“Life is a movement forward!” This is the title that could be used to introduce the Assembly of Canada that was held from July 30 to August 1. Indeed, August 1, 2021, is a pivotal date for Marists in Canada, lay people and brothers. The Province of Canada became the “District of Canada“, while the AMDL (Association Mariste des Laïcs) became the Marist Association of Champagnat of Canada (AMCC), an entity bringing together brothers and laypeople in the pursuit of a common ideal.
The passage from “Province” to “District” is, at the level of the Institute, a sort of “novelty”: we are more used to experiencing the opposite – passage from District to Province – or the regrouping of two or three Provinces into one. The General Council had therefore foreseen a canonical structure adapted to North America: the District of Canada is thus attached to the two Provinces of Mexico (Central and Western) and to the Province of the United States, which assures the canonical link: these three Provincials, with the Superior of the District, form the “Council of Governance”. It is in this capacity that the three provincials – Daniel O’Riordan (USA), Luis Felipe Gonzalez (MC), Louis Enrique Rodriguez Santana (MO) – participated in the meetings throughout the weekend. Brother Ernesto Sánchez, Superior General, and Brother João Carlos do Prado joined the Saturday (July 31) morning session.
These are not “banal” events: they imply not only changes of statutes, but an invitation to a new beginning. It was therefore appropriate to experience them in a spirit of continuity and openness to the future. Two people – Félix Roldan (a brother) and Pedro Chimeno (a layman) – were responsible for the organisation of the weekend. They worked with a team of brothers and laypeople, young and not so young, to draw up a programme which included information, of course, but also reflection, exchanges and courses of action. And even if the health measures imposed by the COVID-19 are becoming more flexible, this meeting had to be carried out via Zoom: the organisers and the participants were able to adapt well to this. As will be seen, the Assembly consisted of 4 blocks of 2 hours each.
Friday, 30 July – 1st block: “Dare”
The opening of the Assembly of the new “District of Canada” was done jointly by Brother Gérard Bachand, outgoing Provincial, and Mr. Jacques Boudrias, President of the Lay Association. Brother Gérard took advantage of the occasion to recall the road travelled since the first “Forums” in the 1990s bringing together brothers and laypeople of the former Province of Iberville up to the crossroads where we are now, where laypeople and brothers meet “around the same table”.
There was then a slide show presenting the major stages in the life of Brother Gérard who has animated the Province over the last 7 years and ensured the passage from Province to District in the context of the pandemic, with all that this implied in terms of work, consultation and virtual meetings. The tribute was touching, and above all well-deserved! Bravo and thank you, Gérard!
Then a team of young Marists, with the help of a video “Dare”, asked us: “Why am I participating in the Assembly? What contribution do I want to make to ensure the success of the process that we are undertaking? Then, in workshops, everyone was able to share expectations and the contribution they intend to make.
Saturday, 31 July – 2nd block: “Daring to give birth
The session opened with a talk by Brother Ernesto, Superior General. Inspired by the theme of the day, he invited us, brothers and laypeople, “to read today’s reality with the eyes of God, to be beacons of hope and to dream God’s dream for us, in our context here in Canada.
Following this word of encouragement from Brother Ernesto, a first video was presented, “Who is the teenager of 2021“. Following the picture drawn by the young adults, the participants took time for personal reflection in light of the more technical part.
There was first of all a moment of reflection and interiority to carry out this new stage of unity between laypeople and brothers under the umbrella of the Association of Marists of Champagnat of Canada.
Firstly, the address by the president – a layman – gave a brief history, with the help of a slide show of the road travelled to arrive at this new entity where together we will be called to give witness to the values bequeathed by Marcellin. Then we moved on to different items on the agenda: election of a president and a secretary of the assembly – reminder of the responsibilities assigned to the members of the Board, presentation of the candidates and election. The 7 elected members are: Jacques Boudrias, Fernando Castro, Michel Beaulac, Claudine Cholette, Jessica Bonneau, Brothers René Mailloux, Gilles Hogue. Together, they will share the various responsibilities of the Board at their first meeting on August 12.
Sunday, 1 August – 4th block: “Daring to walk together
Before entering into the celebration of this last stage, Br. João Carlos do Prado, Liaison Councillor of Arco Norte, and Br. Dan O’Riordan, Provincial of the United States, reiterated to the brothers and laypeople of the District their support and their involvement in the new reality that we are called to live.
