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Marist International Center - 2013

08/09/2013: Kenya

We are in Nairobi, Kenya. The third year Brothers made their annual retreat. There are 27 of us, two formators, the retreat preacher, in total 30. The retreat was hold in Nyahururu, nearly 300 kilometers from Nairobi, from 28 July to 3 August 2013.

The spiritual centre hosting us is called Tabor Hill. An ideal spot : flowers, lawn, trees, palm trees, space. Round a central court 220 metres long by 100 wide are distributed houses, each capable of housing 15 persons.  Longs covered corridors join all the houses, the conference rooms, the refectories and the central chapel, which at the head of the court keeps its doors open wide to welcome those coming to refresh themselves. 

That is where we made our retreat. We formed an international and multicultural group, in perfect harmony under the Marist identity. We cme from Nigeria, Congo (RDC), Rwanda, Malawi, Zambia,  Zimbabwe,  Madagascar, Kenya, Angola, Mozambique, Tanzania, the Ivory Coast…  We had all the colours of the rainbow.

Two unexpected guests of note joined our retreat : cold and abundant icy rain. We were two degrees from the Equator, but at more than 2000 metres of altitude. We tried to defend ourselves shivering, hunching our shoulders, and looking at one another for encouragement.

To warm ourselves, we had tea in abundance and above all the theme of the retreat : « But you, who do you say I am ? » (Lk 9 : 17-18). This question of Jesus kept on sending us back through our interior to our friendship with the Lord, during the days it exercised our souls. We took the Lord’s question seriously, in  silence, prayer, times of adoration. We discovered how this question is central, for the whole New Testament was born from it, all the saints have contributed their prayer-response. We interrogated our Constitutions, looked at Marcellin and our Marist saints. Our surprise was to discover that the one who responds best to the question is Jesus Himself.  The last two days, we turned to Mary, the perfect disciple of Jesus, whom John proposes as the very model of faith.

As a former formator at Nairobi, from 1993 to 2000, I was pleased to see how well the Centre has been kept : everywhere hedges of a tender green, well cut,  alternating with flowers, ornamental plants,   gigantic trees, clumps of bougainvilliea rose, red, orange. And hidden in this luxuriant vegetation, the fraternities.

The Centre has grown to the point of having become a university and taking in nearly 700 students, one hundred of them our young Brothers in formation. I had the pleasant surprise of seeing among the Brother Formators six of my former students. I was also happy to note the good spirit reigning among the formators, as also among the young men. Happy to see that all of those in charge are now coming from Africa and Madagascar. Certainly, Brothers Charles Howard and Powell Prieur, the founders, have reason to be proud.

One period is finished : that of the missionaries coming from Europe or the Americas. A reverse trend is beginning and will become stronger, that of the young missionaries of Africa setting out for Europe and North America. 

Bro. Giovanni Bigotto

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