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Journeying Together in Mission

 

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3rd Chapter of the District of the Pacific

21/12/2019: Fiji

The Third Chapter of the District of the Pacific took place from the 11 to 15 December 2019, in the Lomeri Novitiate in Fiji. The Chapter theme was “Journeying Together in Mission”.

The Chapter Assembly was formed by twenty-one delegates gathered from the five countries of the District: Fiji, Samoa, American Samoa, Kiribati and New Zealand. Also present were four visitors, Brothers Ernesto Sanchez, Superior General; Ben Consigli, Councillor General as Oceania Link Councillor; Peter Carroll, Provincial of Australia and Jean Marie Batick the District Leader of Melanesia.

During the Chapter were presented reports on the manner as to how the priorities of the District have been addressed. And after discussing and reflecting together six priorities were highlighted: Environmental action, brotherhood and community, new ministries with youth, spirituality, Champagnat Lay Marist partnership and Oceania re-organisation.

Likewise, the leadership transfer was made from Br. David McDonald to Br. John Hazelman. And the last day, the new Council was elected: Afaese Afaese, Peter Horide, Sefo Une, Kees Van der Weert and Kevin Wanden.

The Closing Mass was celebrated by the Marist Fathers’ Provincial of Oceania, Fr Stefano Mataele.

Referring to the District Chapter, Br. Hazelman said: “Twenty-one of us have been purposely committing ourselves to the process of dreaming, sharing and deliberating on our experiences of Marist Life today but more importantly, moving forward towards the future”.

For his part, Br. Peter Carroll mentioned: “It was a privileged and blessed time for all who participated…”

On the last day, the four Visitors thanked the District for its missionary witness, and committed themselves to real, respectful dialogue, collaboration and partnership.

Message from the District Leader on the conclusion of the 3rd District Chapter District of the Pacific - December 11 – 15, 2019

 

Dear Champagnat Marists of the District of the Pacific,

Kia Ora! Bula! Kona Mauri, Malo Aupito! Talofa lava!

Greetings to you all in the name of Mary and Marcellin.

Twenty One Marist Brothers from the District of the Pacific, together with the Brotherly presence of our Superior General Brother Ernesto Sanchez, his Councilor representative to Ocean Brother Ben Consigli, our other Oceania leaders Brothers Peter Carrol (Australia) and Jean Marie Batick (Melanesia) gathered for five fruitful days of welcoming, reflection, discussion and creating plans for moving forward.

 

 The Journey of the First Marist to Oceania and Mary’s Presence on their Journey

Some of our Marist historians stated that Our founder, St Marcellin Champagnat wanted to commit his life to the mission of the Society of Mary (priests and Brothers). If Marcellin Champagnat was to be given his wish to be a missionary, he would have travelled in a boat.

The first group of the newly established society of Mary travelled by sea when they arrived in Oceania in 1936. The phrases ‘Stella Maris’ or ‘Star of the Sea’ was a Marial title that was often associated with these voyages. For instance, the two Marist Fathers and a Brother trained by St Marcellin who brought Roman Catholicism to the shores of Samoa in 1842 travelled on a boat named “L’Etoile de la Mer’… the ‘Star of the Sea’.

We find here the significant presence of Mary in the experiences of our early Marist Missionaries during their voyages to Oceania. The title ‘Mary Star of the Sea’ is significant in the sense that the early Marists developed a firm trust of Mary as their guide on their journey. The imagery of star of course points out to us ‘the star’ that the Magi’s followed while searching for the newborn King … Jesus the Christ (Mt 2:1-12). The Magi’s trusted the ‘the star’ as their guide in finding the new born King … the baby Jesus the Christ.

Isn’t this the role of Mary in role of Mary in our lives as Marist Brothers? She becomes the star that points out to us the way to her son. Marcellin taught the early Brothers that Mary was our Ordinary Resource just as she was the ‘Star of the Sea’ for the first Marist Missionaries who travelled to Oceania.

 

“Let Mary’s heart beat in us, the great gift that Marcellin left us” (Br. Ernesto Sánchez)

In referring to Mary’s ‘YES’, Brother Ernesto stated in his message to us Champagnat Marists: “The “yes” of Mary pronounced at the Annunciation takes on its full meaning, thanks to her heart that was free and full of the fire of God. It was a “yes” that allowed her to risk all and that sustained her throughout her life, even in its most difficult moments… Marcellin’s life shows us the many ways in which his heart-beat was in tune with that of Mary.” What a wonderful message for us at this time of Advent … A Time of Waiting! Let us examine our hearts and ask ourselves … “Is my heart in tune with that of Mary.” This is a crucial question as we proceed from our recent District Chapter. It is a question that calls us to ‘contemplative listening’.

