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On-going formation of the brothers

 

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General Conference - 16th September

19/09/2005: Sri Lanka

Objectives and themes
<284.jpg alt=Sri Lanka – 16.09.2005 hspace=5 vspace=5 align=right>On-going formation touches various aspects of Marist life and mission and affects all the brothers. That is why the General Council and the Religious Life Commission proposed to the Provincials and to the District Superiors to reflect on the on-going formation courses offered by the General Council or those carried out in the Administrative Units, and to dialogue on the animation of Marist apostolic spirituality, especially in respect to NETWORKS.
We spoke particularly about the on-going formation that continues on from the initial formation of the brothers because later on we will study the on-going formation of laypeople during the day reserved for the Laity Commission.
To reflect on on-going formation is part of the two first calls of the General Chapter which directed this to the heart of each brother and of each community to encourage a conversion and to find new responses to new situations.

Action of the General Council
The General Council has made the animation of these two first calls one of its priorities. From 2002 to 2005, Brother Seán and his Council have started their visits to the Administrative Units by animating retreats based on the calls of the Chapter. The first circular of Brother Seán treated spirituality and his most recent is on community life. Also, the Religious Life Commission was created to support the work of the General Council and of the Administrative Units in the animation of the religious life of the brothers and of communities, to establish structures and to form support teams for initial and on-going formation in their growth, according to the first two calls of the XX General Chapter. The Commission is formed by Brothers Antonio Ramalho (chairperson), Théoneste Kalisa, Peter Rodney and Ernesto Sánchez (secretary).

Spirituality and third age: Manziana and El Escorial
Courses of on-going formation (spirituality and third age) are offered regularly at Manziana and at El Escorial in English, Spanish and Portuguese. In 2005, courses have also been offered at Manziana in French. The co-ordination of these courses is under the responsibility of certain General Councillors who keep in regular contact with the animation teams:

Spirituality, English language (Manziana): Peter Rodney.
Spirituality, Spanish and Portuguese languages (Escorial): Antonio Ramalho.
Spirituality, French language (Manziana): Théoneste Kalisa.
Third age, English language (Manziana): Peter Rodney.
Third age, Spanish and Portuguese language (Manziana): Pedro Herreros.
Thirds age, French language (Manziana): Théoneste Kalisa.

The brothers reflected in five language groups. In general, the groups recalled the satisfaction experienced by brothers who had participated in these sessions. On their return to their Provinces, these brothers say how they have been personally helped and motivated to continue their services, especially by being more available and open. Nearly all the groups spoke of the visit to the Hermitage as an unforgettable and enriching experience; A difficulty does come about when one does not enter into the dynamic of the group, mainly for personal reasons; the Institute must find another way of helping them. It was also suggested to the General Council to organise courses of the same kind but shorter for a Region or a Province and to develop a course especially for the brothers from fifty-five to sixty-five years of age.

Course of animators of community: Nemi and El Escorial
The Commission tried to promote the formation of leaders in the Administrative Units that have such programmes of animation, of discernment and personal and community accompaniment as the General Chapter had asked.
As a response to the Chapter, they also offered three courses for the animators of community who help the Provincials in their task of animation of local superiors. Forty-seven brothers took part.
The majority of participants came with the idea of being able to share later in the mission of animation in their own Administrative Unit. This was not a course for Superiors of communities, but for the animators who would collaborate in animation with the Provincial and his Council. For some, this objective was not perhaps very clear on their arrival, but this situation was quickly clarified during the session.
The Brothers who participated appreciated the course that brought a new dynamic to their lives. It is an initiative that has a lot of future as it affects very positively the community life that is fundamental to our religious life. The Religious Life Commission should ensure that it continues.
Where there are already community animation projects, this course strengthened the conviction that these projects are necessary to energise community life. The on-going formation teams should include this dynamic and these courses in their programming. In Brazil, all the brothers who participated in the session have been grouped together, in order to help each other to animate communities.
We support this initiative and recommend that it continue.

