14 November 2018

MINDELHEIM Two Workshops 26th – 30th October A truly Province experience

A short but intense course on spirituality presented by Brother Seán

On Friday 26th October, we were privileged to meet Brother Seán Sammon, former Superior General, who had agreed to travel from America where, among other things, he is Master of Novices.

This meeting comprised Brothers from every section of our West-Central European Province and it was, as always, a wonderful experience to meet up with them. They had come from Belgium, Germany, Holland, Great Britain, Ireland. We used the free time to catch up with our Brothers and chat about how we things had been since we last met a number of years ago.

On arrival we were greeted by Brother Michael Schmalzl who, with his team, had prepared everything to make a success of the occasion. He provided our accommodation and was always available to cater for our needs. We had the added advantage of being the first to use the newly built rooms which are of a very high standard.

In the course of our stay we were very fortunate to have a group of Brothers who organised the liturgy which reflected Brother Seán’s presentations. Of course, employing the languages of the different countries.

 Workshop I

“Leaving and Coming Home; Christian Discipleship”

On the weekend of the 26thOctober, Marists from all over the Province gathered in Mindelheim for a workshop, entitled “Leaving and Coming Home: Christian Discipleship”. Sean Sammon led the workshop. In his workshop Sean reminded all of us that later life is a time to be thankful and grateful for our life’s experience. The challenge for each of us is to change our experience into wisdom. Such a piece of wisdom passed on from Sean was to let go of past hurts. We have all been hurt on our way through life and it is important to let this go. By contrast, he encouraged us to allow the Lord to look on us in love. He explained that adult discipleship is about struggling with the questions: How can I give my life away more meaningfully? How do I live beyond my own heartache and obsessions, so as to make other people’s lives more meaningful? These are just some of the challenges Sean offered the workshop participants.

The weekend was a useful time of personal reflection and celebration of being together as Province. The Mindelheim Community and co-workers, hosted the event in the newly built facility for young students.  We had a great sense of Marist hospitality from everyone. They also managed to organise the first snow of the year for us!  It is always good to find opportunities to come together as Province. This workshop had the best of ingredients: a stimulating and reflective workshop, with a great presenter; a wide variety of Marist participants and not forgetting, great accommodation and hospitality. Well done to all who participated and were involved in the organisation.



This was the title of Brother Sean’s lectures. They dealt with the challenging issues concerning Brothers who have reached the latter stages of their lives, the difficulties inherent in this and how to cope with behaviour which can be a result of aging.

These included depression and anxiety, memory problems and coping with difficult behaviour. Seán, in his usual laconic style, suggested mechanisms for dealing with these difficulties and encouraged the leaders who were present to face up to any problems afflicting the elderly and to deal with them in a sympathetic but direct manner.

Seán also highlighted the importance of community meetings to deal with challenging issues.  He suggested strategies to be considered by the leader before calling a community meeting. It was generally agreed that his ideas and comments on this topic were very valuable.

There were many other topics dealt with in the course of the sessions, too many to mention here. Many thanks to Seán for his spiritual and practical input, not least his wonderful anecdotes to illustrate a point. I am sure that we all left Mindelheim better equipped to deal with the elderly in our communities.


5 November 2018

Brussels – Marist Meeting

In Brussels, on 4 September 2018, a meeting was held on the theme of safeguarding children, young people and vulnerable adults. There were thirteen Brothers in attendance.

Leading the meeting were Mgr Herman Cosijns, secretary of the Episcopal Conference and Madame Micheline Cara from the legal department of the Interdiocesan Centre.

The morning was dedicated to the policy put in place by the church in Belgium to respond to complaints lodged by victims of abuse committed by priests and religious.

There was a general discussion of the Church’s attitude in the past. Awareness of the gap between protecting the Institution and abandoning the victims had been highlighted. This has resulted in a fruitful collaboration between State and Church. Victims have been able to speak out and their suffering is taken into consideration.

The two facilitators, speaking about the present and the future, urged us to remain vigilant and to find ways of continuing to be so. They also congratulated the Marist Brothers for their courageous policy and for the writing of the booklet. They encouraged us to put what is written into practice so that it does not remain merely words on paper.

Other topical issues, such as the protection of personal data, were also discussed.


The Provincial, Brother Brendan Geary, thanked the leaders and the Brothers for a successful morning. On the basis of the discussions, actions already undertaken will create a safe and supportive environment for the good of all.

17 October 2018

An Honour for Mrs Ria Walk

On 8 September, Ria Walk said farewell to the Marist Brothers of Westerhelling/Nijmegen.

She had worked for 31 years, serving the Brothers, visitors and groups who passed through Westerhelling. In recent months, poor health had been the cause of lengthy absences and she really missed not being able to look after the brothers as usual.

