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Marist Bulletin - Number 142

 

REGION OF OCEANIA
13/05/2004

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Expanded General Council
REGION OF OCEANIA (I)

BROTHER SEAN SAMMON OPENS THE MEETING
“I greatly admire the vitality of the Marist brothers in Oceania and the mission they have opened up in this region and the entire Institute.”

May 12th: This morning Brother Seán Sammon, General Superior, began the expanded General Council meeting for the region of Oceania. After a meditative time that included biblical readings in Maori and English, Br. Seán welcomed the participants, representing ten countries in the region. These days of meetings will bring to a close the General Council’s visits to the Administrative Units in Oceania in the last few months.

Brother Seán reminded everyone of the key ideas of the 20th General Chapter as well as the five most important calls of the Chapter, based on responses Marcellin would give to current challenges. Seán pointed out four objectives for this meeting: a) presenting to each Provincial, District Superior, and the brothers of each Administrative Unit the findings, encouraging words, and recommendations coming from the just-concluded visits; b) as a group, developing a greater understanding and appreciation of the Congregation’s riches in this region, and also of the challenges that its members are facing; c) exploring the means available to help members formulate plans for meeting these challenges in the future; and d) dealing with the topic of restructuring.

A HISTORY OF FIDELITY AND EVANGELIZATION

Our Marist work in Oceania began in 1837, when the first brothers accompanied St. Peter Chanel, proto-martyr of the Church in that part of the world. Marcellin Champagnat was still living and had trained the brothers who first set foot on the Island of Futuna. Today in New Caledonia, people can visit the tomb of Tarcisius, a Marist brother and nephew of Marcellin. The Society of Mary, consisting of the Congregations of the Marist Fathers, Sisters, Missionary Sisters, and Brothers, has made tremendous contributions to the evangelization of Oceania. As a woman associated with our ministries has pointed out, in Oceania the Church has a Marist flavor.

A MOSAIC OF COUNTRIES AND CULTURES

The Marist brothers have three Provinces in the region – Melbourne, New Zealand, and Sydney, plus the District of Melanesia. This District coordinates its efforts with the two Australian Provinces, although officially it belongs to the Province of Sydney. The ten countries with Marist brothers are Australia, New Zealand, Fiji, Kiribati, Samoa, Tonga, Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, New Caledonia, and Vanuatu. We should highlight their official ties and cooperation with India, Cambodia, and East Timor.

Indigenous cultures are a source of great wealth and variety in these countries. In Australia alone, there are 250 languages spoken by different segments of the population.

The following brothers are participating in these meetings of the expanded General Council:

- Brendan Nelly and Ken McDonald from the District of Melanesia
- Paul Gilchrist (Provincial), John McMahon, Julian Casey, Anthony Clark, Paul Kane, and Michael Sexton from the Province of Melbourne
- Barry Burns (Provincial), Nevil Bingley, Fergus Garrett, Henry Spinks, David McDonald, Iulio Suaesi, and Carl Tapp from the Province of New Zealand and the Island Nations of the South Pacific
- John Thompson (Provincial), William Selden, Michael Green, Neville Solomon, Darren Burge, Mark Inkston, Anthony Robinson, David Hall, and Dominic O’ Sullivan from the Province of Sydney
- Seán Sammon, Luis Garcia Sobrado, Maurice Berquet, Pedro Herreros, Theoneste Kalisa, Antonio Ramalho, Peter Rodney, Emili Turu, and Michael De Waas (Provincial of Sri Lanka and Pakistan and Delegate of the General Superior)
- Lluis Serra, Director of Communications for the General Administration
- Terry Gilsenan, Support staff

MITTAGONG, THE SETTING

Mittagong is located 110 kilometers, about 70 miles from Sydney (the Marist city par excellence as it is home to 13 Marist education centers). The brothers arrived in Mittagong in 1906. Soon after that the house added on a juniorate (what today might be called a prenovitiate) and a novitiate for Australia and New Zealand. In 1948, the Provinces of Melbourne, New Zealand and Sydney were established, Sydney maintaining this complex, which is located in the Australian State of New South Wales. Mittagong continued being a novitiate until 1984. Currently it serves both as a center for adults – the Farmhouse, able to accommodate 40 people – and a retreat house, The Marist Centre, with facilities for up to 100 students and young people. For more information, you can check out their web site:
http://www.hinet.net.au/~frmhouse/index.htm

Mittagong encompasses 494 acres. In Australia, people see size and distance in an entirely different light. 30 acres are used for vineyards that produce an exquisite wine and a farm with more than 200 calves… The cultivation of olives, potatoes, and various other products is quite extensive.

May falls within the autumn season in the Southern Hemisphere. Mittagong right now is bathed in yellow ochre and reddish tones alternating with year-round greens, filling the eyes with spectacular beauty. This afternoon, the sky regaled us with a deep-hued rainbow.

STUDYING THE REPORTS

Each General Council team that visited the Provinces made out detailed reports and distributed them to the respective Provincial Councils. Subsequently these Councils devoted three sessions to examining and discussing those reports. Prayer pervaded this first day of the Expanded General Council meeting, scheduled to conclude at noon this Saturday, May 15th.

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