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VII General Conference - 09 September

12/09/2005: Sri Lanka

<274.jpg alt= >Mission “ad gentes”
The focus of interest for this day was in the hands of the brothers from the first moments of the day when they received the booklet for morning prayer. Its title was “Missionary Evangelisation”.
The reflection was aimed at clarifying the Marist leaders’ vision of the nature of mission “ad gentes” whose importance is decisive for the Kingdom of God, the Church, for the world and for Marists.

The morning work session started with a motivating talk by Brother Seán which he started by saying that the mission “ad gentes” is the evangelisation of those people who have not heard of Jesus of Nazareth and his good news, something related to the vitality of the Institute. He recalled also the phrase of John Paul II in his document “Vita Consecrata”, that the congregations ‘have a beautiful history not only to be remembered, but also on which to build”. The Institute will build on this beautiful history if it has the courage to do so.
Following this, Brother Seán gave a brief summary of the history of the Institute, from the Second Vatican Council until the present, highlighting the policies regarding mission “ad gentes”.

Mission “ad gentes” and the Institute
Mission “ad gentes” forms part of the history of the Institute. Champagnat wanted to be a missionary and he himself sent the first missionary brothers. One of the most important missionary moments for the Institute was in 1903 when about 900 brothers left France. The Institute must recognise the efforts of these brothers who went to other lands without being prepared to be missionaries and without knowing the language of the places to which they were dispatched, but they were animated by a great and daring faith.
The Institute created the Saint Francis Xavier Work which functioned in the houses at Grugliasco and Bairo, to prepare missionaries. In 1967, they had to change their direction. The General House decentralised the responsibility for promoting mission “ad gentes” transferring it to the Provinces. The dynamism of this formula was decaying and with time there started to exist a list of names who were at the disposition of the Superior General to be sent wherever he considered it to be opportune. In the XIX General Chapter mission “ad gentes” was energised based on the principles of solidarity and international co-operation. From the XX General Chapter the possibility of writing a new chapter in this missionary history was opened.

Rules for a new chapter in the Marist missionary history
The present situation of the Marists in relation to the mission “ad gentes” in the Institute has some immediate antecedents. From the reading of the following statistics one can attempt to learn a lesson about the events of this history.

YearMissionaries Average age
1989
553
51,37
1990
556
52,20
1991
563
52,80
1992
566
53,63
1993
569
54,45
1994
571
55,34
1995
574
56,15
1996
575
57,09
1997
576
59,04
1998
576
59,04
1999
576
60,04
2000
577
60,98
2001
583
61,60
2002
588
62,28
2003
595
62,82
2004
596
63,76


With these figures in hand, one can note:

a. That the Provinces have done good work in their mission “ad gentes” continuing and opening new Marist missionary presences after the International Missionary Houses were closed.
b. That with the passing of time, the Provinces have met difficulties in sending brothers less than fifty years of age to the projects of mission “ad gentes”.
c. That the Institute still has a margin of opportunity to revitalise this important dimension of its mission and life.
d. That, though the number of brothers have diminished in the Institute, the number of missionary brothers has not diminished, but they have become older.

Project for a mission “ad gentes”
Brother Luis García Sobrado, Vicar General, expressed the master guidelines of a operative plan to send a significant number of brothers in the coming years in mission to Asia as a priority, but also to Marist Provinces in need, as well as encouraging the internationality of the Provinces’ projects “ad gentes”.
The project anticipates an appropriate formation for the candidate, with English as the common language for the participants, to be the most used as the means of communication in Asia and also the second language most known by the brothers of the Institute less than forty years of age.
The place where this formation could take place is Manilla due to its proximity to the Asian continent and where there exists a strong Catholic presence. Other places, such as Sri Lanka and Rome, have not been excluded.
The brothers shared their reactions in groups of three or four and two sessions were dedicated to regional groups followed by a plenary session to analyse the viability of the project.
The project was well accepted due to its global nature, though there were questions concerning how to carry this out and about the places for its application.

Conclusion of the first week of work of the Conference
Brother Seán led a small reflection to end the first week of work of the Conference. He said a huge amount of work has been done. And he animated the brothers to continue their work as a service of love to the brothers of the Institute. <274a.jpg alt=Reception of Marist aspirants hspace=5 vspace=5 align=right>Marcellin was a man of great constancy because he believed in what he did, a dreamer who worked with great constancy to realise his dreams. And so it should be amongst our selves. There is passion for the Kingdom in the heart of life, a portrait of the Founder. Let us persevere in our work.

Reception of Marist aspirants
The Marist aspirants of Sri Lanka joined the brothers in the Eucharist accompanied by Brothers Nicholas and Sandalal, their formators. Afterwards, they shared the meal with the brothers in a family ambiance. Before leaving they sang two beautiful songs and danced, dressed in some very smart costumes.

Death of the father of the Brother Provincial of the Province of Canada
Brother Réal Cloutier, Provincial of Canada, received the sad news of the death of his father at the age of ninety-four. He was a farmer who was well known for his gentle and conciliatory character. He had twelve children of whom Réal was the first-born. At the moment of his death he had forty-five grandchildren.
The brothers at the Conference showed their fraternal closeness and solidarity at this time of sorrow. They are united with the whole of Réal’s family and have recommended all to the Lord during this difficult time.

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