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General Conference - 30th September

04/10/2005: Sri Lanka

Gratitude in four languages
<304b.jpg alt=Sri Lanka – 30/09/2005 hspace=5 vspace=5 align=right>As the end of the Conference comes closer, the participants have started to reminisce about notable events during this past month. One thing that has been mentioned often has been the hospitality of the people working in the hotel. Some of the characteristics of this people are their hospitality, openness and cordiality. Brother Mike de Waas, Provincial of Sri Lanka and Pakistan said on one occasion that hospitality is the national priority in Sri Lanka. This is certainly practised in this hotel. One month living with the same people has given rise to some pleasant anecdotes and has created an ambiance of closeness and friendship. The difficulties in language, for example, have converted the waiters into teachers and the brothers into students as common phrases for use in the dining room have been learnt. It was decided that a sign of gratitude should be given to the hotel workers and so the hotel staff were asked to gather so that brothers could offer this sign of gratitude through songs and words.
The Brother Superior General dedicated some affectionate words to them on behalf of all the brothers and gave them a small personal gift. Following this, each of the language groups selected a song and performed it for the hotel staff. The hotel staff also offered two of their own national folksongs as a sign of appreciation.

Closing words
The small closing ceremony along with the sign of gratitude monopolised the last morning of the Conference. Brother Seán Sammon, Superior General, closed the Conference in saying that it had been a rich and productive time, a time of grace and a time of speaking of hopes and of dreams for the Institute and the mission.
He began his speech remembering some of the objectives of the General Council in organising this General Conference: to render accounts of the work carried out in animating the Institute and its mission during the last four years and to dedicate time to listening and informing about current concerns. Brother Seán stressed that during the Conference there had been times dedicated to listing to the feeling of the Institute concerning such matters as the promotion and formation of vocations, the laity, mission, solidarity, restructuring among others.
He also said that he wanted to outline a future challenge for himself and everyone else as there is a future for the Institute and it is a matter of this being assured by the brothers and the laity. He explained it was the time of reconstructuring the spirit of the Hermitage. It is no use simply redoing the house unless the same spirit that was there during the first construction is there again: sacrifice, hard physical work and the joyful satisfaction of a job well done. He highlighted also that in making plans for the future of the Institute we need to have the same hope, enthusiasm and audacity as in the early days.

Challenges for the future
<304a.jpg alt=Sri Lanka – 30/09/2005 >In the second part of his talk, Brother Seán featured various topics of interest that require the major attention of the Institute: implant spirituality networks in each region of the Institute; emphasise the growing movement of the laity; have more clarity in the funds that are reserved for solidarity “ad intra” and “ad extra”; reserve adequate time for the second visit to the Provinces with clear and helpful objectives. Brother Seán promised to take these and other concerns seriously and he assured that each one of them will be studied and approached with an action plan and the means that are required.

Restructuring of commissions
Brother Seán affirmed that he has decided to reorganise the General Council by requesting that some Commissions work jointly in the future. The Religious Life and Vocation Ministry Commissions will work together, the Laity and Mission Commissions will work jointly and the Commissions on the evangelical use of goods, finances and of BIS will unite their efforts. He also announced that shortly he will explain in a letter how some aspects of the calls of the XX General Chapter that have not been studied will be treated before the General Chapter in 2009.
In his conclusion, he spoke of initiatives to which we must dedicate ourselves: to make Jesus the centre of our lives and of our communities, to continue restructuring to make the Institute more universal, to be at the service of the poor, to promote vocations and to evaluate our programmes of formation. Then he called all to advance on the journey with our lay Marists, a journey that is so enriching for all and he encouraged the brothers to continue to work for the development of a culture or vocations.

Moment of gratitude
Brother Seán finished by thanking the brothers for the privilege of having been called to the service of Superior General and for having given him the General Councillors as his collaborators. On behalf of the Conference, he said a special word of thanks to Father Joaquín Fernández, former Superior General of the Marist Fathers, who accompanied the brothers as chaplain. Brother Seán offered him a beautiful statue of our Good Mother. Then he thanked Brother Michael de Waas, Provincial of Sri Lanka and Pakistan, for the work, the attention and the care given to the brothers during the General Conference. This gratitude extends to all the brothers of the Province, but especially to Brother Mervyn Pereira who worked day after day at the Conference with unending devotion.
Then he thanked the translators for their difficult task of simultaneous translation and the collaborators in the secretariat and of communications. He gave the Brothers Provincial a picture of the Hermitage to express the wish that each Province return to the spirit of the Hermitage.
At the initiative of the Provincials, a small souvenir of Sri Lanka was given to the Superior General, Vicar general and General Councillors, as a sign of unity and gratitude for their work.

Final Mass
<304.jpg alt=Sri Lanka – 30/09/2005 hspace=5 vspace=5 align=right>The celebration, animated by Brother Lazar Hirudayasmay, incorporated Indian themes. In effect, the Sector Superior of India was dressed according to the tradition of his country. The altar was decorated with a painting of the Baptism of Jesus and at the foot of the altar were placed symbols that are used in the Indian liturgy.
Before the proclamation of the Word, all gathered to feel the warmth of a fire lit by the Pascal Candle. Each brother extended his hands close to the flame to receive energy and then placed his hands near his face. He could thus listen to the Word of God after having illuminated his face with the light and warmth of the resurrected Christ.
At the moment of the canon that remembers the offering of the altar given to the Father “through Him, with Him, in Him”, the rite of missioning was integrated with the offering. With some ash, the priest made a sign on Brother Seán’s forehead while he said to him on behalf of the Lord: “Seán, do not be afraid for I am with you.” In turn, the Superior General did this for all of his General Councillors who then did it for all the brothers.
The rite of the sign of peace, before communion, consisted in shaking hands and fraternal accolades marking the separation as each brother returns to his Province to share with the brothers of the Institute all that has been experienced during these days of the General Conference.

Departure
The final details were seen to carefully by the Co-ordinating Committee of the Conference.
Thus, this brings this daily chronicle to an end with the promise of a final personal summary tomorrow. Nevertheless, I would like to thank you today for the welcome reserved for our daily news and for the many messages we received from the whole Institute on the web. Thank you very much.

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