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Marists of Lagny, France - Fraternity and Community

16/05/2009: France

Located twenty miles from Paris, the municipality of Lagny sur Marne is home to a Marist Brothers’ school called St. Laurent La Paix Notre Dame. The establishment includes a primary school of 418 students, a middle school of 1152 students and a high school with course offerings both general and specialized (in technology). Although three Brothers who have recently come to Lagny do not have any administrative responsibility for the school, their presence, behind the scenes and offered gratis, brings to the wide-ranging scholastic environment - as one adult has phrased it - “a bit of the human touch and a dose of the spiritual.” The Brothers’ presence is felt especially in the pastoral aspects of the school.

The Fraternity of the Champagnat Movement, «open to those who are looking for the spirituality of Marcellin Champagnat » (Statute 164.4 of the Constitutions) gathers those who perspectives go beyond the immediate setting of the school. Several of the Fraternity members take leadership roles in the school’s pastoral activities such as catechesis and sacramental preparation. One of the members is a teacher; another is a retired administrator. Others are involved in local Marist activities which have come into existence within the educative activities of the school. Whether at the school or elsewhere, all the Fraternity members live out their commitments in the light of Marist spirituality. In close relationship with the Brothers, the Fraternity has a way of opening its actions to the Church in the immediate area.

On Sunday, February 8, 2009, our activity was aimed at reaching out to the local parish community.

We set a day apart for this activity, establishing the details in agreement with Father Bruno, the local parish priest. The agreement gave us the possibility of having a significant amount of time in which to present to the Sunday parishioners something of the Marist spirit which should be our inspiration: service, social outreach, simple human contacts.

Starting at 10:30, the Brothers offered a multimedia presentation at the parish church of Notre-Dame des Ardents. The presentation brought out aspects of Marist spirit, while relating something about Marist origins and about the life and activities of our Fraternity. The Brothers and the Fraternity members were present, offering a warm welcome, providing information and comments, inviting . . . .

At 11:00 Mass was celebrated, and each participant received a sheet that contained not only the Mass songs, but information about the Marist project and the prayer which is characteristic of the Fraternity.

The icon of Marcellin was borne up during the entrance procession and set in place within the sanctuary.

The entire Fraternity and the Brothers’ community took the leadership in the welcome ceremonies, the singing, the reading, the prayers of intercessions and the distribution of Communion.

Our desire was to offer to the gathered community a witness to unity in the one Spirit which is active in each of us: to be a witness to CHRIST, living by his Word in MARY’S way and in line with the message left to us by Saint Marcellin CHAMPAGNAT,

When the prayerful and animated celebration was over, we gathered at the back of the church to have an aperitif: a moment of lively conversation, of simple sharing, above all for the Brothers’ community who came to see that many people with St. Laurent connections were present: students, parents, their memories coming alive in recalling one or other of the Brothers now living elsewhere or already deceased.

Then at 1:00 P.M. we shared a meal at the parish center in which several parishioners joined. The interactions were rather reserved, but the occasion was but a beginning! The priests, Father Bruno and Father Salvador, were invited as well. They are comfortable being with our Fraternity, but on the Sunday in question they had other commitments and could stay only briefly.

In moments such as these - of warmth, friendship, solidarity - we would be tempted, as at the Transfiguration, to set up our tent and prolong the moment. At the same time, however, circumstances brought us back to the reality of our day to day lives, back to those who are waiting for us to return, back to those who have need of our presence: our families, the sick, our neighbors. After all, that is our mission as disciples of Christ and of Marcellin.

Special moments like this, however - even if rare - give us strength to face our daily lives, give us strength for the journey. They reinforce our baptismal com-mitment and our Marist commitment - to answer the Gospel invitation through the charism of Marcellin and to bear witness, giving a response to the words of encouragement spoken by our parish priest: “Let people know about yourselves and what you are doing!” Yes, only this one activity has now taken place. Yes, it was just a single, simple occasion, but it will call others to come after it, so as to respond to the breath of the Spirit whose breezes stir us through the invitations of the Church and of the Institute.

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