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General Conference - 27th September

29/09/2005: Sri Lanka

Celebration of birthdays
<299.jpg alt=Sri Lanka – 27.09.2005 hspace=5 vspace=5 align=right>Two brothers celebrated their birthdays today - Brother Jacques Scholte, Provincial of the Province of Europe Centre-Ouest/West Central Europe and Brother Fabricio Galiana, working at the Conference as a translator. All gave thanks to God during Morning Prayer for the gift of these two men to the Institute. The evening meal saw the continuation of the festivities.

Open forum themes
The morning was dedicated to an open forum during which a number of themes were discussed.

  1. Concerning the results of the General Conference. Fundamentally, it is a matter of agreeing on the five calls of the Chapter four years after the Chapter has finished.

  2. Concerning the formation and animation of Provincials and District Superiors and how to prepare successors for the task to be entrusted to them.

  3. Concerning a proposal to encourage temporary commitments among laypeople to the Institute, it was considered that more time is needed to arrive at a decision. This has already been considered in other instances, such as in Religious Life Congresses and in the case of the Daughters of Charity who repeatedly make annual vows during their religious life. However, it was considered to be an important theme that deserved more attention.

  4. Two brothers presented their reflections on two financial themes: how to generate resources for the many needs of the Institute, and how the Provinces can be economically autonomous. An interesting and enriching debate followed these interventions.

  5. Finally, we considered the need to contemplate the way solidarity is integrated into the mission of the Institute which has so many different faces today. It was underlined that it is a priority for the Institute, given the enormous needs of children and young people today, and that it should be present in all our educational institutions.


Press Conference
Today, there was a Press Conference on the Conference. The representatives of three English and four Singhalese newspapers, two private television stations and two radio stations as well as several catholic newspapers came to meet us.
<299a.jpg alt=Sri Lanka – 27.09.2005 hspace=5 vspace=5 align=right>The Brothers Superior General, Vicar General and Provincial of Sri Lanka and Pakistan represented the Conference as well as one brother from each continent. The journalists were interested in the presence of brothers in Sri Lanka and Asia where they form a small group of 170. They wanted to know our position faced with a law before the Parliament of their country that could create problems between the different religions. They were told that Marists have often paid for religious intolerance with their own blood. Many brothers have died or been imprisoned. On the other hand, we coexist peacefully in many schools, colleges and Marist universities with people of other religions. Concerning this particular law, the brothers are working in unity with the Church of Sri Lanka to ask for the European Community to intervene so that this law is not voted in.
Finally, the brothers praised the quality of the hospitality that the Sri Lankans have reserved for the members of the General Conference wherever they have been.

Provincial Secretaries
In the afternoon, Brother Jean Ronzon, Secretary General, gave some information on the General Secretariat and on the official communications with the Provincial Secretaries. It was noted that this service is assured through various means, sometimes even by laypeople, from which has come the idea to the General Council to organise regional meetings of animation and formation for Provincial Secretaries and to develop a guide to complete the Vademecum which is addressed to Provincials.
Following this, Brother Emili Turú, member of the Archives Committee, described the implementation of a new document management system that is to be installed in the General Administration. This system is already used by the Province of L’Hermitage at Barcelona and at the Hermitage, where the files of the French Marist history are conserved. The programme has been adapted to the needs of the General Administration and to serve other interested Provinces. The service is free for the Provinces who are able to adopt it without a great deal of change, as it is already translated into several languages. All that is needed is to make a request and to be connected to the Internet.

Marist Apostolic Spirituality
Brother Peter Rodney, President of the International Commission of Marist Apostolic Spirituality, presented the work of the Commission and asked for suggestions and contributions to improve its work. He also thanked those who had already made a contribution.
This Commission received the mandate from the General Chapter to develop a document on Marist Apostolic Spirituality. For that, a reflection group was convoked and they worked from the 16th to the 20th June 2003 to determine the style and the addressees of the document. They suggested an organisation plan of the document, consulting experts and creating a communication group.
The people who took part in this reflection group were: Michael de Waas (Sri Lanka), Raúl Figuera (León), Juan Carlos Fuertes (Levante), André Lanfrey (Beaucamps Saint Genis), Carlos Martínez Lavín (México Central), John McDonnell (Esopus), Lawrence Ndawala (Southern Africa), Antonio Peralta, (Santa María de los Andes), Seán Sammon (General Council), Luis Sobrado (General Council), Vanderlei Soela (Rio de Janeiro), John Thompson (Sydney)

