First Lay Marist Assembly in USA

First Lay Marist Assembly in USA

It was a special privilege to attend the first Lay Marist Assembly in the USA from July 18thto 20th. The meeting was held at the Redemptorist Retreat centre at Long Branch New Jersey and was attended by 75 Lay Marists and a number of Brothers including the Provincial Bro Pat McNamara. It was a very enjoyable experience, with a great sense of togetherness and a strong vibrant spiritual experience.

The meeting was facilitated by Pep Buetas Co -Director of the Laity in Rome and Patti Rios from Mexico who is very involved in the Champagnat Movement.

The process at the conference clearly established that any Marist Group must have three elements to its life, Reflection, Community experience and an Action plan.

 The first exercise allowed the participants to break into three groups and identify from experience which element of the above areas attracted them most to the Marist charism.

This process was followed by two main presentation from Pep and  Patti. Pep shared the evolution of thinking on Lay Marist through the various General Chapters and Marist documents including Water from the Rock and Gathered around the same table. It is clear that the first stage is to awaken and discover the charism, followed by an encounter usually through some formation programme and then follows various levels of engagement depending on each person’s journey.

Patti in her presentation traced the evolution of the Champagnat Movement from it’s inception by Bro Charles Howard in 1980. It is interesting that by and large this movement has never gained any traction in the English-speaking world. Since 2012 a review of this programme has been in place to make it more lay friendly.

The rest of the Conference involved brainstorming about what a Lay Association might look like and the creation of a series of proposals that would form the basis of such a movement.

It was clear that a leadership team will need to be set up to look at the various proposals and develop a plan of action. Communications and Formation were seen as two key areas that will be crucial in the development of the Lay Association. Another interesting but very realistic conclusion was that a source of funding of the Lay movement will have to be established.

I really appreciate the opportunity of being present at such a historic moment in the establishment of a Lay Marist group in the USA and thank all the participants for the welcome I received.

P.J McGowan F.M.S.

A Short Retreat at Genval

A Short Retreat at Genval


Genval has experienced an extension of Rio Negro in Colombia. In fact, the retreat offered to the Brothers of the community and to other Brothers in Belgium had as its theme the last General Chapter. Some Lay People joined us, to share the second day in communion with the Brothers.

From 23rd-25thAugust we essentially considered three calls of the Chapter:

<<Jesus, transform us and send us out:

  • As a charismatic global family, a beacon of hope in a turbulent world
  • To be the face and hands of tender mercy
  • Inspire our creativity to be builders of bridges.>>

For three days, we allowed ourselves to be steeped in these calls. This avoids the trap into which we fall so easily of filing them as documents or forgetting about them at the bottom of a drawer. They have been given to us and shared with us to encourage us to set our steps on new paths which until now have not been part of our everyday life.

This has also allowed us to continue to show interest in Marist life not only in Genval or in Belgium but even across the five continents. It is one of the fruits of a General Chapter that it connects us with the whole Marist world. This allows us to have a firm understanding of belonging to a global family.



A European Marist Network

A European Marist Network

There were a good twenty Brothers and Lay People who came together from 8th-12thAugust at the Escorial Marist Centre (Spain) to take part in the third meeting of the Network of European Marist Communities – a Network, supported by CEM, which was set up in 2011 with the aim of strengthening some existing communities and creating new ones, encouraging a renewal of religious life. This Network has to be looked at again in the light of the last General Chapter.

During our meeting at L’Escorial we firstly looked back at our experience of the last seven years in order to then turn to consider and support our major objectives: to define the function and the direction of travel of the Network, to design a profile of communities with regard to community life, to Marist spirituality, to the mission, to responding to new calls, to types of membership and relations with other communities in the Network, to the links with the Lavalla200 and Fratelli Projects and our support of these communities.

Over the course of these three intense days, we were able to create a great feeling of fraternity and togetherness in our large and small group activities, our sharing at mealtimes as well as at our get together at the end of the meeting.

We returned to our respective communities with hearts full of hope.

A House of Welcome**– « Huis om te Zijn »

A House of Welcome**« Huis om te Zijn »

The Dennenstraat House of Welcome (Huis om te Zijn) in Nijmegen opened its doors in August 2014. Its aim was to provide young people, between the ages of 12 and 17, the chance to live for a while away from their families, without completely breaking contact with them. Moreover, it was intended that these young people would return to their families after their stay in the House of Welcome. The initiative to create such a house came from the Dominican Sisters and Marist Brothers who were later joined by the Sisters of Julie Postel.

