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I am Champagnat!



Message of Br. Emili Turú on the feast of Saint Marcellin Champagnat, 2012

02/06/2012: General House

In the General House in Rome, we have two beautiful works of art on Fr Champagnat, which were commissioned by the then Superior General, Br Charles Howard, who died on 14 January 2012 in Australia. Both works are an expression of the deep love Br Charles had for our founder, as well as his eagerness to make Marcellin more widely known, just as he had been discovering him all his life as a Marist.

These two works face one another across the expanse of the first floor of the General House. One is a mural of the Marist Family, painted by Goyo, and the other, two large ceramic panels by Br José Santamarta. I recently made contact with the two artists, to whom the Marist Institute owes so much for their extraordinary contribution towards renewing the iconography of Champagnat, and both told me of the positive impact Br Charles had made on their lives.

class=imgshadowGoyo remembered with sympathy the negotiations that Br Agustín Carazo, then Postulator General and untiring promotor of a renewed image of the founder, had to undertake to persuade Br Charles to accept having his own portrait form part of the mural. According to Goyo, he had to soften the tones of the portrait considerably, so that his image would be left somewhat toned down and so not offend his humility. Br Agustín himself confirmed to me that he had to use his best diplomatic talents to persuade him, and also told me many other anecdotes which, in his opinion, reflected “the great love Br Charles had for the founder”.

H.Br Santamarta, for his part, still has the letter the then Superior General sent him, thanking him for his work. In it, he tells him that he has “interpreted artistically the dream I have of our father Marcellin; a father, with the face of an apostle, the hands of a worker, an open Eucharistic heart, a man without frontiers and passionate for God. This is the spirit and the charism of our Father Champagnat”.

Br Charles passed away in January this year, but his footprints will remain with us, not only through the artistic works he commissioned, but above all through his own life and his teaching. I believe, then, that it is most fitting that on this year’s feast of Saint Marcellin, we recall his words with affection.

It is necessary to situate the two works of art mentioned within the framework of the celebration of the “Champagnat Year”, 200 years from the birth of Saint Marcellin. It was in this same context, on 20 May 1989, that Br Charles published a Circular entitled “The Founder challenges his Brothers”, the aim of which was to encourage all to “grow in our understanding of Marcellin’s charism, this gift of the Holy Spirit in which we all share”.

This Circular relates the experience of the Ecole Champagnat in Budapest, where eight brothers were arrested in 1944 because they had sheltered and hidden Jews. This school had been founded in 1928 and the people used to say of its students: “There go the little Champagnats”. The pupils were very proud of this title and liked to say: “I am a Champagnat”. Starting from this anecdote, Br Charles invites us all to “be Champagnat today”:

“I AM A CHAMPAGNAT”. This may sound cute on the lips of a youngster. But for us Marist Brothers, it touches a profound truth. Each of us is a Champagnat, and we endeavour to bring to young people what Champagnat did: respect, encouragement, love, Christian truth, education in all its forms, and a concern about all facets of their lives In other words, we try to be BROTHERS for them.

  • We are Champagnats for our own Brothers, with our concern, our encouragement, our support, our prayers, our love.
  • We are Champagnats for a Church which is struggling to serve humankind. We follow Champagnat with his great love of the Church: the pilgrim people, the body of Christ.
  • We are Champagnats for young people in need, for those in search of values, for those in search of credible witnesses to Christianity.
  • We are Champagnats for young people in need of brothers, someone to listen to them, to encourage them, to love them.
  • We are Champagnats for the poor, the dispossessed, the marginalised: we are Brothers for those most in need.
  • We are Champagnats for those who do not know Mary, who do not understand her love for them, her presence to them.


On this feast of Saint Marcellin 2012, we welcome the words of our Br Charles, five months after his death, as an authentic life programme for all of us who regard ourselves as Marists of Champagnat.

With joy, let us thank the Lord for the gift of the life of Br Charles, a real Champagnat for the Institute. And let us also give thanks for so many persons on the five continents who, often in discreet and silent ways, endeavour to be new Champagnats for the children and young people of today.

Br Emili Turú, Superior General

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