The rest of the District Assembly was a long moment of celebration presided over by Mgr Alain Faubert, auxiliary bishop of the diocese of Montreal and a Marist who has always been involved. Inspired by the text of the Gospel where Jesus invites his disciples to “cross over to the other side”, to a pagan land (Lk 8, 22ff), he invited the Marist family to “dare to go to meet our world of today, different from that which we have known, in order to respond to the emerging needs of our time”.
Then came the conclusion of the whole Assembly with the handing over of “powers”. In a highly symbolic gesture – in connection with Robert Lebel’s song whose words lend themselves very well to such a circumstance: “Like Him, to know how to set the table, like Him, to tie on your apron, to get up every day and serve out of love, like Him! Brother Gérard Bachand took off his apron to pass it around the neck of Brother Gaston Robert, superior of the new District. Brother Gaston Robert then addressed the assembly. Inspired by Psalm 126, so dear to Marcellin: “If the Lord does not build the house…”, he invited us to enter together with confidence into this new adventure that is opening up to us. He took the opportunity to present the Council that will support him in his mission of animation and accompaniment: Brothers Bernard Beaudin, Félix Roldan, Jacques Bélisle and Gilles Lacasse; Brother Roger Guertin will be in charge of the District bursar’s office. And he concluded: “Mary, keep us together, brothers and laypeople, united in the same enthusiasm, so that the Marist charism may live on, according to the founding spirit.
And Mgr Alain Faubert concluded this three-day Assembly with the final blessing and the sending off to the mission.
Participating in the new LaValla200> communities was a great experience full of learning and challenges. We make “global availability” a reality, boldly responding to emerging needs, creating intercultural communities that serve youth on the margins of life. By participating in the new communities’ program, with my wife Argelia Hernández, we were partners of the Spirit, we raised our hands for something new, exciting. This is our way of understanding the call of the “Annunciation”, of responding to the daily invitation to “Be a Marist”.
“There is no viable future for international religious orders unless they seriously undertake the transition from international to intercultural”, Anthony Gittins.
Each of the participants in the program received the invitation in different ways: through discernment, walking with uncertainty, but somehow with the ability to respond and fulfill the mission. People told us that it is the courageous and generous leave the comforts of the family, their own culture, language and family to live and work in a foreign land. Maybe it is, but with the eyes of faith, the way that we have before us is an opportunity given by God, not only to serve in a life-giving way, but also to receive much, sharing the experience of being part of a great Marist family.
In 2016, we began our training for the LaValla200> program and for 4 years our community located on the outskirts of Sydney, Australia, we worked closely with the Diocese to solve the problem of young people who, due to various situations, dropped out of school, participating in meetings with the directors of the educational system to find solutions to the urgent situation of young people. We also worked closely with the local parish, with Jesuits, through the activities of the parish, sharing and celebrating with the family spirit.
Thanks to the accompaniment of Brother Lawrie, we understood that a formation was necessary when we arrived in Oceania, a different culture. We were far from home, we had to learn a lot and adapt. The language was an ever-present challenge. Learning English and Spanish was a priority for us, although Australian English became the primary language used in the community and, by necessity, in our ministry. Language, although intimately related to culture, was only the tip of the iceberg as we learned many differences between ourselves.
Confront sexism in some of the communities, food preferences, understanding time, family relationships, stress management, grief and mourning, overcoming various illnesses, connections with people outside the community, spirituality and forms of prayer, Understanding how communication works, attitudes to money, adaptations to culture, conflict management, and a host of emotions were just some of the differences we observed and had to learn from each other.
We also had to understand the unique community dynamics that living with people of different age, gender, and marital status entails. It was important for us not only to tolerate and accept differences, but to deeply understand and ultimately celebrate them.
Brother Emili in his letter “The future has the heart of a tent”, addressed to all the Marists of Champagnat, wrote: “Would you dare, like Champagnat, to take the risk of a new beginning?” Community is worth living. Let’s celebrate a new beginning, let’s celebrate being lay people and Marist Brothers with global availability. What would you do if you weren’t afraid?
“The invitation to leave ourselves out of love for God and neighbor is presented as an opportunity to share, serve and intercede, the mission that God entrusts to each one of us makes us go from the fearful and closed self to the self-rediscovered and renewed by the gift of himself “, Pope Francis.
Let us live a new Marist beginning, with the joy of the gospel. Let us have that global availability, it is worth going out to meet, leaving our comfort zone, without fear of being different. Many times, Pope Francis reminds us that the Church is not a welfare organization, a company, an NGO, but rather a community of people, animated by the action of the Holy Spirit, who have lived and are living the wonder of the encounter with Jesus Christ.
