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Marist Bulletin - Number 46



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Our Marist community in Monrovia

In 1986, the Esopus Province in the USA decided to begin a mission in Africa. At first, Namibia seemed a promising place but, when some difficulties arose, the brothers chose Liberia, a West African country with historical ties to the United States.
Liberia is a country of 110,000 square km with a population of about 3 million people. Catholics are in the minority, behind followers of African religious traditions and other Christian churches.
At the invitation of the local bishop, in 1987 Brother Leo Shea, who would later become Provincial of the Esopus Province, became director of the first Marist community in Cape Palmas, near the border with Ivory Coast. Soon after that, civil war broke out. From 1987 to 1996, together with the Liberian people, the Brothers experienced the social unrest, instability, and poverty generated by that war. Deteriorating health obliged some Brothers to leave the country. Amazingly this period gave rise to the first Marist Liberian vocations. The young aspirants were sent to the West African Regional Novitiate in Kumasi, Ghana, and then to the post-novitiate formation center in Nairobi, Kenya. Having completed their initial formation, these first Liberian Brothers returned home, to a country still in the grip of civil war. Some American Brothers, including Brother John McDonnell, accompanied them. Bro Denis Hever helped form this community of young Liberian Brothers in these last difficult years, and he was the last USA Brother to work in the country. For various reasons Denis and the community changed their location once more and moved back to Monrovia where they were heartily welcomed by Archbishop Michael K. Francis. He offered the Brothers a house, a sacred one indeed, as it was the former residence of five American Sisters murdered in 1992, during the height of the civil war.
Currently, another armed group is fighting to overthrow the elected government. Though the war is localized in the northern part of the country, the entire nation is feeling its devastating effects. Young men perish daily on battlegrounds; the economy is in shambles. All reconstruction, much less any form of development, has been arrested. Educational and social institutions are among the most severely damaged. Young people finishing school find their only hope in emigrating to Europe or the USA. Lacking fulfillment and a future, virtually all well-educated people in the country have chosen to search for greener pastures in the West. As a logical consequence, poverty fiercely gnaws at ordinary Liberians. Many Liberian refugees remain scattered throughout southern West Africa and beyond.
In 2001 Brother José Manuel Acal from the Province of Madrid joined the community for half a year, his first contact with the Liberian community. He is presently studying and preparing to return to Liberia in 2003. After Brother Denis Hever returned to the United States due to health reasons, Brother Christian Mbam from Nigeria was appointed to lead the community. The group includes three Liberian Brothers: Augustine Martin, Daniel Taylor and Washington Tekay. All three are looking forward to their perpetual profession. Last November Brother José María. Ferre, also from Madrid, joined the community. A novice is studying in Kumasi and a postulant in Cameroon. Several aspirants are attempting to discern their Marist vocation. Our presence in Liberia is slowly taking shape. Our Brothers are a sign of hope and the inculturation of the Marist charism in this part of Africa.
In addition to Liberia, the newly created Marist District of West Africa includes Ivory Coast, Cameroon and Ghana. In June 2003, Equatorial Guinea and Chad will join. Six countries and three languages!
Presently the main mission of the Brothers in Monrovia is teaching in a Diocesan school named for Sister Shirley Kolmer, one of the Sisters martyred in the archdiocese. Her cause of canonization has now been introduced. All the Brothers are equally engaged in vocations ministry and in serving the needy and disabled people in their area. Their plan is to take charge of a school as soon as they have trained people, and to turn it into a Marist school, to consolidate our presence in the country and give clear witness of our identity among the people and church. The Archbishop is very keen about Christian education and the formation of good Christian teachers, in a country that needs to do a lot in order to improve its educational standards. Here the Brothers are finding fertile ground for their Marist mission.

Brother Laurentino Albalá,

The first Provincial Chapter of the Norandina (Northern Andes) Province has taken place in Chinauta, near Bogotá, Colombia. The new Province includes Colombia, Ecuador and Venezuela. On December 31 Brother Laurentino Albalá was elected as its first Provincial. He had been the Provincial of Ecuador since late 1999, and in that capacity he attended the 20th General Chapter in 2001.
The election for Provincial Councilors took place on January 2, anniversary of the founding of the Congregation. The delegates chose two Brothers from each of the three countries comprising the new Province: Antidio Enríquez and César Rojas from Colombia, Patricio Gálvez and Galo Rivera from Ecuador, and Diego Antón and Tomás Martínez from Venezuela.
The official inauguration of the new Province was celebrated during the Eucharist. Brother Seán Sammon, Superior General, present at this Chapter along with Brother Pedro Herreros from the General Council, received the perpetual vows of Brothers Leonardo Yepes and Carlos Saúl Corzo. Ten young Brothers renewed temporary vows. With this new dynamism the new Province has begun its journey into the future.

General Administration

As the New Year gets underway, Brother Antonio Martínez has assumed his post as Econome General of the Congregation, succeeding Brother Yvon Bédard, who served in that office for the past nine years. (See our interview with him in Marist Bulletin 37, December 5, 2002).
On January 3 at the General House, an informal fraternal get-together was held to symbolize this transfer of responsibility in the Institute. Following a few words from Brother Richard Dunleavy, Secretary General, Yvon, drawing on his great sense of humor, handed Antonio a symbolic set of keys to commemorate the event. Antonio then thanked him for his dedication and skill in the work he has completed, and laid out criteria for the carrying out of his new duties and responsibilities.

Tremendous gathering of Brothers

A total of 285 Brothers from, Italy, Lebanon, Syria, and the Provinces of Bética and Levante in Spain came together in Alicante, Spain from December 27-30. Their three-fold purpose was to continue the process of getting to know and encourage each other in bringing to birth our new Mediterranean Province; coming to grips with the reality of the new Province and sharing their expectations about the future; and becoming better acquainted with the Brothers who accepted being nominated to serve as Provincial.
Brothers Maurice Berquet and Emili Turú, General Councilors took part in the assembly and directed sessions on the 28th. Five lay people from each of the current Provinces were also in attendance. They dialogued with the Brothers on the morning of the 29th.
Participants worked in groups – there were 14 of them, for Spirituality, Mission, Solidarity, and Community – seeking to fill the structures of their new Province with the energizing spirit of abundant life.

History challenges us to unite for life

A total of 70 Brothers from the Argentine Provinces of Córdoba and Río de la Plata and the District of Paraguay met December 21-22 to establish initial contacts concerning the new Cruz del Sur (Southern Cross) Province, bringing together Argentina, Paraguay, and Uruguay. Brother Antonio Ramalho from the General Council also took part in the meeting.
The Brothers analyzed the well-to-do places along with the poor areas where they are working, desiring to build their future Province on a solid foundation. They discussed a previously administered questionnaire that surveyed their strengths and similarities, and raised the question, where do we stand now, given the survey’s results?
The assembly concluded with the Brothers attempting to describe, “The life we envision for Cruz del Sur.”

On retreat in Campinas, Brazil

December 16-22, Brother Luis García Sobrado, Vicar General led the first retreat for the new Brazilian Province of Centro-Sul, which took place in Campinas, São Paulo.

- Several Marist Bulletins with material not found in FMS Update have recently been published: Numbers 42, about the first anniversary of the Bulletin and with Christmas greetings; 43, thoughts from Brother Seán; 44, five Brothers speaking about vocation ministry; and 45, Brother Seán’s New Year Message.
- To access back numbers of the Bulletin, simply log on to: www.champagnat.org

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