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A Marist Brothers’ Vocation Program

11/09/2013: United States - Photo gallery

We kicked off our Province’s Year of Marist Vocations this past June with our first annual FOUNDATION STONES week. The intention of Foundation Stones is to invite students graduating from our Marist high schools in the U.S. to retreat together at our Center in Esopus.  Foundation Stones offers the opportunity for these young men to explore the Marist Brothers’ way of life through a  seven-day  experience, providing time to live, reflect, relax and work side by side with the Brothers. Support from the Province leadership was very strong as was support from individual Brothers. We had a total of 10 students participating, 8 first-timers and 2 current members of our Marist Accompaniment Program. 

So what happened each day during Foundation Stones? The basic schedule consisted of gathering daily for Morning Prayer and Evening Prayer. Various forms of prayer were experienced highlighting our Marist charism, the Liturgy of the Hours, Taize Prayer, Meditation, Rosary, Holy Hour, the Examen, and silence. Learning and singing the Salve Regina each morning and night was also part of the experience. By the end of the week, the young men could sing the hymn without the Latin words in front of them. To welcome the participants at the beginning of the week, our Superior General, Br. Emili Turu, videotaped a personal message from Rome highlighting the theme, ‘Quo Vadis.’

Each morning from Monday through Thursday the young men participated in conferences and discussions facilitated by various Brothers. Topics included; celibacy (Br. Steve Schlitte), spirit of our Founder St. Marcellin Champagnat (Br. Ben Consigli), developing personal spirituality (Br. Don Bisson), and Marist life from the perspective of our youngest member (Br. Brian Poulin). Also joining us for the week was Sam Amos, postulant in September. Each afternoon they worked side by side with Brothers Owen Ormsby, Greg Delanoy, Dan O’Riordan, and Todd Patenaude in service projects on the property including refurbishing the Stations of the Cross pathway circling our cemetery and finishing a grotto to Mary, our Good Mother next to the Outdoor Chapel in the Woods. Time was also devoted to ice-breaking activities, rock wall climbing, one-to-one interviews and opportunities for theological reflection, journal writing, and quiet time. Community recreations included eating all meals together with many Brothers joined us throughout the week, as well as relaxing together at various times during the day.

Friday was a day of relaxation which began with Mass at Marist College presided by Fr. Richard LaMorte and musically accompanied by Br. Bill Lavigne.  After lunch at the college we launched a 2-hour boat ride up the Hudson River, joined by about 12 more Brothers. The boat ride went up as far as our Esopus property.

Most of the young men were impressed to meet the many Brothers who visited Foundation Stones to share a meal, work side by side, pray with them, and basically show an interest in who they were. We Brothers were able to demonstrate what often comes so naturally to us: our way of living together and supporting each other. Young people do not always get to see this part of our lives since they know us primarily as their teachers, administrators, counselors, coaches and/or campus ministers. Foundation Stones accomplished its ends by enhancing their knowledge and experience of who Marist Brothers are.

The participating alumni were from all parts of our province: New York (Molloy, Mt. St. Michael,) New Jersey (Roselle and St. Joseph Montvale,) Florida (Columbus,) Texas (St. Joseph,) and Illinois (Marist.) Many came alone and, after overcoming those awkward opening silences, quite easily formed bonds that will carry them through further explorations of Marist life while they attend college. “It meant a lot to me to come together for a whole week with other guys considering the Brother’s life,” was echoed frequently in our follow up discussions/evaluations with the young men.

Five of the 8 first-timers have since joined our Accompaniment program. Said one participant at the program’s end:  “This week was an eye-opener for me, living together with others and being immersed in the life of a Brother. I thought I knew everything about the Brothers but I realized I learned a lot more during the week.”

“I never did anything like this before. I am happy I came as it opened up a new door in my life to consider,”recalled another.  Other comments also captured the spirit of the experience.  “I didn’t realize how much praying the Brothers did. I was surprised and pleased to see that Brothers began and ended their day with prayer.”  Another participant said, “The best thing about Foundation Stones  was being together from activity to activity and being treated like brothers already.”

This experience offered our province a firm “foundation stone” upon which to build a solid discernment process to carry these young men into their future.  It also solidified a new program which seems likely to become a strong annual event in our vocation recruitment efforts. Br. Dan and I thank all of you for supporting us in all our vocation efforts.

Gratefully,

Br. Mike Sheerin

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