Spirituality and networks of Marist apostolic spirituality
The General Chapter asked the General Council to encourage in the Institute the four linguistic networks of Marist apostolic spirituality, in the aim of clarifying and developing it more.
Several years ago, spirituality networks were established by languages throughout the entire Institute to promote Marist apostolic spirituality. Where they set their roots, they flourished; the networks were transformed into a precious instrument for deepening the awareness and experience of Marist apostolic spirituality. However, the cultural complexity of the Institute meant that this model was not effective in some parts of the Marist world.
Leaving the animation of Marist apostolic spirituality to spirituality networks had differing results according to regions; if they were satisfying in Latin America, they were nul in Asia, in Africa and in Oceania where there are no longer any networks.
Some Provincials expressed their disorientation and said they did not know what to do faced with the imprecision of such an expression: Marist apostolic spirituality. On their arrival at the Conference, they were hoping to find a document guide them. The General Council dedicated some time to this study but the work remains imperfect. Until the present, the reflection has been very open and it appears clearly that spirituality and identity are linked and that one must develop slowly so as to not create more confusion. The brothers highlighted, however, the need to get past this impasse.

Programmes of on-going formation in the A.U.
There exists an ordinary on-going formation, made by the individual from everyday things. The Constitutions propose this by ordinary means such as the revision of the day, spiritual reading, etc. But there is also an extraordinary on-going formation, proposed by the Institute at different levels. The two types should normally be united. On-going formation lasts the whole life; it is not an extraordinary thing, done at precise moments, reserved to a few people and concerning only some aspects of the person.
The brothers consider the animation of on-going formation in the Administrative Units as one of their fundamental responsibilities as Provincial or District Superior
In the groups, the brothers noted that the Provinces organise meetings, courses or workshops in which a lot of brothers participate. The Provinces produce material to help with personal reflection and to share this material. In several places, the Provincials are very happy that the brothers develop a personal life plan. The community project also needs to be taken seriously and the Provincial needs to follow this up during his visits to the communities. It is proposed that a formation plan be created that is well thought out, or at least, to profit from organised courses, offered by the Church or by other religious Institutes.
Among the comments made at the assembly, it was stated that it is not clear if on-going formation is a process of personal and continued growth or indeed something that is optional. It was also mentioned that we need to help people who suffer from personal problems.
It was proposed that the General Council organise courses for formators in Spanish and Portuguese to help in on-going formation.
In the light of these exchanges, the Religious Life Commission will develop its plan for the four following years, knowing that it is about supporting the Provinces and the Districts in their work of animation of religious life of the brothers and of communities.
Brother Seán made a final point in the reflection by thanking the brothers for the work accomplished during this week and he thanked the Religious Life Commission for having guided the reflection of the brothers today.
Brother Seán said that formation is one of the means of feeding the fire in our heart. The General Chapter’s call to centre our lives passionately on Jesus Christ is the most prophetic call of all. It is very strong to talk of passion, but this is part of the fire that we must kindle because it is part of religious life. Love centres us bit by bit on Jesus Christ and the time is coming when we will not be able to satisfy this fire without giving our whole life.

The General Conference with the tsunami victims
Read more<284a.jpg alt=Sri Lanka – 16.09.2005 hspace=5 vspace=5 align=right>
The brothers of Sri Lanka invited today two exceptional witnesses of the tsunami to speak about their experience to the brothers during the homely at Mass. Father Juan Gladwin Peters from Payagala and Sister Calixta Mallikkararchchi, from the Sisters of the Charity of Jesus and Mary, both had worrying times during the tsunami at Payagala where the force of the water had carried away a large part of the annex to Holy Cross College. This week, the reconstruction of this annex has started.
The General Conference wanted to be united to the many families who lost loved ones in this natural disaster by celebrating the Eucharist with the parish priest of Payagala and the sister who runs the convent St. Marys of Matara. The Marist choir from Stella Maris College accompanied the hymns.
To create an appropriate ambiance for the Mass, a video of some of the tragic moments that this country suffered was shown.
The reconstruction of the Marist building at Payagala was able to start this week thanks to the many gifts received in favour of the victims of the tsunami. Brother Dominick Pujia, Director BIS, showed us photos of the work in progress.

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