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Novices in the Southern Africa Province

 

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04/05/2010: Mozambique

 

hspace=5Marist Brothers still attract new novices in the Southern Africa Province. On the 30th April, the Matola Novitiate received three more first year novices. Does it mean that Brotherhood is the sign of the times that is here to stay? As a vocation it is less known and in big church celebrations they are among those forgotten even by the Catholic Master of Ceremony. Religious Nuns because of their numerical statistics are very visible and are usually recognized. Catechists are the right hand workforce of the parish and are never forgotten because they take an active part in such celebrations.

Bishop Philip of Homa Bay Diocese, in Kenya, acknowledged that we the authority in the church speak very little of Brotherhood. Some young men teased me one day that one Parish priest questioned their decision to join Brotherhood.

Two days ago a nurse from Maputo was asking when l will be ordained so that l could be blessing many things in her house. As a candidate at St. John Bosco Secondary School, Malawi, the chaplain questioned my idea of joining Brotherhood in a diocese that was short of priests. If l was not strong enough to stand my ground l would have given in and joined priesthood. In one mixed religious congregation, a candidate opted to remain a Brother but those who know forced him to be a priest. He became a priest reluctantly. St Francis of Assisi would have loved to be a Brother but high church authority made him arise to deaconate so that a Founder should be at the level of the clergy. Brother Jean Baptiste Audras, who became an obedient brother Louis had a temptation to study Latin and become a priest. After a good dialogue with our founder, he changed his mind and felt that even in brotherhood he could make Jesus known and loved. The mission of the church is to introduce Jesus who loves us unconditionally. This means he understood the vocation of the Brother. Mind you, when l talk of brotherhood, l am not down playing any vocation in the church. I just confirm that all vocation are means of serving with love of Jesus. That brings to my mind the diversity of charisms that St.Paul often speaks in his epistles.

St. Marcellin Champagnat, the Founder of the Marist Brother, always said, “We must have Brothers” At the background of this statement was his lack of good education preparation. Teachers were brutal with children they were teaching. He proposed that brothers should love the children they teach. Brutality towards children has no place in our Marist Brotherhood. He had in mind an idea of providing better educational opportunities for young people and was also preoccupied with helping to foster their religious development and experience of God’s love. “I cannot see a child without wanting to let him or her know how much Jesus Christ has loved him or her and how much he or she should, in return, love the Divine Savour,” he was often quoted by those who knew him personally. A Brother remains in the portal in order to proclaim the gospel.

He often repeated we aim at something better, “We want to educate the children, to instruct them in their duty, to teach them to practice it, to give them a Christian spirit and attitudes and to form them to religious habits and virtues possessed by a good Christian and a good citizen.” A brother treasures education of others very much because he believes in empowering people.

With this aim we saw Jean Marie Granjon, Jean Baptiste Audras forming first community at Lavalla and doing excellent work in the hamlets. We all know the famous Jean Claude Audras, who became the famous Brother Lawrence. People at Le Bassat would remember him as their saint. He was an Apostle who awakened the dead faith of both adults and children at this rural place. A brother does not hung on to power and is flexible enough to serve any capacity from a classroom teacher to a gardener or a feeder of chickens. An educator is not limited to a classroom situation.

Champagnat also said, “May it be said of the Little Brothers of Mary as of the first Christians: See how they love one another!” More than anything else Brothers in the Catholic Church are consecrated men who desire to demonstrate or make visible the love of Jesus. Generosity is the occupation number one of all who call themselves Brothers.

Looking at the picture above you, you see on the extreme left Novice Francis from Zambia, the one sandwiched is Novice Dominic from Malawi and the one on the extreme right is Novice Peter from Malawi too. We might call them latecomers due to official document problem. Br. Marco from Namibia had a similar problem a year before. In the field of the Lord even the latecomers have a place if we read the Bible well and the pay will be the same.

I see the majority of people would love to see us hide behind the status quo. Champagnat whispered to us to take humility, modesty and simplicity to be our virtues. These virtues hide us and make us almost invisible in the midst of the people. We do good quietly, hidden and unknown. When we see Francis, Dominic and Peter, we see that this hidden life still attracts young people in the church to serve as brothers. We need apostles who live what they proclaim. Brotherhood in the church is people who live what they proclaim. Any member who does not witness to what he proclaimed during his profession, he betrays his vocation. When the church does not have people who live what they proclaim it multiplies people who will be counter witnesses to the mission of Jesus. So I concur with Champagnat that we need Brothers even now in the Catholic Church who can live what they proclaim. Welcome Francis, Dominic and Peter to the life of those who live what they proclaim. Family image serve better the definition of brothers. We live a family life of equals. We share all in common. The Eucharist nourishes our life together and puts on fire for mission. Solidarity with all who suffer touch our hearts and prompts us to do something for them. Prayer occupies a central place in our life, both personal and communal. Anyone who visits our homes, he or she will conclude that he or she was among the people who pray. Forgiveness is not strange for us but our norm. Our mission is that of the entire church but following our specific charism. Today our challenge is globalization which at times threatens our simple life. We are not afraid of it because we have our won values that keep us focused on who we are. We wish new members abundant blessings on their journey of discernment. Pray for us and we shall pray for you too. Remember novitiate will provide you with all that is necessary to follow into intimate love with Jesus. Make all resolutions and evaluate them from time to time that will make you into a good religious. Remember the adage of Brother Christopher, “This bird is it dead or alive? If you say it is alive l will crush it and kill it. If you say it is dead l will release it and let it fly.” We need to take personal responsibility in our vocation. We need to love it wholeheartedly. Good luck.

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Simeon Banda, fms, Matola, Mozambique.

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