With the theme “Same mission, new and great challenges!”, the Province of México Central held its XVIII Provincial Chapter from 22 to 24 July. During the celebration, Br. Luis Felipe González began his service as Provincial, and the members of the Provincial Council were elected for the next three years. Brothers Juan Carlos Robles Gil, Irapuato community; Juan Jesús Franco, Pachuca community; Hugo Émerson Jiménez, CUM CDMX community; Luis Felipe González, Provincial; Juan Montúfar, Acoxpa CDMX community; Rodrigo Espinosa, Querétaro community and Marco Soto, Ixtaltepec community.
In addition to the capitulants, Brothers Ernesto Sánchez (Superior General), João Carlos Do Prado (General Councillor), together with the incoming and outgoing Provincial of México Occidental, Brothers Luis Enrique Rodríguez and Miguel Ángel Santos were present. And also 6 lay Marists from the Province of México Central.
On the first day, 22 July, Brother Luis Felipe González took up his mandate as Provincial and thanked Brother José Sánchez for his service during two three-year terms. For his part, Br. José Sánchez (Pepe) commented on the work done in the last three years. He highlighted the progress of the mission in the works, the organisational structure of the Province, the issues of government, management and administration.
During his participation, Br. Ernesto Sanchez, thanked Br. Pepe for his service: “We take with us the way in which Pepe led the way in a time of uncertainty, he managed to build teams, to encourage, to organise and to push… Thank you Pepe”.
On the second day, the proposals of the different working commissions were reviewed:
Marist life and mission: brothers, laity and formation
Marist mission: education and evangelization
Management, animation and government
At the conclusion of the approval of the lines of action, the brothers thanked the lay Marists for their participation in the two days of work.
On Saturday 24th July, the Brothers continued with the study and approval of the Norms of the Province. This was followed by the election of the members of the next Provincial Council.
Before concluding the Chapter, Br. Ernesto said in his message: “I take away with me a very beautiful experience of fraternity, with the atmosphere of dialogue and harmony that was experienced during these days. The lines of action that you propose touch on the key points of the broad mission that you have in this Province… Let us put our energy into what generates life and future, in synergy with lay people, especially for the most in need. God is asking us to do this, and we have to move”.
Luis Enrique, incoming Provincial of México Occidental, emphasised that “something very important for us is to recognise what follows, and how good it is that we can continue to walk together. What it is up to Luis Felipe and me is to create a Marist Mexico. We are two Provinces, but in a Marist Mexico with the same mission, and new and great challenges. And after planting a tree symbolising the challenges and dreams of the new Council, Br. Luis Felipe González, the new Provincial of México Central, said: “May this tree represent the commitments and actions that we take with us in this Chapter”.
The Province of México Occidental held its XX Provincial Chapter from 17 to 19 July at the “Spacio La Valla” in Guadalajara. During the celebration, Br. Luis Enrique assumed his mandate as provincial. The new provincial council was also elected for the next three years, made up of Brothers Luis Roberto González, Sergio Cáceres, Raúl Fernando Lara Castro, Fernando Luis Alberto López Hernández, Melesio Tiscareño De Alba and Javier López Godina.
Brothers Ernesto Sánchez (Superior General), Brother João Carlos Do Prado (General Councillor) and Brothers Luis Felipe González and José Sánchez from the Province of México Central were present in person. The sessions were accompanied virtually by four Brothers capitulants who joined us from Haiti, several lay Marists, Mexican Brothers and Brothers from the Haitian sector.
During the days prior to the Chapter work, the Brothers spoke about the objective of achieving a more dialogue-oriented Province, capable of building simple and horizontal structures in function of the mission, starting from the idea of being a light for the people, building welcoming communities and achieving inclusion and complementarity between laypeople and Brothers.
On 18 July, during the first day of Chapter work, two important moments took place: the report of Brother Miguel Ángel Santos, outgoing Provincial, and the Eucharist of Brother Luis Enrique Rodríguez, who shared his dreams for the Province, making use of the signs of fire, earth, air and water, a symbolism which accompanied the theme of the retreat.
Br. Miguel, Provincial for two three years, highlighted some of the elements of his term of office, and also mentioned the nuclei of the Provincial itinerary: “Care and development of the community”, “Charismatic formation”, “Education”, “Provincial Services” and “Social transformation”.
