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Oceania Regional Assembly

27/06/2010: Australia

The Oceania Regional Assembly was held at the Hermitage, Mittagong, from May 30 to June 3 this year. It brought together 15 Marists (Brothers and Lay) from each of the Provinces of Melbourne, New Zealand (and the Pacific Islands), Sydney and the District of Melanesia. They were nominated by their respective Province / District and efforts were made to ensure a suitable mix of Brother / Lay, gender, and apostolic engagement.

Prior to their arrival, participants had a set of stimulus papers – a reflection paper on mission taking up the ‘horizon’ proposed by the General Chapter on “Marist Mission in a New World”; a profile of each Province / District; a brief written statement from each Oceania Commission.

The assembly was a real gathering in faith. Daily prayer and Eucharist grounded and inspired the sharing and discussions happening elsewhere. The constant refrain to our prayer was, “I’ve seen dreams that move the mountains, Hope that doesn’t ever end even when the sky is falling. And I’ve seen miracles just happen, silent prayers get answered, broken hearts become brand new. That’s what faith can do!” The beauty of the moment each morning was enhanced by the singing of Fijian hymns to Mary in unaccompanied four-part harmony.

The first day took up creatively in turn the three horizons of the General Chapter: a new sense of consecration for the Brothers; a spirit of communion between Brothers and Lay Marists; a highly significant presence among poor children and young people. There was a freshness and openness about the exchanges across nationalities and between Brothers and Lay people, a strong yearning for greater vitality, anticipation of conversations and relationships being deepened. We really only had the chance to open up these important discussions.

With this relationship base in place, the second and third days focussed on our future, particularly future government arrangements. This included a time for each Province / District to react separately to what people had heard on the second day. The dynamic of the third day led the assembly to consensus on some principles and to some early ideas on how the region could be structured in the future.

The active presence of the Superior General and the Vicar General was very encouraging. It signalled a great interest in Marist Oceania and a desire from them to work with us in our imagining and planning.

The assembly was a consultative group. It has helped to set a direction to be pursued as you can see in this newsletter – time now for other Marists of Oceania to join in the conversation.


Marist Vitality and Viability in Oceania Principles

Mission

• The focus of Marist ministry in Oceania is for children and young people, especially the poor.
• It will be driven by a shared and clear understanding of Mission and Ministry that has a prophetic edge and that seeks to respond to the contemporary needs of the cultures and people of Oceania.

Cultures and cultural values
• We want to be regional in our outlook and in our configuration, while respecting and taking into account the differences in culture, language, identity and traditions.

Co-responsibility in mission
• Co-responsibility is to be an integral feature between and within Administrative Units.
• For implementation to be effective at every level, co-responsibility needs to be defined according to each culture in the region.
• Communion between Brothers and Lay Marists, expressed through co-responsibility in decision making, will require effective shared formation programs.

Structures
• The preferred future structure is for one governance structure across the Oceania region working with local entities. This is now a matter of urgency.
• The new structure needs to be appropriately resourced to ensure its success and ‘simplicity’ and ‘subsidiarity’ should be hallmarks for whatever is decided.

Pastoral care
• Pastoral care of all Marists is a priority to ensure ongoing vitality and viability.

Agreed understandings from the Regional Assembly
1. The Oceania Administrative Unit will be made up of local entities each with its own Major Superior.
2. There will be structures of shared governance (Brothers and Lay) within each entity and across the region.
3. The two Australian Provinces will merge to form a single Administrative Unit.


Where To From Here?

The papers presented to the assembly will be published in a special edition of the magazine Marists in Oceania. Each Province and the District will use this magazine to inform all the Marists of the region on the results of the assembly with a view to building a wider consensus on what is emerging.

In July there is a meeting of Lay Marists under the title, “Vision 2020”. Br Julian Casey will attend this meeting as an observer. This event will provide an opportunity to Lay Marists to articulate key elements of their dream for themselves as Marists and for the future of Marists in Oceania.

Also in July the College of Major Superiors, COMS, (Carl, Jeff, Julian and Ken), will return to the question of options in the light of opinions expressed at the assembly and the Vision 2020 meeting. These options will then be circulated to all Marists of the region for further comment and discernment.

In December, the Chapter delegates of the three Provinces will gather in Sydney along with the Council members of the District of Melanesia. Before the Chapters meet separately, the whole group will examine the principles and options. If it is possible to reach a consensus, a single recommendation will be made to each Chapter to vote on and support.

If there is unanimity across the Chapters and the District Council, a proposal can then be signed by COMS and forwarded to the General Council for their decision in principle. Then a timetable and executive team would be put in place for the demanding but inspired task of putting new arrangements into place.

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Newsletter Oceania Council - 9 June 2010, Volume 6 Issue 2

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