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Laypeople and brothers regenerate together the Marist charism



Two experiences of joint formation and charismatic vitality

21/02/2008: General House

The collaboration between the Secretariat for the Laity and the Commission for Religious Life contributes to implement one of the visions outlined by the International Assembly of Mendes (Brazil): the joint Marist formation of brothers and laypeople.

From 1st to 31st July 2008, at Quito (Ecuador) – for the Spanish and Portuguese language sector – and from 26th April to 17th May 2009, at St Paul-Trois-Châteaux (France) – for the English and French language sector – there will be two international experiences of joint formation and charismatic vitality.

The general objective is to “form a group of brothers and laypeople to promote the process of joint formation among the administrational units of the Institute”.

Formation for Marist life has been one-way for many years; on one side provided by brothers to young people seeking to embrace Marist religious life (initial formation), and on the other, again by brothers to help maintain their creative fidelity (ongoing formation).

Starting with the seventies, a new concept of Marist formation began, provided by the brothers, but addressed to laypeople, especially to the management staff and lay professors of the Marist educational works. The brothers started to talk about the charism to them, as well as of the Marist spirituality and mission. It was a vital necessity for the Marist institutions in order to avoid losing their own identity. It was not enough to have the few brothers in each work live according to this spirit, the entire educational community had to be imbued with it.

The courses, workshops and retreats were extended to nearly all the provinces of the Institute. They were complemented by further and more profound levels of learning; though at the beginning they were focussed on the concern for concrete educational action within the framework of the schools, their scope soon spread: it began to include also the administrational and auxiliary staff, as well as the pupils’ parents, the alumni, the voluntary workers, plus the pastoral and solidarity animators, etc.

What had begun as a formation course focussing on concrete educational activities (for the pupils), became something that affected the lives of the laypeople, an actual formation for concrete experience in Christian life. The terms, attitudes and style of Marist life were strongly adjusted by some of the laypeople. They started to speak of a Marist charism, of Marist spirituality and mission, and brothers and laypeople alike both felt they were up to it. Some laypeople, encouraged by the brothers, began to ask themselves whether there was a Marist vocation for the laity, because they felt that the Marist character was a way of living the Gospel that appealed to them, that it was a mission, called for by God and leading beyond any employment contract.

In the nineties, and especially after the canonisation of St. Marcellin Champagnat, the idea that the charism of Champagnat was a charism for the Church started to grow roots; there was a common Marist vocation, but specific Marist vocations to religious life (male and female), lay vocations (as married or celibate men and women) as well as priestly vocations were all possible, following the charism of Champagnat, etc.

In this period some laypeople – in touch with the Marist vocation – together with the brothers, began to take part in teams that provided formation courses also to other laypeople concerning the Marist charism and spirituality.

Today we are about to inaugurate a new formation model, now even more revolutionary than the previous ones, which we call “joint Marist formation”. By this we mean that laypeople and brothers – if they responsibly develop their common and specific Marist vocation – must begin to “learn from each other” the grace of God, as it is spread by the Marist charism that is present in the Church today.

We then begin to understand one of the statements of the last General Chapter (2001): “We commit ourselves to work and spend time together, to reflect on what constitutes our Marist identity, and to clarify the different forms of belonging to the Institute” (Choose Life, 29).

The Marist charism, spirituality and mission are enriched by the variety and complementary nature of the different status of life in which the charism of the founder of a spiritual family can be lived, such as the Marist Family of Champagnat. “The participation of the laity often brings unexpected and rich insights into certain aspects of the charism, leading to a more spiritual interpretation of it and helping to draw from it directions for new activities in the apostolate” (Vita consecrata, 55).

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