During the day of 19 July, the election of the Provincial Council which will accompany Brother Luis Enrique and the Province for the next three years took place. Throughout the day, suggestions were made to the next Provincial Council, and the following themes were addressed: “Sense of Province”, “Marist Brothers and Communities”, “Marist Laity”, “Marist Mission and Works”, “Haiti Sector”, “Provincial Government” and “Arco Norte Region and Marist Mexico”.
Br. Luis Enrique thanked Br. Miguel and all those present and invited the brothers to take care of the vocation, to spread the joy of being a brother, to encourage accompaniment and the promotion of the lay vocation. On the other hand, he pointed to the new projects taken on by the Province. “We are a Province, we are brothers, we are a community”, he said at the end of his message.
Before concluding the session, Br. Ernesto Sanchez thanked Br. Miguel and his Provincial Council and congratulated the new Provincial Council. He also recalled that Canada will soon be configured as a district and will be supported extensively in the USA and in Marist Mexico. “We need to team up, we need to do it together. And my invitation is that, in these new times, we should be able to take risks, to leave our comfort zone, to accept the innovation, to welcome it without fear and to respond,” said the Superior General, in a message after the Provincial Chapter.
For his part, Brother João identified the challenge of continuing to prioritise the Vocations Ministry of Brothers and lay people, with an emphasis on the vocation to the consecrated life, as a challenge. He pointed out that a new challenge will be to work on the “Constitutions” and the “Rule of Life”, as well as the process of renewing the “Brothers’ Formation Plan”.
During his intervention, Brother José Sánchez, outgoing Provincial of México Central, expressed his gratitude for the invitation and acknowledged the affection for Marist life and mission in the Province. For his part, Brother Luis Felipe González Ruíz, Provincial elect of México Central, expressed his gratitude for the time shared in the interprovincial work places, and for the opportunity to work with Brother Luis Enrique. He invited them to recognise that both Marist Provinces of Mexico walk together and are recognised as Marist Mexico. The Provincial Chapter proposed a Second Session of the Provincial Chapter to be held possibly in December 2021.
Under the theme “Renew Hope”, the Province of Central America celebrated its XVI Provincial Chapter from 12 to 24 June. During the Chapter, Brother Provincial, Hipólito Pérez Gómez, began his second three-year term of office. The chapter also elected the members of the new provincial council: José Antonio Alonso, Juan Carlos Bolaños, Nicéforo Garrán, Daniel Martín, Manuel Matilla and Gerardo Munguía.
Thirty-six Brothers and more than 100 Lay Marists from Central America and the Caribbean (Guatemala, El Salvador, Honduras, Nicaragua, Costa Rica, Puerto Rico and Cuba) were present at the virtual event. From Rome, Brothers João Carlos do Prado and Ken McDonald, General Councillors, liaison with the Province, accompanied the celebration. Brothers Ernesto Sánchez, Superior General, and Luis Carlos Gutiérrez, Vicar General, also participated at certain times.
Through a video message on the opening day, Brother Ernesto greeted all the brothers and lay people of the province and thanked Brother Hipólito for his availability to continue in the mission.
During the celebration of the chapter, initially scheduled for December 2020, the provincial highlighted the 3 priorities of the province:
To generate life as Marists of Champagnat, in charismatic communities, being attentive to spirituality and vocational development.
To promote a charismatic and innovative professional management, which is harmonious and responds to today’s challenges.
We are aware and want to be attentive to the emerging realities of children and young people, to the social clamours and to the attention and care of the most vulnerable children, adolescents and young people.
During the 10 days of work, the brothers addressed issues related to the achievements and challenges in the province; the impact of the pandemic in the areas of education, solidarity, catechesis, youth and vocational ministry. They also highlighted the measures taken to accompany associations and help families affected by the pandemic; they spoke about the development and revision of legal structures more in line with the current reality in the countries. The brothers also reflected on how to further promote the vitality and fruitfulness of Marist life and mission in Central America, Cuba and Puerto Rico. They also addressed the expectations and dreams of the Province in the face of the priorities, bearing in mind the themes of Marists of Champagnat, Management and Leadership, and Emerging Realities.
As part of the agenda, the Marist life and mission in Honduras was also discussed and the Chapter was asked for suggestions and orientations to continue the process already begun. In this regard, Brother João Carlos, General Councillor, invited the Province to take on the mission in Honduras as its own. The financial situation of the Marist Association of Guatemala, the country where the houses of formation, the house of the Elder Brothers and the offices of animation of the Province are located, was also discussed.