At first, she was employed to do housework in the Brothers’ community. At the end of the 1980s, the number of meetings for religious training and reflection increased in Westerhelling, giving extra work to Ria and her colleague because they had to “do the rooms” and cook for about fifteen people. Ria was a good cook who loved cooking and her meals were greatly appreciated by her “passing trade” and by the Brothers, of course!!!

During the nineties, some refugees added their number to the community and from then on it was necessary to take care of 12 people and to plan appropriate meals.

From 2000, Westerhelling was the location of the Provincial House of the new province of West Central Europe. Ria adapted to these new circumstances and was always ready to serve the Brothers or those who came from Germany, Belgium or Great Britain. She had no trouble making herself understood by visitors from such different countries. Everyone understood her “sign language”.

To mark a Jubilee of the Brothers, Ria presented the community with a really beautiful tapestry of the Virgin Mary which she had made herself. Today, the tapestry can be found in the dining-room of the house. The tapestry must have required hundreds of hours of work and this is yet further evidence of her strong involvement in the life of the community.

For her generous dedication, her good humour and her honest laughter, Ria received the papal honour “Pro Ecclesia et Pontifice”. It is a well-earned reward for a long career in the service of a religious community. Her endeavour constituted a precious and important contribution to the apostolic work of the Brothers.

Ria can look back on all these wonderful years with pride and gratitude.

The festivities came to a close with a celebration meal which brought together members of her family, acquaintances, Brothers and colleagues.

7 October 2018

Orore Summer Camp 2018

Orore Summer Camp 2018

Once again this year, a group of 11 Marists, including Jasmin Nimar from the Cmi team, Wolfgang Hacker, PE Teacher at the Maristenkolleg, Mindelheim,   Brother Michael and 8 young adults – 5 of them former Cmi volunteers from Mindelheim – came to Orore.

Orore is a fishing village on Lake Victoria in Kenya, where there is a community of brothers who run Our Lady of Orore Primary School and a boarding section.

The summer camp, which was organized from that group, took place from the 18th till the 30th of August. Approximately 65 children, most of them pupils of our school but also some children from the village, were allowed to stay in the boarding section over the holidays instead of going home. They had the opportunity to participate in the programme of the summer camp, where they could work on something practical, or design some beautiful or simply interesting craft work in the 2 ½ h morning session. In the afternoon they could experience fun while playing new games, practicing challenging group exercises or participating in competitions in well-known or new sports on the large sports ground like volleyball, netball or football. The programme was completely planned and carried out by the team from Mindelheim. The brothers and four local teachers from the school assisted us in the activities.


The objective of the camp, which was to provide a safe environment for orphans or children coming from difficult circumstances, has definitely been fulfilled. They had the chance simply to be children, having fun and experiencing a safe and joyful time. Sometimes it does not take much to make a child happy, even something as simple as blowing soap bubbles or playing silly games with young and old together.

In order for the summer camp to have a lasting effect, the volunteers want to organize events and personal presentations back in Germany to inform people about the circumstances of children in our school in Orore, and to promote school sponsorships for particularly needy children. The school fee, which covers all costs for one school year (schooling, boarding, meals, school uniforms . . .) is 400 euros. If you would like more information or would like to take on a personal school sponsorship, you are most welcome to contact one of the participants or the Cmi office in Mindelheim (Tel No:  +49 8261/22024-60 or Email jasmin.nimar@maristen.org).


For all 11 participants from Germany, but also for the brothers and teachers on site and especially for the children, the days together were a wonderful time, characterized by deep experiences, e.g. T. personal insights and experiences and joyful encounters. The feedback was so positive from all sides that already a third summer camp is being planned for 2020.

26 September 2018

Brother Hans Seubert visits the Brothers in Furth

Brother Hans Seubert visits the Brothers in Furth

On Monday afternoon Bro. Hans Seubert visited Furth. He is currently on home leave and has visited the brothers in Furth. Bro. Hans is doing better now because he had a severe malaria attack two weeks ago from which he is slowly recovering. After arriving in Germany, he underwent a thorough investigation at the Tropical Institute in Würzburg. So far, he has no feedback and no result on the test.

He was very happy to see his former novice colleagues Bro. Ehrenbert Steinkirchner and Bro. Heinrich Schamberger again. Both are now back in Furth after 60 years in the same community in Furth.

Bro. Hans, who works together with Bro. Andreas for more than 30 years in Kenya, said during his visit that he envied the two brothers Ehrenbert and Andreas, because they are a bit stronger built. Everyone can see from his figure that the African way of life can draw and shape a man like Bro. Hans.
Although his visit was short, he felt comfortable and enjoyed the time with his brothers.
We wish Bro. Hans a speedy recovery and wish him a relaxing holiday, so that after 2 monthsrest he is able to take his task in Ramba / Kenya once more.

13 September 2018

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.


9 September 2018

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.


3 September 2018

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.

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