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General Conference - September 12

14/09/2005: Sri Lanka

September 12th - Celebrating the Holy Name of Mary
<277.jpg alt=General Conference - September 12 hspace=5 vspace=5 align=right>...And the Virgins name was Mary.
Our Institutes name, Marist; its members, the Little brothers of Mary. People call other religious congregations by their founders first or last name - the Franciscans, the Combonians, the DeLaSalle Brothers.... Ours comes from Mary. As Marcellin used to say, she has done everything for us.

Regionalization
Work in the morning session began with a sharing of personal thoughts on different aspects of the government of the Institute. Provincials and District Superiors made use of three different-colored cards to express their agreement, disagreement or doubts. Brother Peter Rodney spelled out personal or collective situations in a province, and the brothers held up one of the cards to express their opinion. This allowed for getting a quick sense of everyones thinking, while acknowledging the absence of nuancing.

Vicars Provincial
Together Brothers Xavier Barceló, Provincial of the Hermitage Province, and Pedro Marcos, Provincial of Santa María de los Andes, explained new approaches incorporated into the government of their Provinces. For the first time in the Institute, these two Provinces have created the office of Vicar Provincial. Ratified by the 20th General Chapter, this involves a new figure, different than that of the Vice Provincial. He is the Provincials Vicar and ranks as a major superior, empowered by Canon Law to represent the Institute before civil and ecclesiastical authorities.
In the Hermitage Province, the Vicar works side by side with the Provincial in animating the brothers, who can approach him as they would the Provincial. Authority is not duplicated, just exercised in concert.
This experience has been a very positive one. The Provincial and Vicar Provincial live in the same community and work as a team. When the Provincial Council finishes its work, together these two set up a calendar to coordinate their activities and visits.
To animate the Province they have established two Sectors: France and Catalunya.
Follwing Brother Xaviers presentation, Brother Pedro Marcos, Provincial of Santa María de los Andes, explained the new governmental structure in his Province, which encompasses Bolivia, Chile, and Peru. Three Vicars, one for each Sector, have been named, to serve as official representatives before the civil and ecclesiastical authorities in their respective country, and as animators for the brothers and their work in education. The Provincial Council reserves the right to name school board members and administrators. Brothers as well as lay people have been very positive about the idea of having a Vicar for each Sector of the Province.

New models of government introduced in Provinces
A panel consisting of Brothers Claudino Falchetto, Provincial of Brasil Centro Norte, Primitivo Mendoza, Provincial of Compostela, and Demetrio Espinosa, Provincial of Cruz del Sur, shared the initiatives that each of their Provinces has undertaken for its process of animation. These three brothers highlighted the complex situation that has arisen from the restructuring process, and the creative ways in which needs have been addressed.
The Province of Brasil Centro Norte, born in 2003 as a result of bringing together the former Provinces of Brasil Norte and Río de Janeiro, illustrates just how complex this restructuring process can be. Extending over approximately 4,000,000 square kilometers, the Province started out with 28 schools, 32 religious communities, 35,000 students, more than 40 social programs, 4500 teachers and staff members, two teachers colleges, and a considerable presence at the University of Brasilia, with its 18,000 students. To spearhead this operation, it has relied on just 146 brothers. Adding to this complexity, the Province operates under the aegis of two organizations or civil societies, in two jurisdictions, subject to all kinds of legal and bureaucratic redtape.
Brother Primitivo Mendoza, Provincial of the Province of Compostela, spoke about the new structures in his Province, one that brought together the institutions of the former Provinces of Portugal, Castile, and Leon.
Taking his turn, Brother Demetrio Espinosa, Provincial of the Province of Cruz del Sur, presented the initiatives involved in reorganizing the former Provinces of Argentina, Uruguay, and the District of Paraguay.

