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Interview with the rector of MAPAC, Br Peter Rodney

09/04/2016: Philippines

The rector of the Marist Asia Pacific Center, also known as the MAPAC, Brother Peter Rodney describes the Center, its challenges and its plans in an interview on March 19.

 

How many students study at the Marist Asia Pacific Center?

We are a relatively small centre of study. In the current academic year, we have a total of 38 students, consisting of 26 Marist Brothers (spread across three years) and 12 external students from four congregations.

 

How is studying at MAPAC different to other places?

We ourselves are not a full university, but rather the Manila campus of another university.  In the first instance, our mission is to form Marist apostles.  Therefore, our mission is three-fold: formative, Marist and focused on all three dimensions of apostleship (prayer – ministry – community).  Therefore, our primary focus is formative, more than academic.

Academically, the most evident difference is that the size of each class is much smaller than other places. But more importantly than this, the style of education is very much focused on the present and future life of the students. What this means in practice is that we are able to ground the course content in the reality of their lives. To be more specific, the students are Religious, though we have had lay people take courses here. This vocational commitment can be deepened by every subject that is studied. All the students come from teaching congregations. So the application of the course content in real ministry situations is frequent. Our teaching staff know these concrete realities, both present and future, of our students. We can make a conscious decision to use the charisms of the different congregations, as well as the variety of nationalities and cultures as case studies for academic research and class presentations. Since our teachers are Marists – lay Marists of many years’ experience or brothers – then Marist pedagogy is modelled for these new Marist apostles in every lesson. Finally, and certainly not least importantly, our curriculum includes subjects which are specifically Marist and specifically formative for this stage of initial formation. For example, we can teach a subject, like ‘skills for community living,’ using the daily realities of our community life here.

As I write this, we are in the final week of our academic year. Here, exam week is called ‘integration week.’ In addition, this approach to assessment summarises succinctly our whole academic methodology. The assessment goal is generally to see how well the students have connected themselves and the academic content to real-life situations in religious life and ministry.

All in all, we possess a wonderful opportunity and challenge to present the academic content in ways that are truly formative.

Our location is also significant. We are next door to a large Marist school, composed of elementary and secondary students who, across the two daily shifts, come from a range of socio-cultural situations. The school is a very welcoming, and a convenient resource for classroom observation, teaching practice, and various youth ministries for our MAPAC students.

 

How long have you been the rector of MAPAC and what does your role entail?

I am just beginning my sixth year as rector of MAPAC. The role is multi-faceted and has evolved over those years. In the first instance, I am the religious superior of the community. I am responsible for the human and spiritual welfare of the 31 brothers who form the community. 

In the carrying out of our formative mission, day to day, I delegate that to our brothers and mission partners. They take charge of the accompaniment, teaching, cooking, finance, fraternity living, etc. I see my role and contribution as one of ensuring co-ordination and communication.  We are constant in our evaluation and forward planning. This is one way that I exercise my role of evolving the vision of our community and communicating it as effectively as I can.

 

What are challenges the students face?

Many of the challenges are personal to each brother’s personality and history. But two stand out for me as somewhat universal for all of us.  The most evident challenge is the multi-cultural nature of our community.  This reality is both richness and challenge.  All of us are well aware that the future of international religious congregations, and the Marist Institute in particular, will depend on how effectively we can creatively develop and express Marcellin’s charism in cross-cultural settings. 

The second challenge is mainly that of adjusting to a community, which is very different to the novitiates from which the brothers come.  Here, there is much less structure of each day and each week. There is more personal freedom in managing one’s time and responsibilities. And there is also more freedom and access to gadgets, internet, etc.  What this means, therefore, is the challenge of time-management, and keeping prayer at the centre of our lives. For many Brothers, the first year can be challenging, let alone facing the academic demands of the classroom.  ‘Having a healthy balance’ and ‘making responsible choices’ are somewhat of a mantra here.  And ‘healthy balance’ also entails diet, weight and exercise.

 

The MAPAC offers two courses: a bachelor of secondary education with a major in religious education, and a certificate in religious studies. Do both of these enable students to teach once they finish?

To answer this question fairly simply. The degree is the professional qualification required by most governments for ‘registration’ as a teacher.  And so it fulfils that legal requirement.  While the certificate does not usually fulfil that requirement, it does provide a sufficient and solid preparation for ministry with young people in non-formal educational settings (eg. catechetics, youth ministry, etc.) 

 

Which of the two courses is more successful, and why do you think that is?

A helpful way to answer this question is to point out that the students who follow each pathway are somewhat different. For those requiring preparation for formal teaching, the whole degree programme is basic, but it is sufficient, and usually effective. 

But increasingly, and this will be the predominant situation from here on, our students are not seeking a formal teaching qualification. Either because they have completed this before their novitiate or before coming to MAPAC, or because the ministry situation of their administrative unit is not one of formal education. In particular, I have in mind the Marist District of Asia. 

 

Are there any current or future plans for MAPAC? If so, what are they?

Faced with this emerging reality we are now doing a number of things. Again, because of our small size, and the educational and formative resources available here in Manila, we are increasingly tailoring individual programmes for the formative needs of individual brothers. Some studying is done here on campus (especially the Marist formation elements). Additional studying is done at one of the Catholic academic centres in town. And there are a number of these available to us, giving us a rich variety of options. 

At the most recent meeting of the MAPAC board of superiors, October last year, we requested guidance so that our course content better fitted the needs of the student brothers and the ministry priorities of the administrative units. Therefore, in the academic year of 2016-2017, there will be some adjustments to our academic content. 

The academic is only one component of the total formation programme of our community. We are at work constantly to adapt that programme to changing circumstances.  For example, the monthly spiritual direction is now done externally, by well-trained and supervised male and female directors. 

 

Would you like to see any improvements/changes, if so, what? 

While there are a number of things that I could comment on, in the interests of focus, I would like to emphasize one in particular.  While we as a community regularly reflect upon and discuss the reality of inter-cultural community, I feel that we need to do more. To get beyond the fascinating variety of dress and food, to get to the richness that each culture has by way of its values. Especially the values that operate in interpersonal relationships. We know from experience that sometimes these values are different, and occasionally the opposite of each other. Thus leading to misunderstandings, and sometimes hurts.  So, as a community we need to have processes which give us time and space to learn cultural values.  And there is an associated priority: how is Marist formation actually done in a multi-cultural setting – the essential content and processes of such formation. I strongly believe that this is not only a challenge for our community, it is a challenge for the whole Institute. And such reflection needs to be done in a focused and systematic way. Along the way, we can learn a lot from those Marists with experience and from other missionary congregations as well.

 

Marist Asia Pacific Center, Philippineshttp://www.champagnat.org/400.php?a=6&n=3926

Posted by FMS Champagnat on viernes, 8 de abril de 2016

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