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VII General Conference - 08 September

10/09/2005: Sri Lanka

<272.jpg alt= >The Conference celebrates the birth of Mary

Today the liturgy celebrated the birth of Mary, our Good Mother. The booklet printed for today’s prayer was entitled, “The Birthday of Mary.” From the beautiful beaches of India, we heard this morning a hymn of praise and gratitude for “Mary who has done everything for us.” Different races, languages and faces expressed their gratitude for our Good Mother. We realised once more, in a Marist way, the prophecy that announced: “All people will call me blessed.”

The brothers joyfully intoned the song “Happy birthday to you, Mary!” For several brothers, it was also their anniversary of taking the habit or of their first profession. Congratulations to them also. Brother Réal Fournier also added one more year to his age. His celebration gave us great joy because we could see him maturing in age and in grace before God and before the community. He is working at the Conference as a translator. In the card written to him by the brothers, there were phrases full of fraternal affection such as: “May the Lord continue to bless you and give you many more years!” and “May you be day after day a living presence of Jesus amongst us!”

Messages of support

Before starting the work of the day, Brother Luis García Sobrado read the messages of support sent to the Conference. There were messages from Sister Judith Moore smsm, Superior General of the Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary and from Brother Álvaro Rodríguez fsc, Superior General of the Brothers of the Christian Schools and currently the President of the Union of Superior Generals.

Study of the 3rd and 4th Calls of the General Chapter

The brothers continued their reflection on the vitality of the Institute from the five calls. They reflected today especially on the 3rd and 4th calls that refer to the lay Marists, to mission and to solidarity.

The responses to the questionnaire sent to the Provinces before the Conference show unanimity in the Institute for recognising the importance of laypeople for our vitality. Even though the principle of collaborating and sharing the charism and mission is accepted by all, we see great differences in the number of laypeople who participate effectively in our structures, either individually or in groups.

We note some peculiarities according to continents. The presence of lay Marists in our works and in society is more evident in America than in Africa, where the economic conditions do not facilitate this work.

The Marist Fraternities are more rare in Asia than in Europe. On the contrary, we witness a certain ageing in the members of our Fraternities in Europe.

The 4th call speaks of mission and solidarity. There is no longer any doubt that our mission is intimately linked to solidarity which must be at the heart of our mission. This principle is accepted by all who answered the questionnaire, even though there were some nuances. Latin America is the continent that insists more on this link between mission and solidarity.

One of the realisations evaluated most by the participants has been the common programmes of formation for the brothers and laypeople, despite the costs that they incur. The interest manifested by laypeople in the documents of the Superior General is also significant. More so, there are encouraging signs: brothers are trying to live a dynamic of human growth and of conversion, of new models of community and of growth appearing in the Institute in the area of solidarity.

Generating life between brothers and laypeople

The afternoon started with a personal reflection on the following topics:

1. What gives vitality and is important for the brothers and laypeople?
2. What do you consider to be a creator of life and important for brothers and laypeople in your Administrative Unit?

The Superior General asked all the participants to live this day in an atmosphere of silence and personal reflection. In this spirit, we had lunch on silence before proceeding to the community prayer in honour of Mary.

This contemplative reflection helped the brothers to meditate before undertaking the afternoon activities. The fruits of this reflection were shared in regional groups until the afternoon tea break.

After the break, Brother Seán proposed a reflection on “The Provincial as a shepherd.” As he usually does, he started with a story. A man wanted to be a blacksmith and possessed all the instruments for his occupation. He only lacked the fire to make the metal malleable. The leader’s fire of passion comes from God, he told the Provincials. Brother Seán thus encouraged the Superiors to be open to the Spirit, because he lives in us and sees us as we are at this moment.

In his talk, Brother Seán insisted on three roles of the Superior: 1) to maintain hope, 2) to always say the truth, even if one cannot say all the truth, or all of it at once, 3) to inspire courage and hope.

Brother Seán’s proposition touched the heart of the participants who reacted with comments and very enriching personal anecdotes. The topic of the pastoral responsibility of the Provincials and District Superiors occupied all the time until the celebration of Mass. The words that were heard the most included: dialogue, accompaniment, mercy, forgiveness and presence.

Mary at the centre of the day and life

<272a.jpg alt= >The day which had started with a hymn to our Good Mother finished with the celebration of the Eucharist in her honour. All the brothers repeated the consecration to Mary made so often by Saint Marcellin. The Superior General repeated the action of Saint Marcellin, entrusting his brothers of the Hermitage to Mary by writing their names on paper which he then placed in a metal heart and attached this to the statue of Mary. Brother Seán did this during the evening Mass. He placed the names of the brothers representing the Administrative Units. We were able to rest easily as we were confident of being in very good hands.

There was time for personal adoration before the Blessed Sacrament at the close of the day, after having paid fraternal homage to Brother Réal.

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