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Final Report: Brother Formators for a New World

12/11/2014: General House

Visiting a potter’s workshop, you are touched when you see the hands that knead, mold, imagine, and create. Behind the potter, there is always a shelf full of vessels, jugs, vases, pots and other treasures willing to become useful. This was the guiding image for those of us who participated in the Brother Formators for a New World program at El Escorial (and Manziana) in 2014, a training project organized by the General Council to generate more life in our formation communities across the Congregation.

The last activities of the year, in September and October, went by very quickly. Brother Javier, Ana, and Pep leaded a weeklong workshop about the new relationship between brothers and laity based on communion. We started by looking at our own convictions. Ana and Pep shared their experiences and life commitments with us, and spoke about a number of significant experiences at the Institute level. We reflected on the specific elements characterizing brothers and laity, and about how to weave the Marist future in communion through our mission as formators.

We also spent a few days reflecting on the process of personal accompaniment with Brother Hipólito. He presented a fundamental framework, and spoke about frequent errors and limitations, and a number of pedagogical elements regarding the topic. We studied different approaches and some elements of psychology. This input will be very helpful in our future mission.

Sister Marisa, a Carmelite of Vedruna, helped us reflect about a number of formation itineraries. With an in-depth and warm approach, we studied four itineraries regarding formation: faith, personal maturity, the humble gift of ourselves in mission, and affectivity. We closed the workshop with a number of key points that can help us identify and discern the Lord’s footsteps in our lives.

Brother Diamantino and Fabiana came to visit us and gave us a lively testimony about their Vocations Ministry experience. They also shared with us their knowledge and practice of contemplative dance at the service of Youth Ministry.

Fathers Bernardino (Franciscan) and Adrián (Jesuit) spoke to us about discernment, starting with the anthropological basis, and then studying the topic from the standpoint of the Ignatian Spiritual Exercises. These key issues will also be very useful in our mission as formators.

Brothers Antonio Ramalho and César Rojas spent two weeks with us. They shared their experience at the Mission Assembly of Nairobi. They also helped us analyze and review the Formation Guide, studying and contemplating Marist formation as a lifelong process.

Having finished the workshops, we spent the last week preparing and sharing our personal synthesis. Throughout these days, we recalled, internalized, summarized, and contemplated what we kept in our hearts, as Mary did. Each brother briefly shared his inner experience, and spoke about his growth process during this year. It was a beautiful week we dedicated to contemplate the wonders God had done among us. The gift and treasure of each brother became evident thanks to the group’s attentive and fraternal attitude.

Finally, the Hermitage was waiting for us. There we joined our brothers from the Provinces of Africa and Asia-Pacific, who did the same program for English speakers in Manziana. As we got together, we experienced the warmth and close contact of Marist fraternity. Both groups gathered to share a summary of our community processes. Our group from the Regions of Brazil, Cono Sur, and Arco Norte, spoke about the situations and realities of our countries, our Marist history, the state of initial formation, what we have learned in the program, and mentioned some projections regarding the formation process in our Provinces.

The Hermitage, a unique setting imbued with family spirit, brought us very close together and strengthened our Marist identity. We also shared with the local Marist community and the brothers from the Third Age Program. This time we visited La Neylière, Valfleuri, and the shrine of Fourvière, where we placed our mission in Mary’s hands as Champagnat and his companions did. 

Our visit to Les Palais and Le Bessat was also moving and intense. There we celebrated the anniversary of Marcellin’s visit to young Montagne, and initiated the Montagne Year in preparation for the Bicentennial. 

To end our program, we had a daylong retreat session with Brother Joe, Vicar General, including a missioning and personal commitment Eucharist.

Thank you Lord, and thank you Mother for this intense year we have experienced. It has been a gift from Mary, and an effort made by our Provinces, which has transformed us in vessels willing to become useful in the places where our mission will lead us. We are brothers available for the Institute, and remain in God’s hands.

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