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The present realities of the Institute: what do they tell us?

 

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General Council meets with the Provincial Councils of FMS Europe - III

12/12/2007: Spain - Photo gallery

December 6 got under way with a presentation about vocation work in each of the five European Provinces. The presentations revealed that dynamism, ongoing progress and established programs exist in this work. Each Province has followed its own road in response to the contemporary realities it has to face. In addition, admirable collaboration has taken place among several Provinces in vocation promotion. Despite such efforts, one gets the impression, as a whole, that we see a kind of wall before us, and the sight causes us to slow our pace.

After all Provinces had reported, Brother Emili Turu offered a reflection on: what attitude should be adopted before such an obstacle. We could give up the effort, fold our arms and abandon the goals we have set. On the other hand, we can accept the challenge before us and surmount the wall which is slowing our advance. “A wall is interesting only in as much as it makes us think about how we can get over it”: thus Brother Emili’s comment.

Brother Emili continued his reflection, commenting on the contemporary crisis in religious life, a general crisis which is not to be blamed on religious life itself. The secularization process arouses soul searching, not only about religious life, but about society in general. The cause of such questioning is the generalized character of economic life.

The fact that everything is in crisis means that we too are in crisis. The crisis is not a European problem but one that has arisen in technological societies. So it is that the challenge is for us to select new courses of action, capable of producing new ways of living in a secularized society. Brother Emili asked: Does Europe, the birthplace of Marist life, have the courage to offer a new religious life for the future?

Thereupon the discussion got underway with a confident attitude towards the future. “In Europe, religious life has a future.” The contemporary situation is not the first time that the Institute is facing a crisis. Brother Emili recalled the deep crisis which arose because of the laicization process in France, a process that was the point of departure for the Institute’s extension outside of France. The questions raised by Brother Emili’s words were also a bold challenge: “Considering the challenge we are facing, will we have the courage to do something new, not merely for our Brothers in Europe, but even for all the Brothers of the Institute?”

Brother Emili ended his comments by speaking about the young people who live in all secularized societies. He remarked that such young people have the right to hear someone tell them about Jesus, to hear someone invite them to enter a form of consecrated life. The Gospel is for all continents. Europe needs to take a lesson from its own history. A new kind of society calls for a new sort of Marist Brothers’ life. What is new is slow to appear; what is old does not die quickly. To the extent that it discovers its rightful place, the Institute, the Marist Brothers will have a clear identity, will evangelize efficaciously, will be an attractive vocation to young people.

Small-group sessions

From the group sessions, some striking points came to the surface. In all Provinces, forward- looking steps have been made; there is no standing still. Provinces have taken many initiatives and set up new processes. Among the initiatives and processes many similarities may be noted. Yet, if one wants something really new to surface, it will have to be with structures other than the structures presently in place. One must situate the reflection upon vocation in a setting of personal dialogue with young people who are looking for meaning, who have a hunger and thirst for God. One has to discover, to discern the places where such a search for God arises, the roads along which the search takes place. In such a context personal witness is very important, and so to are liminal situations.

Community and Vocations

Several participants asked why we do not have vocations drawn from the students of our own schools. Marist life has to reveal a new countenance, a new language which will speak to contemporary people. We are living in a period in which society is undergoing a change which can be seen as an opportune moment. A new society is being born. What kind of life must we create for this nascent society? Community and apostolate, the witness of life: these are essential to vocation promotion. Is our life as Brothers just like the surrounding culture? What makes us different? We can accept society’s values and not bemoan the situation. Are we capable of creating a new manner of living Marist life?

To make community the means of helping young people is important; to invite people to join us. Our communities have to be open to young people. All communities ought to be close to young people in their vocation experiences and their maturing process. Some young people are favorably impressed despite the weaknesses that they see among us. Our communities can be seen more positively than they presently are.
The best form of vocation promotion is the witness of our lives. We invited the Provin-cial Councils to take on an inventive kind of leadership so as to suggest realistic responses from Brothers and from communities. We Brothers do not all think alike. In what way are we going to adopt a similar sort of action plan? How can we get out of Province shell so as to feel responsible for all of Europe? Take a look at what is new in the communities which have recently arisen, such as Taizé as mentioned by several participants.

And finally, some questions

The Marist vocation has a future on the horizon, both for Brothers and for laity. What difference is there between the Brother’s vocation and that of laity who are linked to the Marist Brothers? What does the Brother’s vocation possess beyond that of the lay person? Young people have an appreciation of Father Champagnat’s way of living. Why do they not equally appreciate the Brother’s life? Vocations come from places of poverty; are we in the places where we ought to be?

Having discussed so many ideas, the Brothers took some personal time in an atmosphere of prayer, there to discover in what way the Spirit is guiding us and, along that way, to make creative responses.


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