Brothers and Lay People
International meeting in Rome
More than 50 lay persons and Brothers met in Rome from 26th to 29th March to reflect on Lay Association and Belonging. The meeting had been promoted by Brother Emili Turú, Superior General, with the collaboration of the Secretariat of the Laity.
Brother P.J. McGowan was the representative of our Province. He has sent the following report.
This meeting of 50 Brothers and lay people from all over the world took place in the General House in Rome where a very fraternal experience was shared by all. As a participant I felt the sense of a new dawn being born with our lay colleagues in the Marist world anxious to be partners in living the Marist charism into the future.
The objectives of the meeting were twofold:
A) To share information about the different possibilities of lay Marist association and belonging, particularly based on the experience of other religious families and already existing projects in various parts of our own Institute.
B) To begin a process of discernment about the structures of association and belonging most suitable for our Institute and to make recommendations to the General Council.
On the first day we heard the experience of three congregations, the Marianists, the Salesians and the Scolopian Laity, all who have very strong well-structured lay associations. The second day we heard from our own Marist experiences including the Champagnat movement and other expressions of lay association around the world especially in Canada, Australia, South America and Europe.
Brother Emili helped to clarify four key issues for the development of Lay Association:
1) We need to decide what type of canonical, civil or Marist structure is most appropriate to promote Marist charism.
2) The next issue is to establish the level of lay autonomy and partnership with the Brothers for any model of association. The general view was that whatever format develops it should be a partnership among all Marists.
3) It is all important that we build on the internationality of the Congregation and tap into the rich diversity we have around the world.
4) The other concern is how we manage the number of institutions we have responsibility for into the future given the decline of Brothers in some regions of the Marist world.
The focus of the meeting was very much on providing a framework to allow Marists to fully experience our rich charism. I think a healthy tension and complementarity exists between the need to manage our projects into the future while at the same time concentrating on promoting the charism of Marcellin Champagnat.
The conference was a beginning of a process that gives great confidence for the future of Marist presence with hearts that know no bounds. We wait to see what unfolds.