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Marist presence at World Youth Day

04/08/2008: Australia

The institutional Marist presence was significant at World Youth Day. It’s necessary to highlight, in the first place, the event of the Marist International Festival, in which 700 young people from the works of the four Marist branches participated: Marist Sisters, Marist Missionary Sisters, Marist Fathers and Marist Brothers. St. Joseph’s College in Sydney was the scene of this Festival about which we’re already reported.

The Expo on vocations

The four branches were also present at the Expo on vocations organized, along with the other activities of the day, at the Congressional Center near the port of Darling. It’s a central place, near Barangaroo, where the opening Mass of World Youth Day was celebrated. At the Expo more than 120 expressions of consecrated life and Catholic associations from all over the world were represented. Thousands of people interested in the life and mission of the four branches passed by the Marist stand. One of the most utilized resources was the directory of the works and communities of the Marist Brothers, edited in Rome for the whole Institute, which allowed the visitors to locate the address of the houses in their places of origin.

Brothers John Thompson, Tony Leon and Tony Clark, who manned the stand during those days, could not hide their satisfaction in spite of their fatigue. “Thousands of young people came through,” Brother Tony Leon told us, dressed in his white cassock. “Our stand was one of the most interactive. The young people could write their name on the world map on the wall to indicate their place or origin.” “People linked with the Marist Brothers in different parts of the world stopped by to greet and talk with us,” said Brother John Thompson. “We’ve experienced the demonstration of a great warmth for the brothers.” “We’ve heard very nice things from those who attended Marist schools, many remembrances of those years,” said Brother Tony Clark.

The constant influx of young people at the Expo was surprising. For them it was a unique opportunity to obtain information about the religious organizations that exist in the Church. They never thought that there were so many. World Youth Day was an event at which many young people were able to hear about vocations. They say that it has been a profound experience of faith with implications in their daily life and the possibility of an answer to a call to religious life. While the current vocational crisis continues to be spoken of, the Expo demonstrated that healthy and open young people exist who do not rule out the possibility of a vocation. This is a great sign of hope.

Saint Patrick

On a wall in the Marist section of the Expo was an icon of St. Peter Chanel, from the Marist Fathers’ branch. The visitors were able to pick up a postcard with a summary of his life, a vocation prayer and on the reverse side a small map with directions from the Expo to St. Patrick’s Church, the first Catholic parish of Sydney, staffed by the Marist Fathers. On the side of it was the first school of the brothers in Australia. Today an enormous office building stands on this land. There is a plaque that commemorates the first Marist educative presence in the country.
At the parish, members of the different Marist branches welcomed the pilgrims. In the crypt of the church were images of the founders of the four branches and an explanation of the common history of Marist origins. In another space were a relic of St. Marcellin Champagnat and another of St. Peter Chanel. Everyone was invited to the prayer. In the official program of World Youth Day it said: “Celebration of the Eucharist, adoration and reconciliation courtesy of the fathers, sisters, brothers and Marist laity.” And also: “Mary in the Church and the spirituality of Vatican II – topic presented by the fathers, sisters, brothers and Marist laity.”

We must congratulate everyone for this happy initiative. The seeds have been scattered. Let’s hope that with the rain of God’s grace and the daily care through prayer, the harvest will be abundant.

H. AMEstaún

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