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An exchange on the reality of our countries and the Marist vocation in Asia



A meeting of the General Council with a group of Asian young people

04/10/2007: Philippines - Photo gallery

During the days of September 21-24, Brother Sean and the general council met a group of young people from several Asian countries. There had been a similar meeting with young people of Europe at Siguenza (Spain) in 2005 at the time of the Marist annual professions, and with a group of African young people at Nairobi (Kenya) in November 2006.

At the end of the meeting at Tagaytay, near the city of Manila, Philippines, the young people and the brothers with them once again expressed their admiration of the approach and the simplicity of Brother Sean and each of the general councillors.

Manuel de Leon, provincial, besides giving his fullest attention to the organisation of the meeting, showed how close he was to the young and to the brothers through his direct participation. The meeting was well facilitated using an approach adapted to the world of the young, thanks to participation by all the delegations: Hong Kong, Korea, Malaysia and the Philippines, and above all thanks to the challenging work of the coordinating team. This group consisted of brothers Paterno Corpus (coordinator), Joe Torrecampo, Arnel Alfanta, Demostenes Calabria, Rommel Occasiones, and Roshan Silva, assisted by Ernest Sanchez, director of the Vocations Secretariat. It was also possible to take advantage of the valuable collaboration of brothers from MAPAC (International Centre of Formation for Asia and the Pacific) afforded by the presence of brothers Anselmo Kim, Vincent Celeste and Michel Abajar at the meeting.

The general aim of the meeting was to provide an opportunity for the Asian young people to reflect, dialogue and share on their lives as Christians in the concrete reality of their country. At the same time, there was the chance to share something of the Marist vocation in this continent.

The young people expressed their points of view and their preoccupations. They shed light on positive and interesting aspects of their countries, and at the same time said what a challenge it was to earn a living as professionals, while providing voluntary services; what attitude to have in view of the technological invasion; how to respond to the common desire to deal with gangsterism, drugs, etc.; how to create a family style of communication when both parents work and have little real time to be together. They suggested some ways of dealing with these challenges, such as the education of the young, the engagement of professional people, beyond work interests, working at understanding themselves better and growing as persons, a commitment to working together as Christians.

To develop the dialogue on certain situations facing these countries, the coordinating team invited a number of councillors to share their experiences. Brother Emil Turu described the organisation of Marist youth ministry in other continents, and showed some pictures of Easter gatherings of youth at Avellanas (Spain). Brother Peter Rodney shared an experience with the young in the Pacific islands. Brother Luis Sobrado outlined the Mission ad Gentes project that the Institute has already started.

Not only the plenary sessions, but also small group meetings offered very rich opportunities for the participants to speak, ask questions, and offer to one and all, the young and the brothers, the possibility of sharing their ideas and reflections.

Times of prayer and the celebration of the Eucharist each day helped to make Jesus more and more the centre of the meeting. Moments of prayer animated by the young people creatively succeeded in focusing the attention of the group and bringing about a deeper participation. The opening Eucharist, animated by Asian brothers of MAPAC, was marked by symbols and gestures appropriate to the cultures of Sri Lanka, India and Pakistan. The Sunday marial prayer, the hymns honouring Marcellin, the familiarity of the brothers and the young people obvious in the activities of the meeting were also a means of expressing certain values that we have in common as Marists. Although the brothers and the young people were of such different cultures and diverse languages, we nevertheless resonated with the same Marist spirit.

One day was set aside to reflect on the Marist vocation in our time. The young people spoke of the positive influence that the Marist brothers had had on their lives. They spoke of family spirit, the kind of leadership that drew them to live Christian values, involvement, patience and optimism. They singled out some outstanding impressions like simplicity, the capacity to dream, living the ordinary in an extraordinary way, the gift of vocation, practicality. They also spoke surely of a number of challenges facing the brothers, such as the importance of having a visible presence, of the great witness needed in view of materialism and the comfortable life, and the need for great clarity about the identity of the Marist brother today. T-In the same way they suggested strong reinforcement of the ministry of vocations and of working with lay people to share spirituality and mission. In an open forum they raised very interesting questions and reflections about the challenges facing the young today in responding to the call of the Lord, especially in the matter of a religious vocation.

On the last day, Brother Sean had a few words for the young people. He described his journey “from head to heart”, and challenged them to find God in the middle of the dialogue they had shared during the meeting. He invited them to dream, reminding them that as young people they were not only the future, but also the present in their countries. He also spoke of the path of religious vocation, comparing it to that of love, insisting that only by being fully in love with Jesus would we be able to make him the centre and the passion of our lives.

The meeting finished with a vote of thanks to all those present, to all the young participants, James, Daryl, Zea, Rom, Mark, Marisol, Rojen, Mark Angelo, Mary Joy, John Adrian, Hyron, Kareen, Francis, Janice, Paul, Marivic, Freedom, Cayetano, Gerry, Benjie, Peter, Damian, Sabrina, James, Pak Shing Mario, Yan Ho, Yun Jong, and Gwak Byung, and to the brothers who came with them, Christopher Gorit, Jeff Antiquisa, John Tan, Domingo Lee and John Chong.

The dream of Champagnat to make Jesus known and loved comes alive wherever all that is Marist is shared with the young. This was palpably true during the days of the meeting. Faced with the question: “What will be lasting about the Tagaytay meeting?” we have to believe that that will be up to each of the participants and above all to each of the provinces involved, to watch over and follow up the outcomes of the meeting, as well as to continue to encourage and build up different avenues for the ministry to the young and the ministry of vocations in keeping with their different circumstances.

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