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A voice coming from Canada

18/06/2009: Canada

« May God be with you » here at Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux. It was in these terms that Br. Teófilo Minga addressed us on 26 April, at the beginning of this experience of joint formation involving 9 brothers and 7 lay persons coming from 9 English- or French-speaking and other countries. In greeting us thus, he was, of course, following an old tradition of his country, Portugal. But above all, he was setting the tone for what this experience of three weeks in France was to be for each of us: a real experience of God through reflection, sharing, the deepening and putting into practice of the Marist charism.

Today, on the 16th of May, on reaching the end, we three from Quebec, are conscious of the immense grace we have received in having been chosen to take part in this experience, out of the great number of lay people and brothers in the world. It is with hearts full of gratitude that we wish to say thank you to the Provincial Council which allowed us to take part. In the name of you all and on your behalf, we have the impression of having lived, as in microcosm and in anticipation, what the whole Marist world is called to live today and in the future: a profound communion between brothers and lay persons, a heart without boundaries, even more, a new heart for a new world. It seems to us that, in the light of these last days, those words, often repeated over recent years, take on quite a new significance, because they have become a lived reality.

First of all, not without surprise and even without directly looking for it, we have observed an evolution in the relationships within our group from Quebec. To tell the truth, it was the first time that we had had the opportunity of working together. Here, through the times of joy, celebrations, of questioning, and also of differences of opinion to overcome, we have come to know one another, to accept our differences, to trust one another. Moreover, in living with all the participants, we have had to become familiar with « another language » spoken with a great variety of accents, to open ourselves to other cultures, to other ways of being and acting. Through all those differences, which could have led to some contradictions, we have felt that a same love united us, that a same Marist sap flowed in our veins. Whether we were Germans or Australians, Americans or French, Belgians, Sri Lankans, Portuguese, Quebecans, or Papua-New-Guineans, we were united by love of our common Mother Mary, and by affection for Marcellin Champagnat, our « Good Father ». Brothers and lay persons, distinct certainly but in profound communion, we were conscious that the same flame burned in us, that the same passion inspired us to go and share the Marist charism with all. Also, it must be said, we felt proud to be Quebec Marists, proud of the whole road travelled at home these last years in this sense. And we want to make our little contribution to continue to advance along this way together.

We believe that the experience lived here will be precious for us. After a period of getting to know one another and of settling in, the process set in motion in a coherent and logical way around such fundamental themes as faith, vocation and spirituality, mission, relationships, formation, was a great help to us in living this time of intensification. We had, as well, times to stop, pray, reflect, and also to share moments of relaxation. This favoured a good personal integration of these realities. Certainly, the visit to the Marist places with Br.Alain Delorme, like the mission experience in Lyon, was a very important moment. We were « gripped » by the living presence of Marcellin and the first brothers. We were conscious that no book could have given us that. We touched once again on the greatness of his work. We perceived in him the solidity of the rock, joined with a maternal sensitivity towards people. Briefly, we felt proud to be part « of his gang », of belonging to this family which he brought to birth, and to make our modest contribution towards its continued growth, brothers and lay people together.

We could develop many of the elements which allowed this experience to be so rich and meaningful for us : the presence and warm welcome of the brothers of the house here at Saint-Paul-Trois-Châteaux, their kindness, their grandeur of soul capable of making room also for the woman, the commitment and active participation of all the members of our group in the animation of the various topics, the numerous celebrations rich in meaning, the magnificent decor of the places and the garden full of flowers, the sharing of what was happening elsewhere, the fraternal relations which developed among us, community life, etc. All that and many other things made this a unique time, which has given us the taste for wishing to follow it up.

We feel, indeed, that this is only a beginning. We have the taste for continuing the journey at home, for meeting again, for sharing and helping others live what we had the opportunity to experience, and also to make concrete with you some of the intuitions and the inspirations which came to us during these days. By continuing to follow in the steps of Marcellin, we are convinced that God will be with us. So, all dreams are possible.

Véronique, Robert and Réal

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