The project was set up with the agreement of the local authorities of Nijmegen. It was thus an excellent joint initiative of different congregations and local authorities with the latter planning to create a further three or four similar houses in Nijmegen.

The management of the House of Welcome decided on 1 July 2018 to close the house, for reasons given below.

The first reason for the closure was the decision taken in 2015 by central government to pass responsibility for social aid for young people from the State and the Province to a local authority level. This transfer brought about a new momentum. Outreach services for young people remaining with their families were organised quite quickly and the thereafter families could count on specific help. This development was at the same time extremely positive for the young people who could therefore benefit from close attention within their own families. The commune of Nijmegen was well aware of its social responsibilities and sought appropriate ways to come to the aid of these young people and their families.

In this process, the congregation’s initiative took on the role of intermediary, to provide liaison. After effective consultation with the local authority, it became clear that the congregation’s help was no longer necessary.

Another reason was that, latterly, our House of Welcome was asked, on several occasions, to take on very difficult young people whom we could not help.

The third reason was that it quite soon became clear that taking charge of a target group twenty-four hours a day, was too demanding for the couple responsible.

The congregations involved are happy with their experience and those who worked with the young people can be satisfied with what they have done. In all humility, we can say that the young people who passed through our house were happy.

The congregations can say that they found themselves, at any given time, faced with an urgent request and that they responded positively. Today, they can withdraw with satisfaction and pride in duty done We can be happy and thankful for this excellent experience and also for the social engagement of the congregation and of the houseparents in the House of Welcome. We may be pleased too that we were able to offer a welcome space of calm and peace to numerous young people who were able to benefit from individualised attention from those who managed the house.



Visit to the graves of the Brothers killed during World War One

Visit to the graves of the Brothers killed during World War One

The First World War finished 100 years ago. This is a good opportunity to remember the Brothers killed during the Great War.

All five countries of our Province had mourned their dead at that time including the 43 Brothers who were German soldiers, most of whom died in Belgium and France.

It was in the course of reading the biographies of the German Brothers that Brothers Michael, Augustin and Alois came up with the idea of visiting the known burial places of these Brothers who were German soldiers.

Thanks to the “Foundation for the Upkeep of Military Cemeteries”, Brother Augustin managed to find the graves of the Brothers killed in Belgium and France. The three Brothers set out from the community at Kessel-Lo in search of these military cemeteries, to give one final Marist mark of respect to the Brothers killed in the war.

On arrival, their first act was to read the biography of the Brother, light a candle and say a prayer for the deceased. In three days, they were able to visit the graves of 15 Brothers. They were aware that there were others whose burial places were unknown. When Brother Brendan heard of the steps that had been taken by the three Brothers, he encouraged them to continue their research. This resulted in the discovery of the burial places of three more Brothers.

On 14thJuly, Brother Brendan, Provincial, and Brother Alphonse, Director of the community at Kessel-Lo, set off for Colmar in Alsace. They passed through Strasbourg, where they met up with Brothers Alois and Augustin who had come from Mindelheim, and together they made their way to the house of the community of French Brothers at the Issenheim. Brother Alois takes up the story:

On 15thJuly, we went to the cemetery at Corney, not far from Issenheim, to visit the grave of Brother Armandus Lamers. We read the biography of the Brother, prayed and sang together the “Salve Regina”. That same day we visited the memorial monument at Hartmanswillerkopf, situated about 900 metres above the plain of Alsace, which was the location of bitter battles which left thousands dead. To complete the day, we did a detour through Colmar to visit the marvellous Unterlinden Museum (Unter den Linden).

We left the Brothers’ house at Issenheim on 16thJuly to head for St Martin (Palatinat) where we met Brother Winfried, whose nephew was a well-known wine merchant. We spent the night there, and on the morning of 17thJuly we set off for Reims. At the cemetery at St Etienne-a-Arnes, we visited the grave of Brother Joseph Lambert, killed in April 1918, and then, in the military cemetery at   Warmeriville, we found the grave of Brother Josef Bergner who was killed in September 1917. We prayed for them, and commended them to our Good Mother.

After visiting the cathedral, we set off on our return journey to Kessel-Lo.

We don’t know if family members of these Brothers had visited their graves, but we were very aware that we were the first Brothers to do so.

May they all rest in the peace of the Lord.

Marist Brothers


The five countries of the Province of West-Central Europe:

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