During the closing session, the Provincial thanked everyone for the teamwork and, recalling the approaching 100 years of Marist presence in Central America, he emphasised that “the journey of the Province has the horizon of the celebration of the centenary of the Marist presence in our lands, with the arrival of the Colombian missionary brothers, in January 1923, in San Salvador”.
And he added: “Marists of Champagnat, I repeat once again, this is our hour, it is all the time we have in our hands to make the future? always with the confidence that God is walking at our side”.
For his part, the Superior General joined virtually all those present and after thanking the members of the previous Provincial Council, he said: “Thank you again, Hippolyte. And we are with you on this journey. And of course, you are not alone, because your Council has also been elected. Thank you and congratulations also to the new Provincial Council for accepting this service to the Province and to the Institute. Thank you very much. I believe that you will be a great support for Hipólito, together with all the other animation teams, brothers and laypeople of the province”.
Likewise, Brother Luis Carlos pointed out that: “Brothers and friends, all the Marists of Champagnat, may we fill our bags with hope and joy, may we be active Samaritans in these itineraries of life, with our Central American and Caribbean peoples. May we aspire to serve, more and better, to educate, more and better, to evangelise, more and better, to all, and especially to the weakest and most fragile in our societies. May our searches always have the passion of God in our hearts”.
Br. João also greeted and thanked those present and recalled that along the way “God has placed challenges and opportunities. The pandemic has been a great challenge for all of us, the technologies have been great options for all of us,” he said. Before concluding, Br João spoke of the challenges of the entire province and said that the brothers and lay people have to assume “in their minds and hearts” the horizon that God sets before them all.
For his part, Brother Ken also greeted the brothers and lay people of the province: “Thank you very much for all the work done during this assembly and the Provincial Chapter. Many congratulations to Hipólito and the new Council.”
At the end of the celebration, Brother Hipólito thanked the Council that ended its function, made up of the brothers Carlos Vélez, Juan Antonio, Gregorio and Jorge Sánchez. And he welcomed the new members of the Provincial Council. “Together we will try to give the best of ourselves in this entrusted service. We have all the fraternal support and prayers of the province ”, he concluded.
On April 12, the American Conference of Provincials (CAP) was held with the topic Leadership in times of uncertainty. This time, it was attended by the General Superior, Br. Ernesto Sánchez, the General Vicar, Br. Luis Carlos Gutierrez, four General Councelors, Bro. Oscar Martin Vicario, Sylvain Ramandimbiarisoa, Ken McDonald, the Executive Secretaries of the South America and Arco Norte Regions, Bros. Alberto Aparicio and Rodrigo Espinosa Larracoechea, respectively, and the outgoing and incoming Provincials of the 10 Marist Provinces of the American continent.
“I welcome the initiative to be meet here together and, above all, with the topic of leadership in times of uncertainty, ” said Br. Ernesto to open the meeting where current Provincials of the two regions, América Sur and Arco Norte talked about their experiences in the context of the pandemic. “Today we are called to be testimonies of hope for better days. As Pope Francis said in his pascal homily: return to Galilee, there we will meet again and we will start over. That invitation is also for us, a request for us to resume our plans to start over”, he recalled.
Br. Inacio Etges, coordinator of the Permanent Council of the CAP and the América Sur Region, talked about the importance of the support of an open and fraternal dialogue among the provinces: “As leaders today, we are prophets of hope ”.
The meeting had three moments. The first part was an expository approach to the current moment of leadership in these Marist spaces. After the opening, the Executive Secretary of the América Sur Region, Br. Alberto Aparicio, followed the conference, presenting the current status of the networks led by the two Regions: Red Corazón Solidario (Solidarity Heart Network) and Red de Espiritualidad (Spirituality Network).
Leadership in times of uncertainty In the second stage of the meeting, the Vicar General, Br. Luis Carlos Gutiérrez, gave a reflection on the responsibilities and challenges that the current Provincials must have as a horizon in their daily activities in each Marist space. “The current situation calls for leadership in key of hope, confident, bold and fraternal, together and not isolated, to assume the future with confidence and firm small steps ” he said. “Let’s be a leadership who listens, understands and proposes what is needed in times of uncertainty, ” he concluded.
Division into groups for reflections The third and last stage of the meeting consisted of dividing groups by language for a brief dialogue on the reflections presented. The provincial animators shared among themselves the main fears and how to face them for the future, where the reality coincided that the American continent has many similarities and riches that can be used together to follow the path of the Marist mission. The next conference will be held on September 8.
We thank Júlia Córdova, América Sur Region, for the information for the preparation of this note.