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Fifty years of religious life at the General House

20/01/2009: General House - Photo gallery

The Web site offers us as each year the list of the names of brothers celebrating 25, 50, 60 or more years of religious life. In the list for 2008 appear the names of 26 brothers who will have completed 25 years of religious life; 80 brothers 50 years ; 62 who have completed more than 60 years of religious life since their first profession. The longest list is made up of the names of the 687 brothers who consecrated themselves to the Lord for the first time 60 years ago. This list was drawn up at the beginning of the year. Certain ones whose names featured on it have celebrated their new anniversary with Father Champagnat and the first brothers in heaven.

Among the names of brothers with 50 years of religious life appear those of three of the community of the General Administration. Brother George Fontana, of the US Province, made his first vows at Tyngsboro (Massachusets) on 26 July 1958, feast of Saint Anne, patroness of the Province. At present he provides the General House with various services, being occupied with the photocopying, mailing to the Provinces, etc. The second name is that of Brother Antonio Martínez Fernández, Econome General, belonging to the Province of « Ibérica », where he made his first vows on 2 July 1958, at Anzuola. The third is that of Brother Antonio Martínez Estaún, Director of Publications of the Institute, from the Province of the Hermitage, who pronounced his first vows on 8 Septembre 1958, at Les Avellanes.

The golden jubilee celebration of a brother is an important occasion in the life of the community to celebrate together and thank the Lord for the gifts granted to the community, to the Province, and to the Institute through his life. The complex organization of the General Administration community has not allowed the commemoration on the appropriate date of any of the anniversaries of the three brothers concerned. Thus the General Council decided to celebrate the three anniversaries on 23 December, when most of the brothers of the community were present in Rome.

The feast brought together the whole community around the altar and around the table. Three key moments marked the celebration. First of all the Mass during which the three brothers presented to the community their personal reasons for gratitude to the Lord and the Institute for their lives as Marists.
Antonio Martínez Estaún offered his profession cord ; George the images of Mary and the angel which decorate the two sides of the altar of the chapel of the General House ; and Antonio Martínez Fernández, the cross he received the day of his perpetual profession.

All the participants addressed a prayer to the Lord in thanks for the gift of consecrated life of our three confrères. Mass finished with the renewal of the consecration to Mary by the three brothers and by the solemn singing of the « Sub tuum presidium », as on the most important feasts and retreats.

Before sitting down at table, Brother Seán Sammon, Superior General, addressed several words of thanks to each of the three brothers celebrating their golden jubilee, underlining the personal gifts each brought to the community by his person and his service. Antonio Martínez Estaún, director of Communications, he said, has the imagination of the Founder; he lends us his eyes, and so he helps us see the world with the eyes of an artist, in this way enriching our vision through his creativity ; thanks to his zeal for work, he has taught us the sense of hard work, and he has enriched us through his even temper and his spirit of friendship. George, assistant to the Secretary General, he added, has taught us much about the virtues of simplicity and humility so dear to the Founder. Frequently he leaves the glory and merit to others… Brother Seán continued by saying that George has enriched our sense of brotherhood in showing us something of the art of listening without judging, of giving others the benefit of the doubt, of not saying evil about others. Finally, Brother Seán spoke about Antonio Martínez Fernández, our Econome General. He observed that the latter had our Founder’s ability to organize, as well as his integrity and his attention to details at the service of mission. He also added that Antonio has taught us something of the sense of community by his disposition to subordinate his personal needs to the interests of the common good.

A beautiful picture of the Holy Family, offered to each, will be a reminder of this beautiful day. The family meal provided the gathering with a fitting conclusion.

Fifty years of life has become a magic number as referring to achieving a goal. Numerous are the brothers who, thanks to God’s mercy, have succeeded in crossing this fine threshold, even the mythical eighty which the psalm proclaims for the strongest, or those who pass the hundred mark. More than 600 names of brothers today compose the golden list of the Institute by which God has shown his fidelity towards us. It is not a question then of placing a value on the numbers but of profiting from the opportunity for the heart, institutional as well as personal, to give testimony of its gratitude. The homage which Brother Seán Sammon and the community of the General House rendered these three brothers is a symbol of the way in which the Institute, through its Superior General, appreciates and celebrates the collective fidelity to the word given to the Lord.

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