It is one year since the Provincial, Br Jeff Crowe, wrote a letter to all Marists in Australia. The letter was an invitation to consider joining the Marist Association of St Marcellin Champagnat. What an amazing response from Marists in the twelve months, and it is only the tip of the iceberg!
A lot has happened:
• Over 500 people across Australia have expressed interest to join the Association, including 100 Brothers.
• Individual conversation between all people expressing interest and a member of the Marist Association Pastoral Team.
• Younger people showing interest in the Association have the opportunity of being ‘companioned’ by someone with background in spiritual direction.
• The documentation explaining the Marist Association as a new structure within the Catholic Church, and its canonical standing, has been drafted.
• New formation programs are being created and designed for current and future members of the Association.
• Dialogue with Bishops across Australia to build awareness of the Association, and get valuable feedback and suggestions.
• Conversations with school leadership and leaders of other Marist ministries about the process and time-line for transition of governance to the Marist Association
• Local gatherings of Association members have begun to take place.
• 18 ‘Regions’ identified across Australia, and Regional Gatherings of members offered.
• All of the 100 Brothers, and over 100 other people, have completed the necessary steps to be formally received as members of the Association.
• There is international interest in the structure and methods of the Association, and discussion on how it might apply to other countries.
Even more importantly, conversations have been created between people interested in the Association. Questions asked; curiosity piqued; interest stirred; stories shared. We are learning to crawl together! Teachers, youth workers, volunteers, young people, Brothers, clergy, parents, ex-students, retirees and many others who have had contact with the ‘Marist Way’, all coming to know what the Association is and what it means for the future. At times the explanation has been clunky and awkward, perhaps too reliant on the canonical implications and cluttered with Churchy language. On other occasions it has been articulated with clarity and brightness: it is naming a spiritual family in the life of the Church, with a variety of primary commitments and vocation experiences, who is Marist. Together, the intention is to bring life and energy to Marist ministries and community. People feel personally drawn to respond to the call – ‘it falls to us now’!
Nearly 200 years ago, God stirred in the hearts of several newly ordained priests in France, inspiring them to renew the Church using Mary as model. Within six months one of these priests, Fr Marcellin Champagnat, had founded the ‘little Brothers of Mary’, to teach and evangelise young people, guided by a Marian spirituality. From the outset, Marcellin had the vision of a family atmosphere. The whole enterprise was to be uncomplicated and relational; based on simplicity and a love for those being served.
Today, the people who are joining the Marist Association intend to keep Marcellin’s dream alive! The people joining are people interested giving God’s mission hands and feet through a Marist lens. It feels right for them. They feel at home with this simple and practical way of being Church and bringing the message of Jesus to the lives of young people and to each other. They want to be sowers of hope, and to do this as a community. They want to pray life together.
What will the next 12 months grow?