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A tour of the European Agencies of International Solidarity

01/12/2011: General House

Brothers Mario Meuti and Jude Pieterse recently visited, 7-14 November, several European Agencies of International Solidarity to consolidate the bonds of collaboration and present some new projects which have come to us in the last few months.

One of the tasks of the FMSI Rome Office is to maintain contact with European agencies which traditionally provide aid for solidarity activities, social promotion, even specifically missionary, in developing countries. We visit them every year, whether to keep in contact, or to study jointly the possibility of financing one of the many projects which come to our office.

The occasion this year was a special one: Br Mario Meuti, new Director of the Rome Office, wanted to become familiar with these agencies, and the opportunity presented when Br Jude Pieterse, former vice-president of FMSI and very familiar with many of them, was once again in  Rome. So they undertook a tour together, starting in Amsterdam (Holland) with a private donor (who requests anonymity), who has always been distinguished by his generosity and savoir faire each time we have presented to him a project of clear social usefulness. Also in Holland, at La Haye, the two Brothers met « Cord-Aid », a Catholic organisation with which FMSI is in contact, and here, the problem of the crisis, the diminution in donations from the faithful… began to be strongly felt.

From La Haye to Brussels. Meeting with « Entraide et Fraternité », the most important Belgian NGO, whose motto « For a juster world » is very similar in style and ideas to FMSI. In both cases, despite the difficulties encountered in supporting our projects, the Brothers had cordial talks and collected much useful information from people familiar with the different countries where we work.

From Brussels to Aix-la-Chapelle, in Germany, the city of Charlemagne, capital of the Holy Roman Empire. Here the German Church has several large organisations for solidarity and missionary aid: Missio, Misereor and P.M.K. (Papstliches Missionwerk der Kinder – Pontifical Missionary Work for Children). A splendid welcome for Brothers Jude and Mario, guests in the beautiful « Oblatenkloster » building in Salvatorberg, in the highest part of the city. Here they met experts from many parts of the world: Central America, Haiti and the Caribbean, Africa in general, Kenya, Southeast Asia, particularly Cambodia and Vietnam, two counties of special interest for us. The Brothers had the opportunity to share some experiences and learn a lot from people who have visited these places many times. They showed interest in some of our projects, and contacts have already been made with our local organizers.

From Aix-la-Chapelle a voyage to Essen in the Ruhr region, to meet with « Adveniat », another missionary organisation particuliarly attentive to the Caribbean area. We were able to ask for some help for a project dear to our confrères in Haiti: a youth centre in Jérémie (30,000 inhabitants, in the west of the country) where, thanks to the presence of the Postulancy, youth interested in the Marist life, together with the Brothers, are developing activities of catechesis, animation and educational work outside the school among the youth and people of the zone, but without adequate space and structure.

The voyage of Brothers Mario and Jude continued on to Bavaria where, before meeting « Missio München », they visited the three Marist communities and schools of Fürth, Cham and Mindelheim. In each place there is a missionary animation team directed respectively by Brothers Bernhard Seigel, Karl Heinz Haag and Heinrich Schamberger, whose work of making pupils, families and people sensitive to this subject is truly admirable and praiseworthy. Each year, they collect considerable sums usually destined for works connected with so many German Marist Brothers who have worked – or are still working – in Africa or in Southeast Asia. Together they studied ways of continuing the collaboration and of having a greater share in our experiences.

There was even time for a welcome diversion to Cologne. We could not leave this part of Germany without a visit to the splendid Gothic cathedral. The train arrived at 11.11 on 11-11-11! It is difficult to imagine the spectacle of thousands of young people gathered in the cathedral square and around it… Perhaps to ward off the ill omens of catastrophies usually associated with this unique series of ‘1s’, the young Germans celebrated the event like a special Carnival day: everyone was wearing masks; there were musical bands, choirs, feasts and… barrels of beer!

A spécial thanks from FMSI to the Marist Brothers of Germany for their warm welcome, and in particular to Br Jude, who agreed to come expressly from South Africa; thanks for his availability, his valuable suggestions, and his great experience placed once more at our service.

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