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57 Brothers and 21 lay people - Aotearoa Assembly

19/10/2010: New Zealand

At Sacred Heart College, Auckland, September 26 – 29, 57 Brothers and 21 lay men and women (11 men, 10 women), took part in an Assembly that will probably rate as one of the most significant Marist gatherings ever in Aotearoa-New Zealand.Skilfully facilitated, the gathering was led from reflecting on the situation among the Brothers in 1967 (large numbers, heavy and happy school involvement, work-oriented, confident and virtually self-sufficient and no thought of lay Marists) to today’s reality of diminished numbers, aging members, much less school involvement and little public presence.Group interaction involving lay Marists and Brothers progressed the sharing of realities until possibly the most significant moment of the Assembly. A session, with both groups meeting separately, brought the Brothers to a point where they were asked, individually, if they were prepared to commit to the communion of people in the charism of Marcellin. The response was unanimously in the affirmative. After this, they devised a ceremonial influenced by traditional Maori ritual to welcome the lay Marists on their return from their discussion place (where they had been considering issues around the question of partnership). Simple though the ceremony was, the effect was heartfelt and very emotional. Several, both Brothers and lay, admitted they had tears in their eyes. It was a moment in which Brothers and lay committed themselves to each other to further the charism of Marcellin in our Province, with all that such a commitment entails. In the opening exercise the Assembly members were asked to list their hopes and fears for the gathering. When the time came for the final session it would appear that hopes had been well and truly met and the fears had just disappeared along the way. Perhaps the most common fear was that the gathering would simply be “another talk-fest.” It was obvious that such was not the case. Everyone was committed to action. It is now up to the Provincial Council to set in place mechanisms to implement the commitment so much in evidence and to cultivate the seeds sown in these days of Assembly. With Mary, we feel we have journeyed into a “new land” and we now face the challenge of living enthusiastically all the implications of that journey.

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