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The importance of the laity in the Marist Congregation

30/03/2010: General House

Brother Teófilo, Coordinator in Rome of the Mission AD GENTES Project gave in October 2009 an extensive interview to the Portuguese weekly newspaper “Notícias de Chaves” on Marist laity and the recently published book: “Gathered around the same table - the vocation of Champagnat’s Marist laity”. From the interview we select 4 points for our WEB page.

Point 1 – The importance of the laity in the Marist Congregation

Notícias de Chaves: On the Laity: I know that during the Chapter, the most recent book approved by the General Council was distributed: “Gathered Around the Same Table – The Vocation of Champagnat’s Marist Laity”.
Can we conclude, then, that Lay men and Lay women acquire a greater importance within the Marist Congregation?


Br. Teófilo: There is no doubt about that. And this was very visible in this Chapter: it spoke loud and clearly on the Laity. It should be noticed that right from the beginning of the Chapter and during two weeks, nine lay persons (men and women) from different parts of the Marist world followed and participated actively in the work of the Chapter. Before leaving, they wrote a very meaningful message to the Chapter. I would even say that the topic of the Laity is a matter of urgency, not only in the Marist world, but also in all Congregations and even in the Church in general. It was not always like that.

If I look through the contents of our last Chapters, I notice that Chapters XVII and XVIII did not even touch the subject of the Laity. On the contrary, Chapter XIX dedicated to this theme, timidly though, a page; there, it was stated a willingness to share with the lay people both the spirituality and missions of the Institute. Chapter XX goes much further and dedicates to this theme one of the five basic calls, with the beautiful image of “widening the space of our tent”. And, in addition to spirituality and mission, the document mentions, as well, the formation due to the Lay Marists. “We are called to deepen our understanding of the specific identities of Brothers and lay Marists, in sharing life: spirituality, mission and formation”

Another call also pointed out to the joint presence of brothers and lay people, with regard to both, Mission and Solidarity; with the image: “Fire upon the earth”. “Go forward, Brothers and lay people in clear and decisive way, drawing closer to the poorest and most marginalised young, through new ways in education, evangelisation and solidarity”.

This last Chapter takes into account the way done by the previous ones, goes further and deepens the theme of the Laity. For the first time in the History of the Institute, it speaks very clearly of the Marist lay vocation. In a laminar way, the message sent to the entire Institute says: “We acknowledge and encourage the vocation of the lay Marist”. This simple sentence has an extraordinary extent. It reminds us the subtitle of the book of the laity Gathered Around the Same Table that is: “The vocation of Champagnat’s Marist Laity”. I would be unable to tell you which of the two documents influenced the other: probably, the book influenced the document of the Chapter since it precedes it. Just for a few months, it is true, but the document was being prepared for more than two years before. And at the heart of the book, it was clear that a lay person may feel the call to live within his own state of life, the Marist charisma.

The Chapter, in its final document, seizes, very well, this fundamental idea and “welcomes with appreciation the new document ‘Gathered Around the Same Table’ as a source for reflection and discernment during the coming years.” The subtitles of the document present the great insights of this chapter. In relationship to the Laity, the document writes: “A new relationship between Brothers and Lay Marists, based on communion, searching together a greater vitality of the Marist charisma for our world.” When referring to the audience to which it is addressed, it is clear that it is addressed to the Laity; the document continues: “To you, our brother or sister lay Marist, who, in your heart, desires to live out the fullness of your baptism within the charisma of Marcellin Champagnat – let’s walk together”.

This is a small sample showing us the amplitude of the theme of the laity, today, in the Marist Congregation. And I think, in any religious order. The Laity became so important that the General Administration in Rome created a secretariat to respond more effectively to their problem within the Institute.

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Point 2 – The Marist Lay Vocation and the symbol of the Table
Point 3 – The Structure of the document “Gathered around the same table”
Point 4 – The themes of the document

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