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Lay people and brothers: what the body is telling us

20/09/2017 / 7614 |

22nd General Chapter: Lay people and brothers: what the body is telling us

The chapter devoted its 12th day to the laity and to the report on the economic situation. The two morning sessions were led by 8 lay people invited to the Chapter. In the afternoon, Br. Libardo Garzón presented the economic reality of the Institute. These sessions were not moments for decisions and approvals of documents, but the continuation of the awareness of the Institute as a body.


Beginning with prayer

The morning prayer began with a Tai Chi exercise. Brother Tony Leon then presented a video for meditation that underlined the fact that as an Institute we are one body in Christ. The prayer helped to orient the group in continuing to discover the identity of the Institute.


Continuing to discover the body of the Institute

Noemy Pinto began the animation by inviting Chapter participants to discover their own body and the presence of the other through hugs, looks, greetings, circles. An easy exercise for some, but challenging for others.

Tony Clarke then introduced the morning's work. In small groups composed of 3 people, as cells of a body, the Chapter participants shared their lived experience of the relationship between brothers and lay people, in community, in mission, in spirituality. They were asked to reflect on how these experiences helped both lay people and Brothers to live the Marist life. They were also asked to highlight the news elements discovered in the relationships experienced and what prevented the success of shared life.


Sharing Reflection

When the groups started feeding back to the large group what they had heard, many contributions were shared. Some of these we highlight next and they denote the perception that one has as body from the perspective of the relationship between brothers and laity:

  • Communion with the laity is a light for the experience as Brothers.
  • Religious life is characterized by fraternity, spirituality and mission. The door of the lay people in Marist life is mission and from there the relationship extends to spirituality and community life.
  • The Christian vocation is the starting point. Then comes the invitation to the Marist life.
  • Lay people often become role models for the Brothers, especially teaching how to be church.
  • Marist charism and mission are not the property of the Brothers.
  • The experience of living together is a challenge.
  • For some Brothers, the lay question is essential, for others it is not a theme. In some places it is an affirmed theme, in others it is taking the first steps
  • The missio’s table unites brothers and lay people, especially in the essential areas of the person, such as education. Hence comes communion and the search for deeper ways of sharing the common charism, being Marist.
  • The different dimensions of the person and the institution should walk together. If the Administrative Units fail to take this into account, the common experience will not materialize.
  • Who are the lay Marists? Are they characterized by a process, by a commitment or are they all who have contact with the Marists?
  • The key word is fellowship. Always begins by sharing and then the stories grow, the vocation develops, characterizing itself as a vocational process that enriches the vocation of the Brother.
  • Structures need to be born out of lived experiences and not before then.
  • In true communion, sharing does not only happen at the level of mission but permeates life as a whole. And it may happen that the door of entry into the vocational process is not necessarily the mission.
  • Three keywords in the relationship are identity, follow-up, and dialogue.
  • Young brothers grow naturally through communion with the laity; the elderly have difficulties welcoming this aspect of Marist life.
  • Lay volunteers have given fraternal energy to communities in Asia, where communities are usually made up of two brothers.
  • The complexity and particularity of presence on the 5 continents means that each context has its own path.
  • The emergence of the laity is like a blood transfusion, which fills the seemingly weakened body with energy. Once the transfusion is made, the new blood is not distinguishable from that previously present and reaches all the cells of the organism, producing life. If blood stops circulating to somewhere in this body, the result is gangrene.

What the body is telling us

Pep Buetas recalled the steps taken by the Institute in relation to the theme of the lay vocation, especially in the line of formation and currently in the vocational process, which time will tell what is the appropriate proposal.

Taking advantage of the image of the body, the other invited lay people led moments of reflection based on four emotions: fear, sadness, anger and joy. The functioning of the body is based on emotions: the brain detects whether what we are living is a threat or a survival aid. If it is a threat, it causes fear and other reactions. Instead, if it is a help, it does not reject the experience. Therefore, it is important to have awareness of the emotions, to name them, to know what is happening.

The whole group moved to a corner of the chapter room. For every emotion they moved to another corner, beginning with fear. There was a possibility to express what are the situations that cause fear, what sorrows, what situations provoke anger, and what also are the joys of the relationship between brothers and lay people.


Afternoon session

The third session of the day, from 3:00 p.m. to 5:00 p.m., began with the participants praying for the earthquake-stricken population of Mexico and the Marist Fathers, the Society of Mary, who are holding their General Chapter from September 20 to October 11 at Nemi, Italy.


Financial dimension of the body

Libardo Garzón


Br Libardo Garzón, Bursar General and invitee to the Chapter, gave a presentation on the economic aspect of the Institute. Unlike previous General Chapters, the focus of the presentation was on the financial situation of the Institute rather than the General House.

Until recently, there was no possibility of collecting financial data from the entire Institute. Today, thanks to the DOMUS application developed by the Brasil Centro-Sul Province team, this is now possible. This gives an overview of the Institute's economy.

After presenting several graphs with technical details, Brother Libardo concluded by underlining some aspects:

  • The institute has strong financial capital
  • Most of the input comes from what we well know: primarily education
  • 6% of capital invested in solidarity
  • There has been a lowering of the profit margin
  • There are Provinces that need professional support
  • The congregation needs to consider the long-term sustainability of the Institute


Need to change mentality

The lack of a strategic perspective, with common priorities, is needed; each Administrative Unit walks according to its own convictions. A change of mentality is necessary that takes into account 4 aspects:

  • Ethical management
  • Competent management
  • Solidarity
  • The Institute as a global body

It is necessary to ask what economic model the Institute wants to follow: franchising, federation or a global body?

Having heard these aspects and questions, there was time for sharing of impressions and comments regarding the administration of assets in the Institute.


Concern with Mexico and activity in fraternities

The afternoon session ended with the reading of a message from Brother Javier Salcedo, vice provincial of Central Mexico, where he says that the Marist works of the Province are ok and no one in a Marist work was injured by the earthquake in Mexico.

The final activity of the day was the sharing of life done in fraternities, from 18:30 to 19:30.