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Orientation Workshop for Champagnat Lay Leaders in Africa and Madagascar

06/10/2008: Kenya

From September 18 to 31, a group of lay people gathered in Nairobi to take part in a course led by Brothers Teófilo Minga and Pau Fornells. The main goal of the pro-gram is to prepare lay people who are active within Marist Brother apostolic works. The course is focusing on Marist spirituality. There are twenty-two participants, and twelve African countries are represented. Below you may find the welcoming comments made by Brother Teófilo at the beginning of the workshop.

Dear Friends Brothers and Lay Marist people attending the “Program for the preparation of Marist Lay animators in Africa and Madagascar”, you are most welcome to this workshop on Marist Spirituality. It is a great joy for the Bureau for Lay People (headed by Br Pau) and for the Religious Life Commission (which I have been asked to lead) to have you here. You have been chosen by your Province. Your Provincial Superiors, the Brothers and Lay Marist people of your countries trust in your love for the Marist Institute. They are relying on you to become animators of programs to help Lay Marist people in our ministries and to foster Marist Spirituality as presented in the book: WATER FROM THE ROCK.

The aim of the workshop is to help you fulfil this service. The animators will be sharing not only information but also their experience in the Marist Congregation. We are here for the sake of Marist Africa. Two main themes will dominate the Seminar: the vocation of the Lay Marist people and Marist spirituality.

It is good to remind ourselves of the specific aims of our workshop, aims that you ought to have received months ago. They are of great importance and relevance for us all and in a special way for you attending the Seminar.

The specific aims of our Seminar are:

1. To prepare African and Malagasy lay animators of Marist spirituality – as people who understand it, live it, and communicate it.
2. To prepare a spiritual formation programme culturally appropriate and feasible within African and Malagasy contexts; that can be a model offered to Church lay groups and congregations.
3. To prepare formators with the capacity to assess the need for follow-up programs of spiritual formation and the design and delivery of such programs.
4. To establish a continental network of spiritual formators, both Brothers and lay people, with the task of developing formation programs in their own places, sharing experiences at an international level.

These four-fold objectives might give us cause to hesitate. Are we asking too much? Are they too demanding? However, if anything is to come of our gathering, we need to spell out and keep before us clear and demanding objectives. We must engage ourselves fully and with courage.

Let us look into the future with great hope, people who are “daring in hope” to quote the slogan of a past General Chapter. I would like to suppose that you are already animated by such courage and hope - leading all of us to new growth of Marist life in Africa and Madagascar. Let us not fear the future – rather let us help to shape, knowing that the Spirit of God is with us.

We are simply collaborators of God but with his grace we may achieve great things. This is the teaching of the great Saint Paul of Tarsus, whom we celebrate in a special way this year. Paul was fully convinced that he was a miracle of God’s grace: “Yet not I, but the grace of God that is with me” (1 Co 15, 10).

We know that Mary and Champagnat also accompany us on this journey towards the future, a future with renewed vigour of Marist life in our continent. Both Our Lady and Our Founder were people of courage and hope in their time. We are their disciples, in the sense that we imitate them in their way of following Jesus. Let us make them more present in our countries through our common Marist commitment and witness.

In our planning the contents of this workshop, it is our intention that you return to your countries not only with greater knowledge but also with greater desire and zeal for becoming fully Marist in living your life and undertaking your ministry to others. In so doing, we believe that you will be making God’s Kingdom more present in your land.

There are four main themes to be developed during our time together in the coming days:
• What does spirituality mean in the context of Africa and Madagascar today?
• The role of Brothers and Lay Marists within the Church seen as a communion.
• Exploring the work Water from the Rock, as an updated guide to living our Marist Spirituality.
• How do we share what we gain here with others in our Administrative Units?

The fourth objective is vital to the success of the workshop. It will require a special commitment on our part. Let us be generous in responding to God’s call, thinking of the whole Marist family, Brothers and Lay people, as we live, love and promote Marist Spirituality in Africa and Madagascar.
Once more, a warm welcome to all.

______________
Brother Teófilo
Secretary of Religious Life Commission.

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