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A work which casts light on the history of our origins and the history of Oceania

23/02/2009: General House

The Marist Fathers have just published this book which we have presented, in November 2008. The work in question is a volume of 750 pages which brings together some of the most significant letters of the Marist missionaries (sm) to their General Administration, during the mandate of Fr. Jean Claude Colin. They are presented in the original language, French. So it is a matter of an anthology which precedes the complete publication of all the letters sent by the Marist missionaries from Oceania and preserved in the Archives of the Society of Mary. This complete edition forsees 10 volumes, of about 8 thousand pages, with the integral edition of 1,365 letters, and will be available from March 2009.

Fr. Charles Girard sm has been responsible for the overall work. As he himself points out in the presentation, various criteria of selection were employed for this anthology : a variety of subjects (ethnography, geography, politics, missions and religion) ; a classification by place of origin (the diverse island groups which make up Oceania) ; a chronological sequence ; and a diversity of authors (relatives, brothers, missionaries, natives, etc.). This work will help in getting rid of the stereotypes about the inhabitants of Oceania, as well as the caricatures of missionaries who went to meet them carrying the good news of the Gospel. Having been brought into contact with the original document, the reader is allowed to form « his own idea of the life of this well defined group in contact with other groups that it, in its turn, will attempt to define ».

For his part, Br. André Lanfrey, commenting on this work, points out « that it is proper to underline the importance of this double publication for all Marists. It illustrates powerfully, on the one hand, the history of our origins, since Champagnat and Colin sent Fathers and Brothers to Oceania in common accord, and, on the other hand, the history of Oceania ».

The present Superior General of the Society of Mary, Fr Jan Hulshof sm, in presenting this work, states: « In opening its archives and presenting this edition, the Society of Mary wishes to offer some first hand sources. The historian, the ethnologist, and each reader, whether it be in Oceania, Europe, or elsewhere, will find material for research which will allow him or her to understand the sense of mission which animated these men departing for the other end of the world, as well as the realities which they found. In this way, the work will attain its objective if it permits the progress of dialogue between cultures and civilisations ».

A copy of the anthology has been sent to the French-, Spanish-, and Portugese-speaking Provinces. (the same will be done for the English-speaking Provinces when the version in that language is available). Other copies are available for communities or for houses of formation.

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Br. Pedro Herreros

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