31 August 2017

Marist world

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.

Ulrike Weber

Brother Winfried Schreieck and Ulrike Weber


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