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General Conference – 22nd September

24/09/2005: Sri Lanka

Marist mission
<291.jpg alt= hspace=5 vspace=5 align=right>Today was entirely devoted to the mission. The morning prayer recalled Mary, the Marist apostolate and the signs of the times mentioned by Brother Seán for the Conference. These signs trace our pathways of mission.
The work was led by the president of the Mission Commission, Brother Emili Turú, with the participation of Brothers Pedro Herreros (Laity), Dominick Piuja (BIS) and Juan Manuel Anaya, Secretary.
Brother Emili first showed a power point on our works. “Let us centre our reflection on these children to make them stronger. We exist for them. Champagnat created us for them.” With these words, he invited the participants to take on audaciously and clearly the challenge of Marist mission.

At the service of the poorest and excluded children and young people
It was a matter of 1) deepening the sense and the urgency of the call of the XX General Chapter to commit ourselves to the poor and the excluded, 2) giving a glimpse of the vision of the General Council and the reflexion made in the Institute, 3) sharing on the pathway travelled in the Provinces by retaining the essential for planning for the future, 4) presenting to the Superiors new international initiatives such as the defence and the promotion of the rights of the child before the UN and the International Marist Mission Assembly.
We started with this call: “Go forward, brothers and lay persons together, in a clear and decisive way, drawing closer to the poorest and most marginalised of young people, through new ways in education, evangelisation and solidarity.” (Choose Life, 31)
Then there was an exchange in groups – some of the missions discussed included the following: Brasil Centro-Norte supports forty-two social works; México Central has looked after centres for the indigenous people of the Chiapas for forty years; Rio Grande do Sul has a centre that counts more than 120 brothers and laypeople actively engaged; India has developed a project that looks after people with AIDS.

“International Marist Mission Assembly”
After this, Brother Juan Miguel Anaya presented the project of the International Marist Mission Assembly which will take place at Mendes in Brasil from the 3rd to the 12th September 2007, in order to respond to the wishes of the XX General Chapter.
The Preparatory Commission for this Assembly used the expression: “The International Assembly constitutes a new stage in the life of the Marist Institute, which offers the brothers and laypeople the opportunity to reflect together, on equal terms, concerning the mission of the Institute at the present time and in the future, as well as on their own identity.”
The assembly will be an important moment to evaluate what has been done and what is to be done in the Provinces and in the Districts.
Brother Seán in his letter of convocation recalled that: even though we are an international Institute, we have not always acted as one. The Institute is now offering to brothers and laypeople an occasion to have an experience of international communion, to feel as an active member of this body that surpasses the frontiers of each Administrative Unit. It is not so much an historic event for our Institute, but a rebirth for the people involved in Marist mission.
The slogan for the Assembly is “One heart, one mission” and a logo has been designed by the Marist faculty of Fortaleza (Brazil).

Journey taken to prepare for the Assembly
The XX General Chapter asked the General Council to “create support structures they judge to be needed for the shared mission of the brothers and laity in their educational and evangelising work among the poorest and the most marginalised children and youth… setting up international forums on aspects of Marist mission.” (Choose Life 48.6)
This Assembly in 2007 will be thus an international forum. The Administrative Units received a questionnaire and the majority showed they are very much in favour of this, giving suggestions for the method, the themes, the participation etc.
In June 2004, the General Council approved the project of an Assembly and constituted a Preparatory Commission formed by Alphonse Balombe fms (R. D. Congo); Chema Pérez Soba (Spain); Dilma Alves Rodrigues (Brazil); Erica Pegorer (Australia); John Y Tan fms (Philippines); and for the General Administration Brothers Juan Miguel Anaya, Michael Flanigan, Pedro Herreros and Emili Turú. The Commission has met twice (December 2004 and July 2005) to fix the practical details in accord with the General Council.

Why an International Assembly?
As well as the reasons mentioned above, it will serve as an occasion to strengthen the restructuring and internationalisation of the Provinces at the start of this 21st century, to dialogue between brothers and laypeople on our concerns in the service of young people.
Its preparation and celebration will be occasions to question our selves on Marist mission itself, on our convictions and on our vocations as apostles, to reread the text “In the Footsteps of Marcellin Champagnat, A Vision for Marist Education Today”, and to deepen our understanding of the XX General Chapter.
Finally, the suggestions and the recommendations of the Assembly will be able to be studied by the participants in the XXI General Chapter (2009), if they wish, and will be able to contribute in setting directions for the Marist world.

Objectives
To encourage dialogue and the commitment of all in Marist mission so as to: 1) to relook at the Marist mission from the life of Champagnat, his passion to announce the Good News, his desire to be with young people, especially those most in need, his attitude of constant discernment, his capacity to adapt to the changing needs of his environment. 2) Clarify and deepen what we understand by ‘Marist vocation’: what is proper and common to brothers and laypeople, etc. To promote co-responsibility among those who share the mission especially by offering models, structures etc that promote it. 3) Better understand and appreciate the diversity of the Marist mission in the world of today and to see in its internationality a strength from which we must profit.

