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The English Speaking Third Age Course

05/11/2009: General House

If one word springs to mind about our reception at the General House in Rome it is “welcome”. But another word also springs readily to mind: it is the word “gentle”. Everyone has been so welcoming, everyone has been so gentle. Whether it was running into the former Superior General Seán Sammon in the corridor and being welcomed by name and with a hug or whether it was encountering the new Superior General Brother Emili Turú in the lift and receiving a shy welcome; whether it was being greeted by the Brothers of the Spanish and Portuguese speaking Third Age group or being offered a coffee and Alpestre by one of the Brothers in the community, we knew that we were at home in our own house. It mattered little that Manziana was not available for us – we were in our own house and at home.

Our little group gathered in dribs and drabs, but from the earliest moment we started to bond. There was a simple Mass for the wee few, celebrated by our Scottish chaplain, Father Bernard Barlow, a Servite priest and friend of Brother Brendan Geary. There was a walk around the local area for the small few, led by the one-eyed man in the land of the blind. One walked fast, one walked slow, but somehow we managed to walk together.

There have been unexpected moments. Two Brothers visited St Peter’s and by pure good chance saw the new statue of Champagnat through the Sacristy window which they opened “senza permissione” (apparently not the done thing) and captured the moment on film (actually, on a digital camera). Another special moment was a small farewell for Seán Sammon. Quite a delightful little celebration, conducted in Italian, but one could get the gist of it and it was a privilege to be there.

On Tuesday 27 October at 5.30 (pm!) we gathered for a simple, gentle induction ceremony. Barry Burns is the essence of gentle leading. There are 8 Marist Brothers: 4 from Australia, 2 from NZ, 1 from Japan and 1 from the States; and there are 3 Marianist Brothers – 2 from the States and 1 from Austria. Brothers Barry Burns (NZ) and Antoine Kazindu from Rwanda (looking about 35 but admitting to 50) run the course; and Father Bernard is our chaplain.

The next day we had a look around the house. The General Council’s chapel has been beautifully refurbished with a startling green marble floor; the beatification stained glass windows have been resituated and a new window added to honour the canonisation. The chapel features Champagnat’s altar and the statue of La Bonne Mère, and M. Ravery’s second portrait of the Founder – the one with the eyes open.

Thursday was a day for sharing personal stories. Our ages average about 70, ranging from early 60s to late 70s, and even though there is a good range of ages and countries and two different Congregations, it is an easy mix of people well established in religious life and all quite happy to be growing old in the service. There are some touching stories – losses and hurts, joys and triumphs, conversions and discoveries.

The group is settling in nicely – it is very relaxed and easy; and the atmosphere in the General House is really very welcoming. There’s always some sort of party going on for a welcome, a farewell or a birthday or a feast day somewhere in the house and so there is a really lovely sense about it all. Rome has something to offer everyone. It is the Eternal City and it is a microcosm of our own lives and journeys. We hope to discover many good things here in the next two months.

___________
Br Anthony Butler



Participants

Marist Brothers: Br Anthony Butler, Br Julian Quinlan, Br Ian Mcombie, Br Martin Connell (from Australia), Br Patrick McNamara, Br John Fitzgibbon (from New Zealand), Br Joseph Yoshida (from Japan), Br Robert Conley(USA).

Marianists: Br Daniel Stupka (USA), Br Jeffrey Sullivan (from USA), Fr Eugen Mensdorff-Pouilly (from Austria).

Chaplain: Fr Bernard Barlow (from Scotland)

Team: Br Barry Burns (from New Zealand), Br Antoine Kazindu (from Rwanda)

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