Feeling at home… at the other end of the world
A conference hall. People sitting at tables, meditating over pictures. Just a normal conference situation (by the way, the person with the lilac pullover is me.). BUT: All the people in the photo are teachers and leaders in one of the 53 Marist schools in Australia. The conference hall is a Catholic centre in Melbourne. Oops, how do two Germans (Brother Winfried’s head can be seen on the right) get to take part in an Australian conference? I still cannot believe that I really had the chance to go there and join the Marist Schools Biennial Conference. But I did and it was an overwhelming experience. Not only the conference, with the presentations by Father Kevin Lenehan, who talked to us about the question of how Catholic education is still possible in our age of declining belief – a question which is unfortunately only too well known to us Europeans as well. According to statistics, the number of “non-religious” people in Australia has nearly doubled within the last 20 years. At the same time the number of people who consider themselves as being Christians is continually decreasing and the question of what “being Christian” means in this connection has not been answered yet. Father Kevin indicated that we as Christian educators are called to be credible and authentic witnesses of the Gospel, as often we are the only “true” Christians young people might meet in their lives. It is our responsibility to show our students and all the young people we work with the joy of believing in the Gospel and in God’s love and thus to lead them to a faithful adult life.
Of course, a flight of more than 20 hours just to join a three day conference is just too long, so Brother Winfried and I added a few days of holiday. We could not spend these in Melbourne, so we were transferred to Sydney and spent some days with the Brothers in Eastwood. And I must say, I really felt at home there. The Brothers did their best to make us feel welcome and from the beginning the atmosphere was warm and friendly. Sydney was really worth a visit, and though I never saw a kangaroo during my stay in Australia, I really enjoyed it. And I like the Australian winter – 21 degrees Celsius and sun. But we were told that this was the warmest winter in the last 90 years. I definitely have to go back to Australia one day – I still want to see kangaroos. And I want to see how Australian teachers work. So – we will see. Maybe I can go back for practical studies. Who knows.
Brother Winfried Schreieck and Ulrike Weber