Stages
Three stages are planned: Local, Provincial and International. Each Province fixes the dates for the Local and Provincial stages. Here is the calendar:
2006 January: start of Local and Provincial phases
2006 December: end of the Provincial phase, a summary is sent to Rome, election of the representatives of each Province
2007 January – August: possible regional action, preparation of participants
2007 September: International Assembly.

Local Phase
Mixed groups will be formed of brothers and laypeople, with people from different environments who identify with the Marist charism (schools, universities, special education, fraternities, pastoral centres, etc)
All is done on a voluntary basis.
The Commission will provide the material for the meetings at the local level.
The webpage of the Institute will also be a place for exchanges, discussions etc.

Provincial phase
Each Province determines the way of proceeding: number of meetings, their duration, the process used, etc.
At the end of this phase, a summary is sent to the Preparatory Commission which speaks of the spirit present in the Province meetings, the recommendations from the Province for the International Assembly, under the form of a ‘credo’ which summarises the shared convictions and suggestions of the Province.
Each Province chooses the delegates (they must have participated in the Local and Provincial phases to be eligible) who take on Marist mission and who represent more the Provincial reality rather than just one local work.
It will be good to assure a good representation of works in which laypeople participate in Marist life and mission, to seek a balance between the number of men and women.

International Phase
The Assembly will take place at Mendes, Brazil, from the 3rd to the 12th September 2007. This place was chosen because it is the region of the world where there is the greatest number of works.
The aim of the Assembly is not to produce a document but to share, to live together and to celebrate God who calls us to this Marist mission. Perhaps a message or some suggestions will be written for the next General Chapter but this is not its main aim.

Its composition
- 1 brother per Administrative Unit (31 brothers)
- 1 layperson for each Administrative Unit (31 laypeople)
- 1 lay person more for the 16 AUs that have the most apostolic works (16 laypeople)
- Members of the General Council (8 brothers)
- Members of the preparatory Commission (4 brothers and 3 laypeople)
- Translators and people in charge of other services, (about 15 persons)

Reactions of the brothers at the Conference
The brothers expressed their satisfaction as to the preparation of the project and its clarity of presentation. The worries concern the costs that will be charged to the Administrative Units, but the number of two or three participants seems reasonable for the Administrative Units.

Mission and Solidarity: a fire that embraces and consumes
Brother Dominick Pujia, responsible for BIS, presented the project of collaboration with Franciscans International (FI).
The General Chapter asked the General Council, amongst others, to assure the representation of the Institute before international organisations of education and solidarity.
BIS is particularly responsible for this work of representation.

Strategic Plan for BIS
In 2004, a special committee of the General Council evaluated BIS and formulated 37 recommendations, praising its work of co-ordination and organisation of projects at the same time encouraging the General Council and BIS to develop activities in the areas of education, network working, communications, animation and defence of rights.
By BIS, the Institute is present before important organisations of the United Nations to promote the defence of the rights of the child in the name of the Institute. For that, we collaborate with FI which is an NGO of the Franciscan family with “a consultative status” before the United Nations (Economic and Social Council – ECOSOC). This new Marist presence is a new pastoral mission realised on behalf of the entire Institute.

Our situation at the UN
Our work in Geneva is part of our mission of working for children, especially those most neglected. It is done in the setting of the Convention of the Rights of the Child and its Committee in which FI officially participates.

FI
<291a.jpg alt= hspace=5 vspace=5 align=right>Franciscans International is a NGO with a consultative status with the United Nations and it is sponsored by the Franciscan family (OFM, OFM CAP, OFM CONV. TOR, OFS. IFC-TOR) to promote the Franciscan ideal on the International scene (Forums and agencies of the UN) in four domains: development, human rights, work for peace and protection of creation.
FI brings testimonies of the violations of human rights to the sessions of the Commission of Human Rights (UNCHR) of the United Nations and other forums of the UN, as much as at New York as at Geneva. FI organises sessions on human rights for the Franciscans and those who work in its office. It animates the Franciscan world by distributing information and educating by its programmes.

Terms of our collaboration
FI provides us with an office at Geneva and gives us access to its services and to the organisations of the UN, helping us to gain accreditation with ECOSOC. Sometime, they give us accommodation at their House of welcome. In return, the Marists bring their vast knowledge of the world of children and of education. They provide a collaborator with FI to work on activities relative to human rights.

Strategy for Marist collaboration
- See what is done in the Administrative Units in this area.
- Under the leadership of BIS and with the support of FI, our delegate and Marist expert will work with the UN for the rights of the child.

Calendar
March 2005: signing of the agreement with FI
July 2005: César Henríquez, FMS (América Central) was appointed Delegate and Expert before FI and the UN, Geneva.
2006: Orientation, Preparation, and Regular Visits to Geneva from Rome.
2007: Establish a community in Geneva?

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