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The centenary celebration in Fianarantsoa

04/02/2012: Madagascar

It was 4 pm (22 Janruary), the feast was finished, people were going home. Everything had been perfect: the well prepared Mass, the carefully detailed centenary exhibition, the meal, lavish, varied, rapid, joyful. The general sentiment, the opinion of all was that it was a fine celebration, a good organisation, a great success.

Like everyone else I shared that, and yet another feeling emerged in me, at first fluid but slowly becoming more precise and obvious: during the whole celebration, what was manifested towards the Marist Brothers was a very strong sympathy, very general, spontaneous, and in an intense climate of joy. The religious and civil authorities, the parish leaders, the members of the other religious congregations, all vied in expressing their esteem for the educational work carried out by the Brothers, their appreciation of the presence of the Brothers in the Church and in the city of  Fianarantsoa. It was as if, in this atmosphere, everyone was everyone’s friend. Not only were the words affectionate but they were accompanied by laughter, jokes, songs, dances, joy. The people’s love and esteem for the Brothers was very much in evidence.

It all began with the Mass presided over by His Excellency Mgr. Fulgence Rabemahafaly and by the  archbishop emeritus Mgr Philibert Randriambololona, assisted by  16 priests and hundreds of religious. The church was full and overflowing at every door. The attendance in the church of Ambatomena was certainly more than 3,000. A Mass perfectly prepared, perfectly animated by Brothers Sylvain, Paul, Tiana and Tiamaro, with hymns, dances, speeches. A very rich video, masterwork of Br Sylvain, presented the 100 years history of the Marist presence in Madagascar. The hymns were projected onto a screen so all the faithful could join in. They were powerful hymns, sustained by 3,000 voices. Mass began at 9.45 to finish about 1.00. Even though it lasted over three hours, we were not bored, thanks to the artistic wealth of the dances, songs, the images projected on to the screen giving rhythm to the different moments of the Mass.

A visit to the exhibition on the Marist centenary in Madagascar followed the Mass. It showed photos of the very first Brothers: André Frédéric, Gamaliel, Brieuc, Bonus, Martial, Sozimus, Sébastianus. Many people paused before the photo of the first Malgache brother, the young Prosper Victor, who died during his novitiate at Bairo, Italy, in 1918. An emotional pause also before the first considerable group of Malgache Brothers: Johannes-René, Jean-Manuel, Maurice, Hilarion. The exhibition also showed the expansion of the brothers in des Frères in Madagascar from Betafo, 1912, to Antsirabe, 1920, from Antsirabe to Diégo Suarez, 1950, from Diégo to Tananarive, 1957, from Tananarive to Fianarantsoa, 1960, Ihosy 1986, Betroka 1991…

Soon enough we were invited to the meal. We were almost 200 persons in the hall prepared for the purpose. Quick service, excellent quality and abundance of dishes, all accompanied by music, jokes, speeches. The teaching staff of our school of Saint Charles surpassed itself by the strength and joy of its singing. The centre-piece of the meal was an enormous three-tiered cake brought in to dancing, then cut by the competent authorities: bishops, civil authorities, our Brother Provincial, Br Thomas. There was enough for everyone and, as with the multiplication of the loaves, what was left was carefully taken home.

To return to the general sympathy shown during the celebration. It must be said that the Brothers are fully engaged in their work as educators, their presence in parish life, their diocesan responsibilies, like Brother Paul with overall responsibility for all the scouts, in the formation of the young religious of the city, like Brother Tiamaro, in the thousand services Brother Denis knows how to render many congregations by his savoir-faire and good manner of dealing with people.

The celebrations owes its success to the animation provided by Brothers  Thomas, Provincial, Sylvain, Tiana Michel, Paul, present everywhere, Tiamaro and his Malgache Marist Youth and, in the wings, Brother Denis, with his numerous services and pieces of advice. Everyone felt proud to be Marist!

_________________

Présence Mariste n°268 : Madagascar, 1911-2011, Juin 2011
http://www.presence-mariste.fr

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