Let this call of Mary not just be an individual call but also a collective call for us Champagnat Marists of the Pacific. We need a collective response. We need to focus on the ‘We’ rather than the ‘I’. What is going to attract more young people to our way of life is what we can do together more than the great things we are doing as individuals. As Ernesto reminded us in message … “From Mary let us learn how to be beacons of hope for our times, not only as individuals but also as a community.”

I salute Brothers Kees, Fergus, Sam, Jone, Luke and our Champagnat Marists of Fiji for all the groundwork that you put into preparing for our 3rd District Chapter. Vinaka saka for the solemn and ceremonious cultural welcome our Superior General Brother Ernesto and the delegates and participants of the Chapter. In my experience, it was the first time that a full traditional Fijian “Veiqaravi Vakavanua” was presented by the people of Serua (Catholics from the inland villages of Nuku and Masi).

Journey Together on Mission … The Pacifican Wayfinders

In the hope of gaining inspiration from our theme … let us look back into our Pacific and Polynesian history.

The Pacifican Wayfinders; these Austronesian navigators who 1000s of years ago travelled vast distant of ocean in search for new land to start their new ‘homes’. They are our HEROS who offers us inspiration and purpose as we journey together on mission.

These ancestors of our Pacific people became known as the most successful and greatest navigators in the world. They embraced the ocean not as something to be feared but rather they embrace the vast Pacific Ocean as opportunities for new beginnings. They perceive the ocean as an open highway that would lead them to discover new places.

What may have motivated them to explore these vast distances of ocean? What could we learn collectively from their heroic examples?

Many academics believe that these forefathers did so for a purpose. On one hand, there was the longing to escape wars, famine or sickness and overpopulation. On the other hand, there was also the longing to find and occupy new lands.

They were not just wandering aimlessly in the vast Pacific Ocean. No, they had a purpose. Like us today, they needed to make some difficult decisions. Thus, they decided to move from island to island hoping to start a new life. They had a longing to leave the old way and to explore the new. To let go of the familiar but to set out into the horizon with a firm belief that new lands are to be discovered. The past was no longer relevant and so they seek new ways of being. They left behind familiarity, their comfort zones but took courage to journey together into the vast oceans … knowing that they will find new land.

The symbol of the Traditional canoes that the Preparatory committee asked each island group to bring to this chapter symbolizes the meaning of our gathering together at the Chapter. Those few days we had together were days of dreaming, days of sharing and deliberating together.

Traditional canoes were used for these distant voyages. For Fijians it was the Drua, for Maoris of Aotearoa it was the Waka hourua, for I-Kiribati it was the Te Waa, for Tongans it was the Valia and for Samoans it was the Va’atele. These were well built canoes that were made from the best timbers that were locally and regionally available. The cutting down of these giant trees involves a spiritual ritual which indicates the close relationship of our people with the natural environment. The event of canoe building was a community affair. There were the navigators, the canoe builders, the tree cutters, the traditional priests, the cantos and the dances. Isn’t the documents of our recent 22nd General Chapter calling us to work together as a Global Family?

Our recent experience of our own District Chapter reminded us that we need to build a stronger District of the Pacific canoe as we continue our journey together into the future.

This notion of journeying together was also noticed in the voyage expedition of our ancestors.

The navigating tools they were using for their Journey were of the natural elements; the wind, the sun, the moon, the formation of the stars, the ocean currents, the different colours of the ocean, the movements of the waves, the arrangement of the clouds, the flying patterns of birds all these acted as guides allowing them to see the ocean as a series of pathways rather then an obstacle.

What are the elements that we are experiencing today as we journey together for Mission? Do we perceive them as obstacles, as something frightening or do we embrace them as potential sources and opportunities for making our journeying together easier! To our ancestors … the sun rises was a powerful symbol of HOPE.

And isn’t hope a virtue to aspire for during this advent season?

Champagnat Marists … find below are the Dreams of us your Brothers who gathered in Lo-mary (the place of Mary) to discern our past, present and future. This is our collective message …

 

Message of the Chapter Delegates to the Brothers and Lay in the District of the Pacific

 

We were chosen by you, our Brothers, and tasked with dreaming our future, “Journeying Together on Mission.”

And so we met at Lomeri and launched our canoe, paddling together, assisted by the powerful wind of the Holy Spirit.

We looked to the stars and searched for the “new land” as we called on Mary, the Star of the Sea.

