesto Sánchez, December 4, 2023

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