Please enjoy this newsletter and share it with anybody you think would like to learn more about exciting developments throughout our Marist world!
Some Marist News from July
- July 3: The Institute of the Marist Brothers received official word that our new Constitutions and Statutes had been approved by the Vatican. Translation is now underway in preparation for distribution.
- June 6: Bros. Manoel Soares and João Batista Pereira of Brazil inaugurated a new community in Timor-Leste where they have served since 2018. This house in Lautém sits on land where a new school is being built; it will also be used in the formation of new local aspirants.
- July 7: The Times Higher Education listed the Pontifícia Universidade Católico do Rio Grande do Sul (PUCRS) among the 20 best universities in Latin America. The Marist Brothers founded PUCRS in 1931 and today it is part of the Marist Province of Brasil Sul-Amazônia.
- July 14: Members of our general administration, including Bro. Ernesto Sánchez, Superior General, took part in a live transmission to discuss with an international audience the lessons and opportunities that the COVID-19 crisis holds for Marist spirituality and mission.
- July 18: Key stakeholders of all the Marist schools in Nigeria met at Marist Polytechnic in Enugu to discuss and review the Province's "Marist Handbook of Service" and share their experiences with remote learning since the onset of the pandemic.
- July 20: An on-line ceremony marked the Marist District of Melanesia formally uniting with the Province of Australia. The Marist Province of Australia now includes communities and ministries in Australia, Cambodia, New Caledonia, Papua New Guinea, the Solomon Islands, Timor-Leste and Vanuatu.
- July 23: Marists worldwide marked the anniversary of the Fourvière Pledge in 1816, when Saint Marcellin Champagnat and companions first promised to found the Society of Mary. The Memorial Marista project offers you the opportunity to take a virtual tour of the site where they made this pledge in the Shrine of Our Lady of Fourvière.
A Moment in Marist History:
Marist Presence in Aleppo
The Marist Brothers first went to Syria in 1868 at the invitation of the Jesuits, but remained there for only seven years. We returned to the country in 1895, after developments in France had led to an increased focus on foreign missions. In 1903 alone, five Marist establishments in Syria received 67 brothers, 29 of whom were young men in formation.
August 1904 marked the beginning of the Marist presence in Aleppo. After initially running a school for Armenian Catholics, we later worked with local Greek Catholics and once more with the Jesuits before building our own Champagnat College in 1932. After we lost the school to nationalization in 1967, the Marist Brothers began collaborating with Melkite Catholics, as we initiated new apostolic works that included scouting programs and solidarity initiatives in addition to our more traditional educational and catechetical ministries. With the development of the Lay Marist movement, we further increased our involvement with social works to provide key support in the areas of housing, healthcare, and employment services, while informal educational projects focused on the human development needs of women and poor children. Lay Marists additionally formed their own associations and clubs in order to more deeply instill the Marist spirit and values in their own children.
The Syrian Civil War reached Aleppo in July 2012, changing everything. 500,000 residents lost their homes in the chaos and those who remained often had to survive with shortages of fuel, medicine, and even food. Even water and electricity were cut off for extended periods of time. The local Marists responded by re-branding themselves as “Blue Marists”, creating a new shared identity through which brothers and laypeople could equally participate in crisis mitigation interventions while also incorporating Muslim men and women who wanted to join in our humanitarian efforts and heartfelt community.
The Blue Marists have continued ministering to the poor in general while placing special emphasis on the needs of the displaced and otherwise traumatized. The professional skills brought by some in the Blue Marists have allowed for medical services to be provided that are no longer affordable due to unemployment, inflation, and limited supplies. Blue Marists have also worked to provide other material survival needs such as temporary shelter, food, and clothing for growing children. Educational activities have remained important, both to provide children with a space in which they can learn and enjoy themselves as children should, but also for teenagers to develop skills that can lead to employment. Without such activities, we would be speaking of a lost generation. Given the extreme vulnerability of all those affected by the civil war, all programs and services of the Blue Marists have been provided free of charge.
Even though the Blue Marists can be seen as an interfaith expression of our Marist charism, their activities nonetheless have a profound evangelical dimension. By building community across faiths, Marists witness to the love of neighbor that forms the core of Christian practice. Blue Marists stand up for the human dignity that is offended by the stupidity of violence and demonstrates the hope that we can live in the spirit of charity to which Christ calls us.
Although the Syrian Civil War remains unresolved, the situation in Aleppo itself has improved greatly since the worst days of the conflict. The needs remain great however, including new concerns brought about by the global coronavirus pandemic. A recent dispatch from Aleppo is available for any reader who desires the most current information.