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II International Marist Mission Assembly



September 25: Challenges and Opportunities for the Marist Charism

25/09/2014: Kenya - Photo gallery
Mission Assembly- Nairobi 2014

The new era of the Marist charism implies many things: a true renewal of the Institute; a new way of being Brothers; a new relationship between laity and brothers; new and creative styles of education, evangelization, and defense of the rights of poor children and young people; new frontier fields for our mission; and the revitalization of our joint vocations ministry. In this new era, we will dance to the same Marist Symphony in so many corners of the world. 


A dance uniting us 

As we gathered this morning for prayer, beginning a new day of activity, a soft rain insinuated the freshness of the Spirit gently falling on the hearts of those gathered around the Lord. The “voices of fire” recited a poem telling the story of Naman: 

The shepherds of the Peul Tribe, who guided their herds playing flutes, had spent the night around the fire. Flames had danced like vultures. It had been a beautiful African evening, a night of drums and dancing. 

In the morning, Naman was working the land when suddenly a child came running with a message: “The elderly are waiting for you under the Tree of the Word!” Surprised by this message at such an early hour, Naman left his daba, a West African tool, and went to the Tree of the Word. Next to the elderly, he found a white man smoking pipe. He was an emissary recruiting men for the war. The elders spoke: “You are our chosen one, Naman. Go and prove the courage of the Mandinka people”. The next day, the drums said goodbye to Naman as he left in a boat for the main port. 

Time went by. The sorcerers consulted the stones and scrutinized the entrails of animals. They saw something, but did not speak about it. News of Naman arrived a few months later: “Naman is well”. There was a party in the village that night. 

But another letter arrived several months later: Naman had fallen prisoner. This news weighed heavily on the village. The elders decided that Naman was thereafter entitled to dance the Douga, or Sacred Dance of the Vulture, which no one could do without having accomplished an important deed. 


Route Map 

The day’s work began with a contemplative moment before a map placed on the wall of the meeting room. Through this graphical exercise, Brother Tony Leon offered new insights on the routes for the Marist charism. It was a key journey for the work of the Assembly. The dance uniting the Assembly began by letting each participant bring rhythm to his or her own heart. The insights that people shared revealed this inner dance moving the group at that very moment. 


Challenges and opportunities 

The group worked on the challenges in the morning and on the opportunities in the afternoon, following the same methodology in both cases. To give an Institute-level approach to the Assembly’s discussion, the work began by answering a question and reaching consensus about it: What are the challenges and opportunities the Institute is facing nowadays that will enable us to live the Marist charism in 2030? The answer was not to exceed three challenges and three opportunities. 

The reflection about challenges and opportunities gradually condensed around three central terms defining the core of the matter, which guided the discussion and facilitated the convergence of the Assembly’s intuitions: communion, mysticism, and prophecy. People worked initially in small groups, which sent their contribution to a drafting commission in charge of summarizing the reflection and bringing a text with everybody’s insights to the Assembly. A plenary session followed, in which the group commented the text and became aware of everybody’s reflection. Finally, the group proceed to define the Assembly’s priorities. 



The summaries that the Assembly received as an input to define its priorities included the following challenges: “reviewing the structures” at all levels in order to guarantee that they respond to “the essence of our charism” and “the reality of brothers and laity”; developing “harmonious”, unassuming, and open relationships between brothers and lay people, which should be “inclusive and respectful”; and finding ways to share human and financial resources at the international level, making efficient use of them. 

Regarding communion, the Assembly envisioned the need for “new styles of community life” which may “enact and promote personal, community and institutional conversion”. The group saw the importance of putting in place “the processes and structures that are necessary” in order to “promote and accompany the Marist vocation in its different expressions”. It also proposed: to “recreate the Institute” by modifying its structures, so that it can develop its internationality better, highlighting our distinctive missionary spirit; to emphasize the contemplative dimension of life as the root of our fraternity and mission; and to recreate the Institute through “new formation pathways” regarding the spirituality and identity of lay people and brothers. 

