2020-10-29 GENERAL HOUSE

Region of Oceania: moving towards a single, united Marist Province

In July 2020, the leaders of the three Oceania Administrative Units (the Province of Australia, the District of the Pacific, and the District of Melanesia) wrote to Br. Ernesto Sánchez requesting that they be permitted to move towards a single, united Marist Province in the vast region of Oceania. After discernment during their recent September plenary meeting, the Superior General and his Council approved this request and endorsed the plans to move to a single administrative unit for Oceania by the end of 2022.

Marist Brothers’ life in Oceania
New Caledonia – 1899

Structural change has been a constant theme throughout Oceania’s rich history and has been instituted to respond to changing circumstances. Our history tells us that Marist Brothers’ life in Oceania began when Brothers accompanied Marist Priests into the Pacific and New Zealand. Between 1836 and 1859, a total of thirty-seven ‘Little Brothers of Mary’ had been sent to the region. The first Marist Brothers’ community was later established in Sydney in 1872. This was followed in 1874 with the first Brothers’ community in Noumea. The Province of New Zealand was established in 1917, and the Australian Province was divided into two Provinces – Melbourne and Sydney – in 1948. Since before World War II, Marists in the region have looked at ways to nurture Marist life and mission in Melanesia. In 1984, the District of PNGSI began, and within twenty years, the District of Melanesia came into being. In 2010 at concurrent Chapters of the Provinces of Melbourne, New Zealand, Sydney and the District of Melanesia, a decision was made to restructure into two autonomous Districts (The Districts of the Pacific and Melanesia) and one Province (Australia), with the Province of New Zealand offering a “tono” used to facilitate its change from Province to District and to ensure that the dignity of all involved in this change were sensitively addressed. More recently, in July 2020, the District of Melanesia was integrated into the Province of Australia.  Each structural change was a response to the realities “on the ground” so that Marist life and mission would continue to be vital in the years ahead.

Vitality of Marist life within Oceania

Forget the former things; do not dwell on the past. See, I am doing a new thing! Now it springs up; do you not perceive it?” (Isaiah 43:18-19).

Since 2010, there have been regular meetings of the leaders of the AU’s within the region to share ideas and resources, especially around formation, and to investigate ways of increasing the viability and vitality of Marist life within Oceania. The realities of our world have necessitated these changes and explorations. The Covid-19 pandemic has also reminded us that to move forward we must be innovative and creative in our responses to God’s call and mission. We are continually challenged to “read the signs of the times”.

“The new Province should be a federation style”

Concerning the general structure of the new Province, Brothers Peter Carroll, Provincial of Australia, and John Hazelman, District Leader of the Pacific, have stated that after some initial consultation of the Brothers in the region “the new Province should be a federation style: given the vast distances and cultural diversity involved, there should be a strong central administration along the lines of any Province, but with decentralised authority for significant elements of Marist life. The exact nature of these arrangements is yet to be determined; that is the key task ahead”.

Committees responsible for working on the design of the Province’s administrative structures and processes as well as ensuring the participation and engagement of Brothers across the Region, particularly in identifying needs and possibilities, will be created soon.

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