19 December 2016

Marist Europe

“Lavalla200>” project: new European community in Sicily

On the 2nd January 2017 the Marist Institute will celebrate the bicentenary of its foun­da­tion. In the letters which have been written by Brother Emili Turú, Superior General, during the past three years of preparation for the bicentenary, he wrote about a new project to be called “International Communities for a New Beginning” and extended the following invitation to all Marists of Champagnat: “to discern, before God, whether you feel called to leave your home country to form part of an international community in another region of the world.”

logo_lavalla200His invitation elicited a significant number of responses. To­day, the project “International Communities for a New Be­gin­ning” or “Lavalla200>”, as the organizing team has decided to call it, has been underway for some time. In December, 2015, a first selection of candidates for the project was undertaken, and in May of this year a group of more than twenty Brothers and lay people entered a two-month formation programme, at the end of which they were sent on mission by the Superior General.

The new international communities which are now in various stages of being es­tab­lish­ed are in the following places: Tabatinga (Amazonia, Brazil), East Harlem (New York, United States), Mount Druitt (Sydney, Australia) and Siracusa (Sicily, Italy). The latter is the new community for the European Region. It has been a topic for much reflection and discussion among the five Marist Provinces in Europe, e.g. during the recent meet­ing of the CEM (European Marist Conference). The chairman of the CEM writes: “bear­ing in mind that this is a new community that is linked to all the Provinces of Eu­rope, we encourage the Provinces, the Communities and the Brothers to show their closeness to them through communication and support.” To comply with this, we gladly publish the following short report from Brother Michael Callinan, one of the members of the new community in Siracusa.


Gabriel, Brother Onorino, Mario and Brother Michael

Following a lengthy period of investigation the first Lavalla200> community in the Eu­ro­pean Region has begun to take shape. Things began in earnest a little under two months ago in Europe’s newest Marist community in Siracusa, a small yet famous city on Sicily’s south-eastern coast. The people of Europe are well aware of the demands being placed on various countries because of the arrival of people seeking asylum, and perhaps this is most pressingly felt in Italy, especially in the south. The Italian island of Lampedusa, quite close to Libya, is the point for which many overcrowded and un­sea­worthy vessels head, with mixed success. To date, more than 150,000 people have ar­rived on the shores of Italy during 2016 alone. A significant number of these people are unaccompanied minors, the majority male. The educational and formational needs of these boys and young men is the intended focus of the Lavalla200> community in Si­ra­cusa.

This new community, intercultural and international, has been chosen from among those who participated in the Lavalla200> formation program earlier this year. The mem­bers of the community are Mario Araya Olguín, 31, a lay Marist from Chile (Prov­ince of Santa Maria de los Andes), Michael Callinan, 49, a Brother from Australia (Prov­ince of Australia), Gabriel Bernardo Da Silva, 27, a lay Marist from Brazil (Prov­ince of Brasil Centro Sul) and Onorino Rota, 69, a Brother from Italy (Province of Me­di­terránea). Onorino has been working on the establishment phase (along with others in the Province of Mediterránea) for many months, and arrived first among the group in Siracusa. Once he had finalised arrangements with the Diocese of Siracusa regarding accommodation and other practical matters, Michael, Mario and Gabriel arrived a couple of weeks after each other as visas were granted.

The three non-Europeans are immersed in daily Italian language study, and the whole com­munity has begun volunteering at a “first welcome” residential centre for un­ac­com­pa­nied minors about fifteen minutes north of Siracusa. The majority of the boys / young men in this centre are West African. This ministry is one of the investigation steps members of the community are undertaking; other lines of enquiry are also un­derway with the diocesan arm of Caritas Italia, the Italian Red Cross and several other local not-for-profit organisations.

There is clearly a need for education, formation and accompaniment of the young peo­ple seeking asylum, especially in this part of Europe. They have risked their lives to escape situations including violence, poverty, persecution and armed conflict. The mem­bers of the Lavalla200> Community are looking forward: their growing ability in Italian language serving them as bearers of hope and practical support to these young people reaching out for assistance. Already the initial involvement of the community members is being welcomed by the local church and the various not-for-profit agencies and associations, although it is very early in the community life and mission journey of the Lavalla200> Community.

Please pray for them and those they accompany, as our European Region steps into new territory.

Brother Michael Callinan
1st December 2016

For more information on the Lavalla200> project please click here:


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