On the subject of mysticism, the Assembly proposed the following considerations: “convey, through our personal, community and institutional witness”, the “significant presence of God who inevitably gathers us”. Put in place “formation plans and projects” in a continuous and integrated way, in order to address the new challenges the Marist charism is facing. Develop and defend the rights of children in our “educational works and frontier missions”, as a means for social transformation, participating in the “public forums” where children’s rights are promoted. 

With regard to prophecy, the Assembly called for a “firm determination” to defend the rights of children through an active commitment that may have real social and political impact. The group also spoke about the need for: “an itinerant attitude” enabling us to “move to the peripheries and incarnate ourselves in them”; a “transformative presence” in “situations where indifference prevails”; and an effort to foster “interreligious dialogue”. 



While discussing the opportunities for the Marist charism, the group highlighted that “our world is that of Gospel-based education” and that “we are experienced at it”. Our charism is “very appealing” to people, which is a chance to “lead them to Jesus”. In our Marist settings we find that “people are very open to Marist spirituality”, to simplicity and family spirit, to Marcellin as a model, and to “compassion for young Montagne today”. It is also a great opportunity to awaken the “sense of being Church” that is emerging among brothers and laity. The anniversary of the “promise of Fourvière” appears as a symbol of “unity among the Champagnat Marists” as we approach the 200th anniversary of the foundation. The Institute – and the Church as a whole – is living a moment in which we deeply treasure the “lay vocation”, in quantity and quality, and its “growing sense of Marist identity”. 

Regarding communion, there are promising opportunities: the “different expressions” of “Marist identity and bonding” that are emerging; the call to communion and “joint formation” between brothers and laity; and the concrete experiences of “new styles of community” and “mission in the periphery of society” already underway across the Institute. In our “schools and Youth Ministry programs”, we must keep favoring and promoting the opportunities of inspiring young people to make a difference in our world. Technology certainly is an opportunity to be present in the world of young people today. We should take advantage of and enhance the structures and networks in place within the Marist Institute that are allowing us to give our faithful attention to those who are the reason for our mission: the new Montagnes of today. The following are other important opportunities: strengthening the networks connecting the Marists with different organizations and groups; opening our doors at the international level to share the existing “resources”; taking advantage of the “experience and potential” of an Institute which is present in 80 countries and is offering a rich variety of services (such as international volunteerism, international communities, educational exchange programs, and economic solidarity, among others); making the most of young people’s great energy and eagerness at the service of our Gospelbased education; and relying on the spirituality network, which helps us deepen our identity and share our spirituality. 

To facilitate our mystical dimension, we must take advantage of people’s “thirst for spirituality” and desire to develop their “inner space”; the living testimony of many Marists (laity, brothers, young people), which will endure in the future; and the new technologies. Other opportunities are: making the most of the “the positive developments that have taken place in our present educational works” and in the field of “Youth Ministry”; keeping the energy that is coming from CMI and FMSI; appreciating our efforts to “evangelize through education”, and the international Marist networks that are in place in the fields of education, pastoral ministry, and solidarity; appreciating the importance of our “human and material resources”, and the fact that we are “present in different cultures”, as well as our institutional experience and tradition. 

Our prophetic attitude can leverage on “young people’s leadership”, on their “creativity and audacity” as evangelizers. Our foundation, history and reputation, our image, presence and experience educating in 80 countries, has an enormous potential, which we must put at the service of the Church and the Gospel. Our presence in the world of education can change the world. 

The session concluded by asking each participant to express his or her priorities regarding the issues that were discussed, using a red label to indicate the first option and a yellow label for the second. In the photo album of the day, you will find images of the paper sheets indicating what the priorities look like. 


Drafting the final document 

Four members of the Assembly – from the Americas, Africa, Oceania and Europe – plus a member of the Central Commission, developed a synthesis of the inputs that have emerged during the day in order to include them in the final document. 

The day concluded with the celebration of our Marist world’s cultural diversity. 


AMEstaún, September 25 

Mission Assembly- Nairobi 2014

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