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Enlarged General Council with the Provinces of Arco Norte (3)

14/11/2008: Mexico

After the work carried out to understand the reality of the region, an attempt was made to discover what is happening in the hearts of the participants. Today we want to listen to the feelings of this group , said Brother Emili Turú, who facilitated this session. He continued by saying: We will be able to discover this if we reveal what is in our heart with simplicity and transparency. To be able to do this we must listen to each other, to listen to those from the north, from the centre or from the south. In this way we will be able to become aware of what is happening in this group. In order to centre the ideas and feelings that would be shared he proposed the reading of numbers 73 and 74 from Water from the Rock which speak of reading reality from faith and of cultivating an attitude of openness.

In an atmosphere of prayers and brotherhood they listened to various interventions. The questions on which the personal reflection centred were the following: “To what does God call me, personally, at this time of the Arco Norte region?” and What do you think is the call that God is directing to this Marist region?” Here are some individual answers that, in some way, reflect the feeling of many of the brothers:

I was impressed in a positive way by the way Seán touched on the aspect of spiritual indifference, the sacrifice and the renouncement that should affect the important options in life. I had not heard a similar call since he was a novice. I came here with no fixed agenda. The proposal was not clear. You, on the other hand, have surprised me with that call to go beyond my country, beyond where my world is. I understand that there are urgencies that are necessary to help us move forward, but I am afraid that we cannot draw up a good plan in 48 hours.

Another brother said: “I would respond to this question like Mary. What we are living in these historical moments is for me a new annunciation. The Lord is calling me to something that I do not understand and which surpasses my capabilities. The Lord calls me to make known Jesus in the whole Arco Norte. I wonder how one can do that. The Holy Spirit opens up for me new perspectives with many ideas and aids. My faith comes from the old Abraham. My Province can call herself Elizabeth. Like Abraham and like Mary I should leave my country, leave my house and go to visit. Once the angel gave the message to Mary he left and Mary set out for the house of her cousin Elizabeth to live out the consequences of her yes. I am willing to follow her through the roads of Arco Norte as Marcellin did along the paths of Pilat.

The testimony of another brother said this: It would be a mistake to centre attention only on the needs of the Provinces. It is necessary to have a process to assist the Montagne of today, convinced that our mission is to work for the children and neglected young people. I feel the call to move beyond my Province. We have cultural differences; diverse ways of praying or of communicating and there are problems of visas to go from one country to another. But I believe that I have to widen my heart, to continue widening the mission, sharing it with brothers and lay people, to open new roads that, without having them completely clear or discerned, are God’s roads. We must continue to create ways of exchange between the Provinces, at the beginning with volunteers and later with defined structures of participation, that is to say, we will have to live a kind of mission ad gentes inside Arco Norte”.

It was also remarked that “we must begin to identify the wealth and poverty which we have as Provinces and carry out the change which Brother Seán invites us to do, a change which is not professional but apostolic, which transforms our heart and our mind, to be, like Mary, open to the Spirit and to the solidarity that Arco Norte requires. Here I am, Lord, to do your will.

In his shared reflection another brother said: I need to understand the implications of the religious life in each place. I feel the call to move from the north to the south, from the centre to the periphery, from the cities to the desert to create new spaces where we can recreate the religious life and be faithful to our mission. I feel called to widen the space of the tent, to allow the entrance of different calls to what I habitually listen and to let other people enter into my life. I feel in myself an attitude of opening my eyes, my ears and my heart to better understand the needs of the region. I need to learn English and Spanish to communicate better and to acquire a knowledge which is greater than the cultures that form the region.

Another brother remarks that it is necessary to encourage exchanges between young people and brothers of other countries to find out how one lives the Marist life in other places; to begin a sort of a Marist brothers pilgrimage, for the young people and for the lay people in each place. Personally I feel that I must adopt an attitude like that of Mary to finish saying thy will be done. Jesus had to encourage the disciples, experts in fishing, due to their lack of results: “Be not afraid”, he told them. We must trust Mary as Marcellin did, when he experienced the shortage of followers to carry on his dream. He trusted Mary. And later he could say: She has done everything among us. And it has been this way until today.

For the most part, the testimonies were encouraging, demonstrating openness and availability. But there was no lack of fear bin the face of the foreseen difficulties. Yesterday I was told: the challenge will last for 10 years. In 10 years I will be 80 years old. We must to begin to respond today. And a companion sitting beside him added: Whether we like it or not, after 15 years the life in this region will be different. Perhaps we do not like this change, but there will be change anyway. We must trust, pray, and work together to get the change that we want for the Marist life.

And another expressed himself in this way: What I would like to say is not the result of spiritual indifference, but rather of conflict and spiritual battle. Why are we the way we are? It is our responsibility and that of those who preceded us. The horizon is open before our eyes and to reach it will be our responsibility and the responsibility of those we make fall in love with the future. God calls me to availability and the openness. He calls us to secure the restructuring processes in a region in which there are restructured Provinces. This fact indicates that restructuring was not a necessary evil, but a sign of vitality and hope within the region. God calls us to revise our history so that we can be aware of what we have within our grasp today, our own life and that of so many young people and lay people who share the life and mission through their love of the charism of Champagnat. And with that vision we have to look to the future. Many of the works that we have, are they what Marcellin would want for the young people of today?