From new Provinces to renewed Provinces
Brother Peter Rodney, General Councilor, led the afternoon session. He proposed as its objective taking a close look at the most important aspects of the challenges of the 20th General Chapter, and directing all the dynamic forces and expectations brought about by restructuring toward the vitality of the Institute. During his talk he referred to several of Brother Benitos writings that speak of restructuring as an opportunity to enhance the vitality of the Institute, and to No. 37 of the Letter from the 20th General Chapter.
Following this, Brother Maurice Berquet shared with the brothers the General Councils efforts to find ways to collaborate with Provinces in regard to spiritual animation, mission, formation, the laity, community life, solidarity, communications, lay volunteers, new ways of being present, education, and government. Brother Maurice noted that these efforts to be of assistance have come about from the Councils having lived and worked together over the past four years, and pointed out what was most significant. Today the words restructuring and regionalization are being applied throughout the Institute to two distinct but complementary processes. Regionalization is a consequence of restructuring. <277a.jpg alt=General Conference - September 12 >
First, there was a presentation concerning the structure of the five great areas in which the Administrative Units of the Institute have been grouped together to foster cooperation and collaboration - basically, areas that coincide with the five Continents. The General Council has named Brothers Pedro Herreros and Antonio Ramalho for the Region of the Americas; Brothers Peter Rodney and Emili Turú for Asia and Europe,; and Brothers Maurice Berquet and Thóneste Kalisa for Africa and Oceania. The Councilors have been visiting Regions, not Provinces. The expanded General Council that has concluded these visits and in which the Regions Provincial Councils have participated, have assembled throughout these last four years in Nairobi, Kenya; Hong Kong, Peoples Republic of China; Mittagong, Australia; Maryknoll, USA; Madrid, Spain; Cochabamba, Bolivia; and in Guatemala.
Following this presentation, four Provincials were invited to share their experience in this regard. Brother Lawrence Ndawala, Provincial of the Province of Southern Africa, was the first to take up this invitation. His is a very complex Province, young and growing. Then Brother Jacques Scholte, Provincial of West Central Europe, emphasized the need to move on from individual to shared leadership, going beyond the traditional model contained in the Constitutions.
Brother Tercilio Sevegnani, Provincial de Brasil Centro-Sur, was the third brother to speak. He described the complex task of restructuring as a challenge requiring creativity, one that has helped to revitalize the mission. It has provided an opportunity to raise awareness and focus the attention of the brothers and the laity, and to question and take stock of the habitual way of doing things in our establishments. It has brought brothers and lay people together to examine each existing structure and procedure in place up until now.
Challenges are open-ended. Is restructuring a process that only deals with reconfiguring lines on maps, or is it one that also goes to the heart of the religious life and mission?
Brother Samuel Holguín, Provincial of the Province of Ibérica, was the last speaker at this session. He related his experience of the restructuring process in his new Province, which has brought together the former Provinces of Norte and Madrid plus the communities in Romania. The Province came into existence on January 2, 2004. Its small in size when compared with those of West Central Europe or Brasil Centro-Sur. Right from the start, affirmed Brother Samuel, we proposed to build the Province the way Champagnat built his - building a unified community at the same time he was constructing the Hermitage. Brother Samuel expressed his deep appreciation for the leadership shown by the team of people that have bonded together to direct the Province. He emphasized what a great support it has been for the Provincial Council to have spirituality, mission, and finance Commissions, composed of brothers and lay people. The Expanded General Council has been a new structure in which the Provincial Council and Teams of Specialists have been able to contribute in making decisions concerning organization and government.
The objectives of restructuring are helping to accelerate the union of the two former Provinces, through encounters, retreats, and meetings involving as many brothers and lay people as possible on commissions.

A Marist vision of five Continents >>

Africa
Brother Eugène Kabanguka, Provincial of the Province of East Central Africa, talked about Africa. He presented the structure of Marist Africa, which takes in the District of West Africa and the Provinces of Nigeria, East Central Africa, Southern Africa, Madagascar, and a community in Algeria.
Two great initiatives connected with the regionalization of Africa have been the Marist International Centre (MIC) and the Conference of Superiors on the African Continent (CSAC). The General Council established the MIC at the urging of Brother Charles Howard. The CSAC started out by bringing together 20 Superiors from 19 African countries to oversee the MIC and Marist animation throughout the Continent.
Restructuring has brought about a sharing of novitiates - Kumasi for the District of West Africa and the Province of Nigeria; Save for the Provinces of Madagascar and East Central Africa; and Kutama for the Province of Southern Africa. After the novitiate, the young brothers go to the Marist International Centre in Nairobi.

Asia
Brother Manny de Leon, Provincial of the Philippines, gave a presentation on Asia. This Region consists of the Marist Provinces of China, the Philippines, Sri Lanka and Pakistan, and Korea, plus the Sector of India and the Marist communities in Cambodia, East Timor, and Japan. It is a Region that is home to ancestral cultures and religions. The vast distances and the variety of languages involved are major drawbacks. As in others parts of the world, people in this Region use English as their common language.

Europe
Brother Manuel Jorques, Provincial of the Province of Mediterránea, was given the task of explaining the complex situation in Europe and the new Spanish Marist Conference, which traces its origins back to 1942 and Spains former Marist Assistancy, looked after by an Assistant General.
On October 2 and 3, 2004, during the General Assembly in Valladolid, the focus of that regional structure was shifted to Europe. At this time new statutes are being drawn up.

Oceania
Brother Paul Gilchrist, Provincial of the Province of Melbourne, spoke about the Region of Oceania. This Region is made up of the Provinces of Melbourne, Sydney, New Zealand, and the District of Melanesia. A vast Region, one that requires long travel times between destinations and uses many languages - English helping to bridge this great divide.

The Americas
Brother Laurentino Albalá, Provincial of the Norandina Province, gave a very enlightening presentation on this part of the world.
Until 2004, Latin America was divided into the following Regions:
Arco Norte: consisting of the Marist Provinces of Mexico Occidental, Mexico Central, América Central, and Norandina.
Cono Sur: made up of the Provinces of Santa María de los Andes, Cruz del Sur, and the District of Paraguay.
Brazil: formed by the Provinces of Brasil Centro-Norte, Brasil Centro-Sur, Rio Grande Del Sur, and the District of Amazonia.
The Latin American Conference of Provincials (CLAP), established in 1979, has been the central organization for animation at the level of Latin America. Over the past 25 years it has held ten assemblies.
Beginning in 2004 the Provinces of Canada and the United States entered the picture. Since that time North and South America have made up the Region of the Americas, and the Inter-American Conference of Provincials (CIAP) has become the organization for animation.
CIAP is made up of the Provincials and District Superiors of the Americas. Invited brothers and lay people may also participate. It holds a General Assembly every four years and serves as a source of animation for Marist religious life throughout the Americas. It may convene additional gatherings whenever necessary.
The Latin American Conference of Provincials (CLAP) has supplied know-how and helped bring Provinces together, supporting Provincial programs in initial and ongoing formation and encouraging the exchange of materials used for ministering to youth, vocations, and education.
Among its limitations, one needs to highlight the difficulty involved in finding animators and time periods that fit into everyones calendar, the cost of international travel and accomodations, and the need to devise programs for narrow timeframes.

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