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The school of Carcavelos made us Marists

02/08/2011: Portugal

 38 years passed in an instant. To return, 38 years later, to the school which educated us, is to feel in us a riot of emotions. We looked at each other amazed. No need to think: we could see the obvious physical « mutations “. We had followed the most diverse paths. But something united us and had remained as a « global value » from the time we were Marist pupils: a way of being and being Marist has stayed with us. Someone said: « I live in Madeira and I have just arrived from Venezuela, but I do not want to miss this meeting. I catch the plane for  Lisbon. There is something which is Marist and which I would like to share with you, 38 years later. » And I would be able to write other phrases which were real life testimonies, where the Marist element was always emphasized. The « old house », the Marist school of  Carcavelos, welcomed us with affection and kindness: it was the Marist way of welcoming that we had learnt 38 years before. The persons (brothers and lay people) were no longer the same, but the Marist spirit of welcome and simplicity was identical.

What it was to find ourselves in a house that was ours for a certain temps, but where we were stamped with a mould we still recognize today. This mould has « modeled » us for the rest of our life. And what do we find in this mould, in this « mother » or this education, paternal and maternal at the same time, which transformed the adolescents we were then into the men we are today?

To reply to this question would require almost a book, so many were the emotions and memories which flooded our minds on the 28th of May 2011! But I will summarise the points common to the various testimonies. Our friends the « crows » (that is what we affectionately called the Brothers then because of the black soutane they wore) inculcated in us the values which have given us direction and which, I hope, will continue to guide us for the rest of our lives. What are these values?

 Discipline and respect for ourselves and for others; love of study in particular and work in general; simplicity of life and openness to others; generosity of heart and the spirit of sacrifice; not to speak of the more specifically religious values, such as the sense of prayer, love of the Bible and devotion to Our Lady. At the time, we did not have the annual pilgrimage to Fatima which is now in force in the school, but the references to Mary in the  courses of human and religious formation were current practice in the language of our friends the « crows ». What good work they did and what great values they passed on to us!

But the life we led in the Hostel was not always easy. And some of us, at the time, challenged and questioned what was transmitted to us. Today, 38 years later, we recognize that those times were among the best we have lived. We all remembered that we had been privileged by the fact of having received such an education and formation. The Marist Brothers who educated us must be very proud of having formed us in this way. Just as we feel today a great pride in having been formed and educated by the Marist Brothers. I would not be deceiving myself if I were to say that we knew how to put into practice the education we were given. It is a matter of joy and pride to be able to say today: « We were Marist students ».

Basides the Christian and Marian principles they transmitted to us, the Brothers always counselled us to live according to humanitarian principles, the practices of social justice,  solidarity and generosity. All that has given us such a balance that it is difficult for us to tell which of these values has been the determining ones.

We could recall some of the « crows », always with affection and friendship. They are Brothers, but today, especially, we feel them close to us as friends who knew how to accompany us when we commenced our life journey, such as Brother Hermínio Carneiro. It is better for me to quote what someone has written so as not to deceive myself: « Br Carneiro is one of the most extraordinary persons I have known. Just for the fact of having known him, of having lived with him, and especially for having been his pupil, and today his friend, makes life worth living. Carneiro is for me a reference point in life. I am often moved when I think of him. When I am older, I want to be like him… if I am capable. »

Br Teófilo, despite the distance, did not forget us. We read his message for the reunion, but at the end it was a message for each of us. Let me underline this passage in his letter: « All the Marist groups are a richness for the world and for the Church. The Bureau of Laity in Rome will do everything possible to help you and encourage you in following the Marist ideal you wish to live and put into practice… »

José António, a former brother today, who always captivated us with his joy, Br Tomé, the man of solidarity, Br Torres, the man of sport, Br Sérgio, always discreet but present: what a great teacher! And I could not finish my account without mentioning Br Castro, our supervisor and guide. Aided by Teófilo, I believe he worked wonders. He seemed strict in his way of teaching. At base, I think it was a strictness we did not very well understand at the time. A strictness which managed to harmonise firmness and goodness, two educational principles which should not be separated. Again, I quote: « How not to recall, in a special way, Br Castro who, by his strictness, honesty, impartiality and, above all, his sense of justice, left an indelible trace on our educational matrix. This matrix is today recognized and appreciated even by those who, at the time, criticized and called him into question. » This is the reason why we have decided to promote a friendly celebration for his 90th birthday, coming soon.

Here I mention only our living educators. Marcellin Champagnat must be proud and happy with them and the work he started. We are all going to help him the best we can. We are Marists too. Thank you very much, our « old » teachers. By decision of the group, we want to gather in this « old house », our place, each year on the last Saturday of May. We have chosen the month of May because it is Our Lady’s month.

João Paulo Pinheiro
Carcavelos, 28 June 2011

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