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1st European Meeting of Lay Marists – Society Of Mary

07/09/2007: Italy

From the 23rd to the 26th of August, the first European meeting of Lay Marists was held at Saint Joseph Center (La Salle), Turin at the initiative of the Marist Fathers, the Marist Sisters (S.M.) and the Marist Missionary Sisters (S.M.S.M.).

More than one hundred laypeople and religious participated in this meeting coming from several countries: Ireland, United Kingdom, Holland, France, Spain, Germany and Italy. These people belonged to different groups who live the Marist spirituality inherited from Father Colin and the other founders of the Society of Mary, within parishes or other works carried out by the three above-mentioned branches.

Representing the Marist Brothers were two invited guests: Brother Pau Fornells, Director of the Bureau for Laity, and Andrés Gil, a member of the animation team of the Champagnat Movement Fraternities from the Province of Ibérica.

This meeting had been prepared during the school year by an international commission of laypeople from the different branches, under the slogan “Happy to be Marists,” with four objectives:
- making known the different community experiences of lay Marist spirituality in Europe;
- getting processes for communication underway ;
- looking for future paths which would challenge the Marist Laity;
- working on certain aspects of Marist spirituality, especially that which concerns lay identity.

To reach these objectives, the organizers proposed five talks:
- “The Role of the Laity in the Church and in Today’s World in Europe” (Don Ermis Segatti).
- “Hidden and Unknown in the World. Is that possible in today’s society?” (Father Jan Hulshof, Superior General of the Marist Fathers).
- “Daily Marist Spirituality and how it relates to our Christian communities” (Laura Dealessi, Italian laywoman).
- “Identity of the Marist Laity and relationships among the religious branches. To what extent has Father Colin’s dream been realized?” (Marie Claude Grulier, French laywoman).
- “Lay Marists. What are the perspectives for the future?” (Marion Korenromp, Dutch laywoman).

These talks were followed by group work, by times of prayer and community celebration and by festive gatherings, in a magnificent ambiance of communication, in spite of the inherent difficulties of linguistic differences.

At the closing of the Assembly, a synthesis of the lived experience and moments of sharing was presented:
- We have in common the reality of being Christians and Marists. We live our differences as a source of riches.
- This first meeting has been important to us; it constitutes the base for future communication among us. It is important that we got together.
- Getting to know one another encouraged us to feel accompanied on the way and helps us to move forward. We feel like a family.

The work in group suggested some action for the future:

To promote European meetings every three years and to encourage the local meetings when that is possible; to communicate among ourselves and invite each other to the different activities organized here and there; to especially look into a meeting with the Fraternities of the Champagnat Movement and to aim toward a greater autonomy of the lay movement by taking on more important responsibilities

In dealing with communication, to use the possibilities of the web and e-mail to keep in touch; to promote the development of a periodic bulletin and to be able to distribute an address book of Marist places and communities.

As for formation, each country should take the responsibility of organizing formation meetings, and exchanging information and material. It seems necessary to work on Lay identity and to deepen Marist spirituality.

These are the resolutions adopted by the Assembly: to establish the prayer of the Magnificat as an identifying element; to create a European coordination team, with a representative from each country, whose objectives would be to prepare the next European meeting which will take place in three years and to take into consideration the ideas and challenges brought forth throughout these days.

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