Week One Recap
Last week, everyone gathered in front of the Chapel of the House of Encounters LaSalle to begin the 22nd General Chapter of the Marist Brothers. The group was received by the Children of the School of the Company of Maria "La Ensenanza." Each child gave a rose to one of the participants and accompanies him inside the Chapter Hall.
Superior General Brother Emili Turu gave an opening talk (read full version here) which highlighted the four elements that should motivate the Chapter process:
1. At the edge of waiting...
2. Making LaValla relevant today
The first day ended with a session led by Brother Ben Consigli (USA). He presented to the group a document entitled "The Chapter Process of the 22nd General Chapter." This document is the result of the work of the pre-chapter commission for the revision of the regulations of the General Chapter. This new document replaces the previous text, "Chapter Regulations."
On September 9th, the Chapter participants joined Colombian religiuos, seminarians, priests, and their families in a meeting with Pope Francis. In his words to the gathering, the Pope urged them to "remain united with Christ" and to maintain a "vital relationship as an absolute necessity" (read full message here). This means not having a passive attitude without any consequence in everyday lofe. He proposed three ways to help us in this task:
1. To touch the humanity of Jesus, with his humanity and his feelings, which contemplates reality not as a judge, but as a Good Samaritan.
2. To contemplate His divinity, giving priority to encountering and praying Sacred Scripture, and making prayer a fundamental part of life and apostolic action.
3. To live with joy, without being sad and bitter disciples.
The rest of the first week involved focusing on what each participant needs to leave behind in order to fully embrace the work of being a capitulant; to be open to the newness of the Spirit that invites them to "Enter New Territory" and to create "A New LaValla." Sister Mercedes L. Casas Sanchez, fsps shared with the Brothers in the room, "Thank you for the fidelity of your vocation as Marist Brothers. Not because you are diminishing in numbers, that is of little regard. It is because of who you are as Brothers; your sense of humility, simplicity, and modesty that brings to life the presence of the Kingdom of God among those who come into your presence." The group was also asked to reflect on the following questions within their table groups:
1. What is new in today's world?
2. How will it be in a few years?
3. How is the world transforming?
4. What is happening socially?
There was also the election of the Chapter's Facilitation Commission, which will guide the development of the rest of the Chapter Meeting. Those elected were: Ben Consigli (USA), Darren Joseph Burge (Australia), Ernesto Sanchez (Mexico), Joao Carlos do Prado (Brazil), Juan Carlos Fuertes (Spain), Lindley Hilago Sionosa (Philippines), Michel Maminiaina Razafimandimby (Madagascar), and Oscar Martin Vicario (Spain).
On Wednesday, September 13th, the General Chapter participants journeyed to Medellín to visit social centers and projects administered by various organizations on the peripheries of the city. The goal of the immersion visit was to meet young people engaged in that Centre, and to observe and listen to their realities, needs, and opportunities. The visit was also an opportunity for Chapter participants to envision themselves in the lives of these young people and to listen to what the Spirit was saying to them throughout the experience.
For the visits, the Chapter participants were divided into 16 smaller groups. Each group was accompanied by a local Colombian Marist. and visited a different site dedicated to helping young people, who are truly among the least favored in our world, Each place was an opportunity to meet young people associated with the mission of each Centre and to listen, observe and discern what the Spirit is saying at this time, so as to be able to respond to two key questions
- What does God want us to be in this emerging world?
- What does God want us to do in this emerging world?
One group visited Fundación Huellas (Footsteps Foundation). This Foundation is located within the barrio of Santo Domingo high up on one of the hills overlooking Medellin. Fundación Huellas receives support from the Norandia Province of the Marist Brothers. There are two social centers: a library and a community center in Manantiales and another educational center at La Torre Community Center, each staffed by volunteers. There is also a Marist Brothers community of insertion located in this neighborhood. Presently there are two Brothers and an aspirant who live in this community.
One of the leaders of the centers shared a very moving story of how it started with a sewing project for mothers in the neighborhood. After completing the course, one of the mothers shared with one of the volunteers, "Here I have learned to sew back together my life, and my children's life. Because a week ago, I wanted to commit suicide". This mother, who is very poor and has three children, found in the life and activity of that center both meaning and a reason for continuing to live.
Another group went to a drug rehabilitation center for teenage girls with drug addictions. This center successfully houses 55 girls for a year-long rehab program. The group that visited heard many stories from the lives of these girls. One girl shared how her Dad died when she was 8 old years old and her mother then abandoned her. She lived on the streets and became addicted to drugs. She was sexually abused and raped at 12 and became pregnant. After having the baby, she entered the center in hopes of becoming clean and being able to get her baby back. The visiting group spent the day with these young girls and shared stories, enjoyed lunch together and prayed together.
After visiting the social centers in various parts of Medellín, the Chapter participants and guides gathered together again in the center of the city and visited the Basilica of Our Lady of Candelaria. Everyone then went to the La Valla Inter-Provincial Novitiate where the community and local lay Marists hosted a very enjoyable and fraternal afternoon refreshment. The novitiate community consists of three Brother formators and 13 novices: 7 from Norandina Province, 4 from Central Mexico, 1 from Central America as well as our own Br. Luis Ramos.
Before leaving the novitiate, Chapter participants gathered in their fraternity group to share their personal experiences of the immersion visits. The general feeling among participants was deep gratitude and respect for the positive witness and prophetic sign shown by the young people associated with the centers and projects institutions visited. The Chapter participants were also very grateful to all the Marist novices and young adults who accompanied them as guides throughout the visit.
On Thursday September 14th, a group of 25 young people from Columbia, Venezuela and Equator helped lead the Chapter Delegates through a process of listening to the voices and challenges from young people in regards to what they believe we as Marist Brothers need to be focused on as we move into the future and embrace a New LaValla (read a letter form the young people to the Marist Brothers). The day was an experience of great joy for all and the insights and challenges from our young people left the General Chapter with much to discern and discuss in the coming weeks.