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New relationship between Laity and Brothers

14/02/2015: Brazil

The fundamental call of the last General Chapter contemplated the urgency of “a new relationship among Brothers and laity, based on communion, looking together for a greater vitality of the charism in the world of today”. It forms part of the dream that God has for the Marist brothers and laity and for our Institute. We intend to offer a simple approximation to our Marist reality with regard to this second call. 

 

Reality

If the General Chapter calls all Marists to a “new relationship”, this means that we have something to change in the “old relationship”. Not everything, obviously, because there are good things; but some things have to change. And as in any process of change, fears and obstacles arise in the hearts of persons; but also hopes and expectations. This challenging call pushes us to generate, in co-responsibility, fidelity and creativity, a new institutional model to help us all find our place, to accept our common vocation and our specific vocations.

In the variety of sensibilities and performances within the Regions and Administrative Units, there are echoes which are becoming common and which show us that we are on the way: our relationship is based on communion, the communion stems from the same following of Jesus, lay men and women and brothers share the same charism, together we ought to foster a new epoque for this charism, our vocations complement and enrich one another, we have more in common than what is specific… 

The process of communion which is being lived in the Institute has been crystallized in different forms to express this relationship and in a mutual enrichment of brothers and lay Marist. Some provinces have promoted mixed or extended communities, in which, under equal conditions, brothers and laity outline the spiritual path of experience, community style, sharing of goods, timetables, community animation, autonomy and the development of their own identity. Stress is laid on communication on the basis of sincere openness, dialogue and listening. The challenge is lived of accepting pluralism and constructing ways of living together.

Groups have been initiated called Marist life groups, Marist encounter groups, Marist spirituality groups. These groups have arisen in recent years and appear in some five provinces of the Institute. The signs of identity of these groups are manifested within the ambit of fraternal life, spirituality and mission. Lay people and brothers take part in them. The group is recognized as a privileged space for human, Christian and Marist growth. Each group has its own rhythm and style.

On this path of communion, retreats for brothers and laity are expanding. This sharing of the spiritual journey results in an experience of communion which leads deeper into the Gospel, the following of the Lord and the vitality of the charism. The beauty is that the animation of these retreats is shared by brothers and laity. The experiences of joint formation are also helping growth in communion. To jointly bring it about, it is required that we all, laity and brothers, feel the mutual need to recreate our common Marist identity and our specific identities.

The lay dimension is currently indicated in various experiences, such as the already familiar fraternities of the Champagnat Movement, the Misioneros Maristas of Ciudad Juárez, the comunidades laicales of Santa María de los Andes, the mission groups of Australia or the Marist Association of Laity of Canada.

 

Advances

The journey of the new relationship talks to us of conversion and change, displacement and movement from place to place. We feel that there is awareness of this in the Institute, although the rhythm is at times slow. This awareness is expressed in the progressive involvement of laity in the animation of processes, as in the case of the Extended Secretariat of the Laity and the co-directors at the Institute level, the Provincial, Continental and international Commissions. 

Emphasis must be given to the great effort for bringing the Champagnat Movement up to date; a process promoted by the laity themselves to revitalize and recreate the movement. The meeting promoted in Rome by Br Emili on Association and Belonging has given a tone of depth to the lay processes. A committee has already been appointed under the responsibility of the Secretariat of the Laity to channel the suggestions arising from the meeting. 

So it is considered natural to have the proposal for a Training course for lay animation, to be held in Rome in 2015. It should result in an experience open to lay internationality, as an opportunity for being recognized, creating common languages and promoting processes of vitality. Along the same lines, we are thinking of a meeting of all the Continental Commissions in 2016 to be able to offer contributions for the reflection of the XXII General Chapter. A first step could possibly be a future Lay Chapter or Assembly.

In some provinces there is discussion about possibilities of association of brothers and laity to express co-responsibility in the animation of the educational works and communion in living the charism. The province of Australia is in process of setting up a Public Association of the Faithful, with the participation of brothers and laity.  In all these forms of association, lay association and belonging are being introduced.

 

Prospects

The process we are living in the Institute reaffirms what was expressed by the XXI General Chapter: “We see our Marist future as a communion of persons in the charism of Champagnat, in which our specific vocations mutually enrich each other”. The creative fidelity necessary to maintain and continue the Marist charism in the Church does not depend only on the Institute, which up to now represented it, but on all Marist lay men and women. 

In looking to the future, it appears normal to consider integrating the laity into the organs of government: especially those affecting the mission, but also those the affecting life, the charism, the institution... We know very well that sharing the charism goes beyond managing tasks together or allotting functions. It concerns sharing a spiritual inheritance, for making ourselves responsible for it and for taking part in a conscious common effort to serve the utopia of the Gospel. In this future of communion, it will be easy for us to speak about a joint vocations ministry, lay communities, programmes of vocational discernment and formation for laity, lay formators to help both their lay companions and the brothers themselves, the availability for mission of lay men and women in the provinces or the Institute, international centres of shared formation.  Br Emili tells us this: “The horizon of the celebration of the 200 years of the Institute stimulates us to embrace our itinerant vocation, in the footsteps of Mary”. The future of communion implies a change of mentality, much discernment, great availability, the renunciation of securities, taking on risks, and a profound confidence in God, after Mary’s example. Our itinerant vocation is one we share, lay and brothers. For the brothers, the search for new responses cannot come only from the laity, but it will be achieved with difficulty if they are left on the sidelines. For Antonio Botana, the new relationship with the laity can lead to a true refoundation and the origin of a new form of charismatic life.

The Marist charism is a charism with an ecclesial future, because one of its distinctive traits is fraternity, today lived by lay men and women and brothers. Our common Marist vocation calls us to journey together, in a Church of communion, embracing everyone, hopeful and challenging, with a Marian face, accepting and compassionate, which is firmly rooted in the experience of the first Christian communities and the first Marist brothers. 

To conclude, we recall what the laity of Venezuela expressed in one of their meetings: “Lay Marists of Champagnat, we are involved together with the Brothers in the challenge of aiding the the birth of the dawn of a new Marist life and strengthening the existing one by making it more creative, faithful, dynamic and prophetic”. The new dawn, in the spirit of Pope Francis, will reveal to us a Marist life more of the apron, of making itself the servant of the world, of bending to the ground as Jesus did and washing the people’s feet. 

____________________
Br Javier Espinosa | Raúl Amaya
Boletim "Mensagem de Vida" do MChFM (Ano VII - n° 24 - 2014) - Umbrasil.

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