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Espira-de-l’Agly, 26th April 2009

 

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The Marist Fraternity celebrates its Twenty Years

08/05/2009: France

On this Third Sunday of Easter, the beautiful 12th century church of St. Mary’s, was full of the faithful ready to celebrate the 10.30 Mass presided over by Fr. Jean-Paul Soulet, Vicar-General of the diocese of Perpignan, assisted by Fr. Jean Clavaguera, Dean of Agly, and by Rémi Villemin. It was the twentieth anniversary of the foundation of the Marist Fraternity.

That is why, at the beginning of the Mass, a member of the Fraternity said the words of welcome:
“It was in 1988 that Bernadette and André Lemaire, originally from the North of France, arrived in Espira-de-l’Agly. Since they were both retired and close relatives of Br. Alexandre Lefebvre, they sought to put themselves at the service of the Brothers.

It is thus that they were installed in the Brothers’ house. It can be said that God blessed this act of generosity since they quickly found an echo of it and founded the Marist Fraternity which today celebrates its 20 years.

We are happy on this occasion to welcome our mayor, M. Gérard Bile who is going to present the restored altar piece, the Brother Provincial Xavier Barcelo, Br. Alain Delorme who will give the history of the Marist Family, the Brothers from the community of Geneva and those from Algeria who will speak this afternoon. Today’s collection will be to profit the Marist mission in Algeria. Grateful thanks to M. Jacques Bouteille, Director of Our Lady of the Angels who has received us at the college.”

In presenting of the restored altar piece, Gérard Bile assessed the worth of the statues represented: in the centre the Virgin of the Assumption, the work of a Lyonnais artist, which had been acquired in 1840; on the sides, St. Monica and her son St. Augustine. He recalled the direct link between these two saints and North Africa. St. Augustine, one of mankind’s genius’s , who was converted in Milan, by the bishop St. Ambrose, in 4th century, who was bishop of Hippo, today Annaba. He is one of the four great Doctors of the Latin Church and the Algeria of today celebrates him proudly and has done so for some years.

Br. Alain Delorme next presented a brief summary of the foundation of the Marist Brothers before stressing the exemplary life of Br. Henri Vergès, a son of the area who died tragically in Algeria, on 8th May 1994 and by whom the Fraternity wants to gain inspiration by taking the name of RIBAT he therefore explained the significance of this name: “It was Fr. Claude Rault, a White Father, today bishop of Laghouat, who, in 1979, with Christian de Chergé, a monk of Tibhirine, founded the group RIBAT ESSALAM, “Bond of Peace” which brought together Christians and Muslims to share “praise of God recognized as being God of all”, and seeking to meet each other “in the truth of that which is.”

The singing of the Mass was assured by the choir school of St. Gregory, with a good participation by the congregation. After Communion, the Brother Provincial gave back to the Fraternity the manuscript on which could be read: “Fraternité mariste catalan Le Ribat” (Catalan Marist Fraternity Le Ribat). A beautiful picture, painted and offered by Françoise Gonnet impulse behind the Fraternity Henri Vergès, of Nîmes, depicting children of the world, was placed in front of the altar.

After Mass, despite persistent rain the participants were able to assist at the inauguration of the “Marcellin Champagnat , founder of the Marist Brothers, 1789-1840” Square by the mayor. This square is contiguous to the Our Lady of the Angels College, a former Trappistine convent, where the Brothers taught before leaving the diocese.

In the cloister of the convent there were served aperitifs, followed by a meal for hundred guests in the college refectory. After the meal, in the nearby gymnasium, Brs. Jean-Louis Rognon and Jean-Louis Bosland, gave an account of the work of the two Marist communities at Mostaganem
and Oran, highlighting the role of the humble presence of the Church in Algeria and the service of the Brothers in the footsteps of Henri Vergès among the youth and neighbors.

Next Br. Jean-Claude Christe and Manuel Mendoza, of the Geneva community spoke of their actions involved with ONU within an organization created in collaboration with the Franciscan family, aimed at defending the rights of children around the world. These two speakers were listened to with great interest by those there who were then invited to have a cup of coffee in the Brothers’ house before departing.

How can we not see, in the presence of two Marist communities, with Brothers from various countries, a response to the request of Br. Henri to the Marist communities of Africa, On 2nd. January 1990, on the occasion of the Synod. “And if one Brother from one of our sectors in Africa was able to come and fill out our community…Between the “poor’ it would be understood… Already religious communities in Algeria – there is no local relief – have members coming from various countries in Africa and Asia which gives them a more ecclesial vision. The call is given…”

We can affirm that the memory of Br. Henri, fifteen years after his death, remains firmly alive in his religious family and his diocese of origin. Thus the testimony of Fr. Claude Rault, today “bishop of the desert”, remains equally true now: “Henri was a man of the Gospel. He remains the witness of universal love for many Algerians.” (22nd. April 1996). May he remain so for us

______________
Brother Alain Delorme.

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