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4 December

Saint John Damascene and John Calabria
1889, opening of the first Marist school in Colombia

Marist Calendar - December

From the “Blue Room” to the “Champagnat Room”

 

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The Gathering Place for the General Conference

21/05/2007: General House

Everything eventually falls into place, usually with sense and sensitivity. The approaching general conference and the need for a space for it to meet signalled the appropriate moment to make a change. From the earliest days, a room on the ground floor of the generalate was called “the blue room” because of the color of the floor tiles. It was used as the official welcoming area for individuals and delegations. Gradually the area lost its character of diplomatic protocol and became a space where the brothers would meet for informal gatherings in the spirit of Marist family. For the general conference it has been redesigned in an attractive and useful way and renamed the “Champagnat Room”, which it will be called from now on.

The front wall of the room displays two scenes: the table in La Valla around which the first Marist community met and the cross that Father Champagnat had on his worktable. Various panels with color photographs continue the theme on the side walls. A child is born in Rosey. A picture of the chapel dedicated to Marcellin in Marlhes recalls his birth. A photo of the Hermitage recalls his death, as well as the fact that the community he founded also built the house. Painted on the walls in various colors is Champagnat’s signature, displayed today as a symbol of what he left in the building of the Hermitage—built with the fire in his heart, the sweat of his brow and the power of his hands. The signatures combine soft, diffuse shades, recalling Father Champagnats gentleness, with solid strokes, recalling his firmness of character. A large reproduction of a letter he wrote to the king of France reminds us of the beginnings of our Marist education ministry. Facing that, the image of our Good Mother, who has done everything for us, stands out. Completing the scene are two pictures of statues of Marcellin. The one in granite, in the church at Marlhes, alludes to the foundation of his personality and of his work, set on solid rock. The one in marble, located in the Vatican, shows Marcellin carrying a child on his shoulders and represents the mission of the Institute.

To give a tone to the work of the Brother Provincials and district Superiors during this 8th General Conference being held in the Champagnat Room, other symbols have been placed—work tools similar to the ones Marcellin and his brothers used to remove the rock and make space to build a house for the community. We also see wheelbarrows to carry the rocks, pickaxes to break them up and steel instruments to lift heavy weights. Today, the brothers who are in the forefront of building a new Hermitage for the entire Institute are struggling to put this signature, handed down by our Marist predecessors, on the communities and ministries that our hands and our hearts give life to.

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