Yesterday, when I reflected on the question of what does the Lord call me to, I remembered the image of father Champagnat when the branch of the fathers was recognized in 1836. On that occasion Father Champagnat accepted and pronounced his vows in the new congregation. In that moment, father Champagnat put into the hands of father Colin the work of the Hermitage. On that occasion Fr. Champagnat demonstrated great availability and great trust in father Colin, and father Colin told him that it was not his wish to see him in the missions but with the brothers in the Hermitage. This attitude of Champagnat is something similar to what I am seeing in myself in relation to Arco Norte. At this time everything is possible and I am prepared to fully trust in the Lord.

When we speak of regionalisation I am not very clear about what we can gain. If we think of collaboration, formation, courses… this is what we are doing. But we are being invited to create something new. And I experience certain feelings and fears: To dream of the construction of the Kingdom of God in the whole Region. I look at the reality of my Province and I find it difficult to see how. But I sense that there can be new things, nevertheless it scares me to dream about it. It is necessary to walk step by step, in mutual knowledge, towards integration and to involve ourselves in some mutual project. To grow in mutual appreciation, to love each other more, to build together in our region without frontiers. But day by day I do not know how to do it or what method t use. I am open to listening to the enlightenment that the Holy Spirit gives you because I do not yet have it.

On the part of the General Council some considerations were also discussed. Brother Antonio Ramalho remembered that “it was at the meeting of Los Teques when the need was felt to make the region official, it was the Provincials who decided on the creation of the great Arco Norte. The General Council was asked to support and accompany the process. For that reason the single topic on the agenda of this meeting has been regionalisation.

Brother Luís Sobrado García, for his part, offered words of encouragement. From the point of view of the Institute this region, with 14% of brothers who are less than 40 years of age, is a gift for the world, for the Church and for the Institute. This region has contributed 28 brothers to the Ad gentes. Programme. There are 28 brothers who have moved to another place of work where they have found it difficult to learn another language, but we see in their actions a great generosity which is a challenge to us all. Regionalisation is going to make sense here because it will facilitate the response to new challenges. The challenges are enormous. I am disappointed when I see the processes going slowly. In 20 years we will not have possibilities. There is a sense of urgency. We cannot wait 20 years to decide some things for this region. We need to put our hearts and our heads together to answer the challenges of today.”

On concluding the reflection Brother Emili Turú, who coordinated the work of this session, said: We are going to give the final word to Mary. Let us sing, using her very words, those of the Magnificat, to give thanks for the sharing and for the wealth of the people here in this room.

Attitudes and areas of possible collaboration

Next the Provincial Councils met to analyze the attitudes which they encounter as a Council for the region and to define the areas of high-priority which need to be dealt with in Arco Norte. And these were some of their contributions during the plenary session.

The brothers, in answer to the questions outlined and which related to attitudes, have shown that they agree with regionalisation, and they approach it with hope and availability, although they recognize that they need greater mutual knowledge because matters are not sufficiently mature to face a new structure. The repeated attitudes have been ones of openness, listening, dialogue and participation; a desire to connect affectively and effectively, openness and availability. Openness to exchange of people and welcome to the young people or the brothers who want to get to know the communities and the works. But they also underline a feeling of uncertainty in the face of the diverse reality of the region and of expectation, curiosity and concern since there is not enough known about the Provinces of Arco Norte. Will we be able to coordinate rhythms to travel together, keeping in mind the diversity of languages and cultures?

As for areas of possible collaboration, a wide range of areas is available where we could advance together. Starting from this first approach, the Council will sum up tomorrow the areas in which they see the possibility of collaborating effectively.

Celebration and social gathering

The brothers joyfully celebrated the birthday of Brother Maurice Berquet (61), Councillor General and that of Brother Javier Lopez Godina Barajas (53), Provincial Councillor for Western Mexico. A group of very tuneful guitars accompanied all those present while they sang the well-known Mexican song Las mañanitas.

And in the afternoon they went to the city of Guadalajara to wander some of their streets and to visit their monuments. In the chapel a prayer session was shared. In conclusion, Brother Seán Sammon, Superior General, introduced Mrs. Élida Quiñones who will be a member of the Hermitage community. Mrs. Élida has three married children, who were educated by the brothers in Guadalajara. She has maintained a close relationship with the brothers for many years and has participated in three study sessions of the Marist Patrimony in CEPAM.

The central garden of the Marist University of Guadalajara was the chosen venue to offer the brothers of the Enlarged General Council a select musical programme performed by the boys and girls of the Primary Department of the Cervantes School of Guadalajara. Between songs brief fragments were inserted relating the history of the brothers in Mexico. Brother Seán took advantage of the occasion to congratulate the pupils and their teachers, and to thank all of the many people involved in the preparation of the celebration. The meal, enlivened by the violins, trumpets, harp, standard and large guitars of the mariachi was a fraternal occasion shared with the brothers of the communities of Guadalajara who attended the celebration.

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