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Mission Ad Gentes Orientation Programme



Second batch of thirteen Brothers

07/02/2007: Philippines

While throughout the short history of our Institute generations of brothers were called (or in some cases forced by circumstances) to take the risk of leaving their homelands to provide an evangelising presence around the world, it is possible that in recent years this audacity has been tempered by the call to maintain and develop the many excellent educational institutions set up by these former missionaries. The capitulants at the 20th General Chapter, as part of the call to “Choose Life”, stated that the time has come for a new chapter in our missionary history to be written.

At the General Conference in Sri Lanka in 2005, Brothers Sean and Luis presented to the Provincials the outline of a very audacious project, a proposal to mission 150 brothers over four years to new apostolic works throughout the countries of Asia. The Conference provided its endorsement, and the personal call went out to all the brothers in Sean’s letter of January 2006. Within a very short period of time a team had been appointed to set up the infra-structure needed to support and focus the project, and in mid-2006 the first group of seventeen brothers arrived at Davao to prepare themselves for the discernment process. In the space of one year, this group is now preparing to form new communities in Asia and a couple of other areas of urgent need.

The second batch of thirteen Brothers arrived at Davao in mid-January. Coming from five different continents, from seven different countries and with few English-first-language speakers, the group has nevertheless jelled very quickly as we have taken on the challenge of building a multi-cultural community. Interestingly, a recent discernment experience illustrated that we had participants from every number on the Enneagram. Our ages range from a young 31 year-old to a more experienced 63 year-old. We have come from a wide variety of backgrounds, some with extensive leadership experience, others just beginning on the path; some with wide out-of-culture experiences, others who have worked within their own culture for many years; some from involvement in formal education, others from informal, sometimes more marginal apostolates. Clearly, there is no single ‘type’ of brother who responds.

This is no elite group of Brothers. We are Brothers who have all toiled, some for many years, in the many good works being done in various countries of the world. There is nothing ‘special’ about us. It has quickly become clear that we are all ordinary Brothers, trying to discern God’s will for us. The initial plunge has been very gentle. The team has gone to great lengths to ensure that all of us, regardless of our backgrounds, will cope with the initial demands of the Davao experience.

As a group we are all aware of and acknowledge the sacrifices made by our Provinces, by our previous places of ministry, and by Brothers and Lay Partners who are carrying the loads which were previously ours. It is these groups who are perhaps making the greatest sacrifices initially.

And what happens if we and the team discern, at the end of our Davao experience, that we might not be called to form new communities in Asia. There are other options: some of us might instead support initiatives that are already up-and-running but which would benefit from an additional presence; others might return to their home Province to continue their apostolates – at the very least they will bring them a renewed awareness of the mission of a Marist Brother in today’s world, and the courage to promote this approach to mission within their provinces.

Our General Chapter made it clear that we all have a call to play a part in “writing a new chapter in our missionary history”, whether through this programme or in our current provinces. The orientation team for the Mission Ad Gentes Programme is already well into the planning for the next courses beginning in mid-2007 and early 2008. Brothers and lay partners, the message from us here would be, if you discern a possible call, don’t be fearful of taking the plunge!

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