Now let us commit ourselves to journeying together into the deep in trust, facing the unknown, like our father Champagnat, but paying attention to the new signs of life around us.

We carry with us the wisdom and experience of our older brothers.  We rely on the vision, energy and inspiration of our young brothers and novices to read the stars, the clouds and the currents which will guide us into the future.

In any voyage there are times when we are fearful and vulnerable.  Despite this we continue the journey because we are together in faith.

In this 21st century we believe the most urgent signs of the times call us to attend to the following concerns:

 

Spirituality

Our spirituality is centred in Christ with Mary.  We wish to deepen our understanding of our own personal spiritual experiences and journeys.  In faith we connect these encounters with self, others and our God.  Now, with the urgency of climate change, we want to connect more closely with the whole of creation. 

 

Care of Mother Earth

Now is the time to act.  It is our responsibility to take care of the earth.  In the five countries of the Pacific we are grounded in these sacred lands, all linked by the great Ocean that surrounds us all.  This is where we belong. It is our common home.

 

Community life

We want to be brothers with the heart of Mary.  Let us make our communities living homes where each brother, regardless of age, feels valued and useful in his contribution to our life and mission.

 

Formation

Formation for Champagnat Marist life as brother or lay is by invitation to life and mission.  It includes a process of apprenticeship.

 

Youth and New Ministries

We need a better understanding of youth culture of the 21st  century.  Ministry involves formation of youth for mission, helping the marginalised and safeguarding children and vulnerable adults.

 

Lay Champagnat Marists

We encourage Lay Marists to identify their leadership, enabling them to grow in autonomy and partnership with the Brothers.

 

Restructuring

We continue to commit to the restructuring of the region of Oceania.

 

Message end.

___________

Lastly, I want to say Vinaka saka, Malo aupito, Korapa, Kia Ora, Faafetai lava, Thank You to each of you for your prayers as we gathered at Lomary.

To our Champagnat Marists of Fiji … Vinaka saka for your wonderful Fijian hospitality and for all the preparation for the Chapter. Special mention to Brother Jone Seduadua and the novices for your warm services and hospitality.

To our Brothers Ernesto Sanchez and Ben Consigli, thank you for your Brotherly presence with us. To Peter Carrol and Jean Marie Batick, thank you for joining us in our waka (canoe)… our call to move (row) forward is also our Marist Oceania integral call to closer collaboration and sharing the Dream together.

To our Former District Leader, Brother David McDonald, Kia Ora for being our Kaumatua for the last nine years. Thank you for helping us to set sail and to start the journey.

To Brothers Martin Pattison and Chris Maney for your creative contribution to our District Council. Thank you for your servant leadership.

To Brother Peter Horide, Thank you for your long services as our District Bursar. Your brotherly approach is second to none. Thank you for accepting to continue your service as a member of our District Council.

To Brother Kevin Wanden, Thank you for all the ‘behind the scene’ quiet services leading to the chapter and as chair of the District Chapter Steering Committee.

To Brothers Sefo Une and Barry Burns, Thank you for your deep insights and leadership as members of the District Chapter Steering Committee. Thank you Sefo for your generosity in continuing your great service as a member of our District Council.

To Brothers Afaese Afaese and Kees van der Weert, Thank you for your generosity in accepting your Brothers discernment to be the ‘new kids on the block’ for our District Council. Your bring new insight and fresh views into the District Leadership.

To Brother Siaosi Ioane, Thank you for your long services as the Country co-ordinator for Samoa. May your effective leadership at Marist Brothers Primary School continue to inspire others in the field of Marist Education.

To our Aged Brothers, Thank you for your presence to us in numerous ways … especially in your fidelity as you continue to share your presence to others.

To our Brothers and Champagnat Marists in our Marist Schools, Thank you for your commitment and service to Catholic and Marist Education.

To our Brothers and Champagnat Marists in other ministries, Thank you for your services to youth in need and in making Jesus present in the midst of people.

To our Champagnat Marists who are supporting our life and Marist Ministries through your selfless services on our numerous boards and committees, Thank you for helping us in rowing our waka (canoe).

To Citizen Tamatimu and members of our Administration team at Penrose, Thank you for sharing your expertise and services for us.

To Cilla Barkhuizen and our Health/Well-Being advisers, Thank you for your love and care as you continue to support us in caring for our Brothers.

Lastly, to Daniel Dungey and all our Champagnat Marists … Thank you for journey with us on our waka … We believe that without you we would struggle to find new lands. Please continue to help us.

 

Faafetai tele lava

______________________

Brother John Hazelman

District Leader

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