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VII General Conference - September 04

06/09/2005: Sri Lanka

When we arrived at the Goldi Sans Hotel the final details were being organised to accommodate the hotel to the needs of the Conference. Some spaces in the hotel have been refitted. It could be said that the Marist Brothers will have one extra house in the world, at least for one month. This hotel, where the VII General Conference is being celebrated, is trying to be as similar as possible to a Marist house for the progress of the work and the life in common during these days.

The Goldi Sands Hotel is situated in a suburb of Negombo, next to a beach to which it has direct access. It was constructed in 1975 in a modest fashion with room for seventy guests. Its main activity during the year is tourism. It hosts mainly French, German, English and some Italian and Spanish tourists. It is also booked for weddings, conventions and seminars – but usually for a short time. This is the first time that the hotel has had a booking of such a long duration. As it is being used by the brothers for the entire month of September, they have had to put a sign on the door, “No vacancies for the whole month – sorry for any inconvenience”.

One of the dining rooms has been adapted so that it could be used as a chapel and another small building, a kind of pavilion, is being used as a prayer room. Next to the conference room, a space has been set up for computers and for Internet access.

The brothers of Sri Lanka have seen to the ambiance of the place through banners, panels and various murals in keeping with the event.

The external temperature is not very high; at this moment it reads 27 degrees Celsius, but there is 60% humidity. The meeting room, the room used for computers and the bedrooms are all air-conditioned.

The anticipated rhythm

The daily timetable anticipated at the beginning has been very flexible. Mealtimes have been given a longer time span to allow each person to make use of a free buffet.

There are two Catholic churches near the hotel where there are Masses both in the morning and the evening. All of these are in Sinhalese, the native language. Features of these Masses were the large crowd of people, their devotion and participation. During this afternoon, we were able to go to a Mass, the first celebrated in the hotel, with Father Joaquín Fernández, Marist Father, as celebrant. He will be the chaplain for the entire conference.

At a quarter to nine in the evening, the brothers had a meeting in the Conference room to test the functioning of the microphones, the headphones, the connections for simultaneous translations and other procedures to be used during the sessions.

The atmosphere among the participants is one of great joy and fraternity. There are more than thirty different nationalities participating in this meeting. This is one of the great riches of the Institute. This meeting for many of them, four years after they had left Rome after the General Chapter, is a particular event of great transcendence. The Lord has allowed us to be reunited once more for a month of work, of prayer and of friendly sharing in order to undertake once more the strength of animating the works and the communities of the Institute throughout the entire world. And for those who are participating for the first time in this meeting of brothers, it is a gift from God to be able to share the ambiance and the work that is going to be realised.

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