International Commission Agenda
After this reflection group, an International Commission of Marist Apostolic Spirituality was created by seeking people with experience, capable of articulating and formulating this experience and being able to represent regional, linguistic and cultural groups as well as lay Marists. In August 2003, the Provincials were invited to suggest names of people. In September 2003, the following members were invited to form the Commission: Agnes Reyes (Philippines), member of the faculty of Notre Dame of Marbel, a Marist university, who also teaches our brothers at MAPAC; Bernice Reintjens (Netherlands) who did her thesis on Marist charism; Vivienne Goldstein sm, member of the General Council of the Marist Sisters; and Brothers Maurice Goutagny (France), Benito Arbués (Spain), Bernard Beaudin (Canada), Vanderlei Soela (Brazil), Miguel Ángel Santos (Mexico), Spiridion Ndanga (Rwanda), Lawrence Ndawala (Malawi), Nicholas Fernando (Sri Lanka), and Graham Neist (Australia); and from the General Council, Brothers Luis Sobrado and Peter Rodney.
This group of people held their first meeting from the 12th to the 16th February 2004.
They started by consolidating the spirit of their Commission and they studied the recommendations of the reflection group. They attempted to define that mandate that they have received from the General Chapter and to determine the style of this document and the people to whom it will be addressed. After having agreed on the structure of the document, they started a phase of consultation up until the next meeting.

Mandate of the Commission
The International Commission was entrusted with supervising the project whose objective was to deepen the Marist Apostolic Spirituality for brothers and laypeople so that they may better understand it and better live it. It developed and distributed different works to encourage the participation of the brothers and lay Marists and to encourage dialogue in modern and adapted language. An essential part of the project is to realise and distribute a pastoral document that is easy to use and that is addressed to different cultures, life and spirituality experiences, as much for laypeople as for the brothers. It will need to be rich in content and attractive in its conception.
This project is inspired by the Marist Education Document, to help Marists to find God in their lives and to live this discovery as people in their communities.

Expectations
Such a document arouses great expectations: that the communities be centres of spirituality that help to convert minds and hearts and to communicate our spirituality to young people. We hope it will be a prominent document on the Marist way to wisdom. We hope that it will be simple, dynamic, more pastoral than speculative, with a great variety of pedagogical approaches, apt to convert minds and hearts. May it also proceed from life and experience according to different situations: brothers, lay Marists, etc.

First phase of consultation about the document
<299b.jpg alt=Sri Lanka – 27.09.2005 hspace=5 vspace=5 align=right>This phase was presented to groups of brothers, laypeople, mixed groups and regional networks of apostolic spirituality. We also had recourse to the International Patrimony Commission, to groups of experts in Mariology or on the life of Champagnat and of the early brothers. A forum was opened on the Institute’s webpage and the Commission used the Institute’s Reserved Area to exchange information. The material received was studied at the second meeting, from the 5th to the 12th February 2005; this resulted in a more detailed plan and draft of the document.

The Marist Spiritual Pathway”
The document will include a preface, an introduction and four chapters: 1) Marist way towards identity; 2) Marist way towards God; 3) Marist way with people; 4) Marist way in mission; and a conclusion. It will be written in November and December 2005, then translated and sent electronically to the members of the Commission.

Agenda for the communication group
This group will support the Spirituality Commission to better undertand the document in a creative and formative manner. Its members are Brothers Antonio Martínez Estaún, Director of Communications, Joadir Foresti (Rio Grande del Sur), Jean Pierre Destombes (L’Hermitage), Diogène Musine (East central Africa) and Federico Carpintero (Compostela).
This group will begin their activities at the third meeting of the Commission from the 23rd to the 28th February 2006. At this meeting, the draft copy of the document will be agreed upon, which will then be submitted for general consultation. The communication group will start to study the ways to distribute this document so that it will be formative.
At the start of 2007, there will probably be a fourth meeting for to write the definitive text and to implement to process of distribution and formation of this document.

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