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Ad Gentes yesterday



Ad Gentes today

29/07/2010: Brazil

My dear Teófilo, it was with joy that I heard here in Recife of your appointment as co-ordinator of the current PROJECT « AD GENTES ». This is the work the General Council asked of you when you were already thinking of the happy return to Ermesinde where you would be able to continue with more personal projects. But this is the way it is in religious life. And the Bible also tells us that the Lord’s ways are not ours. It is when we choose to follow him that this becomes more obvious. Whatever the case, in my humble opinion, the General Council has chosen well. I have known you since we were teaching together in the Marist school at Carcavellos; you will do a good job, I am certain. So, congratulations and on with it !

I am writing, however, to remind you that the AD GENTES project did not begin today. I believe that it has existed all through the history of the Congregation. And I would like to share with you and with the readers of this page a reflection which comes to mind whenever I visit the cemetery on the hill of Apicucos, here in Recife. There are buried some great men, great religious who were true missionaries AD GENTES. Perhaps this expression was not used at that time, but the reality was the same. In the cemetery rests a Marist heavenly province which lived a missionary spirituality in season and out of season.
Or, in other terms, in this sacred space rest the mortal remains of a galaxy of MEN of character, of sages and saints who employed their strength and their lives in the construction of our Province of Brasil-Norte. They are the ones who, with daring and courage, built the reputed school establishments, of incomparable renown, fruit of a great love of the Marist work, of a great devotion, of much sacrifice and, why not say it, of a great heroism. Yes, for at that time, they lacked everything, except the will to do what was best, to form themselves in the best way possible. Even if self-taught, they attracted the sons of doctors and politicians; and the latter were proud to entrust them with the cultural, social and religious education of their children, who made brilliant successes of their lives.

From this cemetery, from these silent graves, it seems that a persistent murmur reaches us, never ceasing to recall so many virtues, authentically Marist, and so necessary to every missionary AD GENTES : « We always lived in humility, simplicity and modesty ; we never lived in comfort ; we always tried to follow the teachings of our Father Founder, Saint Marcellin Champagnat. Dawn always found us praising our Good Mother and taking part in the Eucharist. And we were very happy, even if we did not have the access to the modern means and comforts that you enjoy. »

Teófilo, my friends, such is the MARIST PROVINCE OF HEAVEN!
Look at the MARCHPAST of the BATTALIONS of our brave and tireless workers, with the French flag at their head, paying homage to the 100 years (in February 2011) of the installation of the Marist Brothers in Apipucos:
57 FRENCH (56 Brothers and 1 former Brother)
35 BRASILIANS (28 Brothers; 2 postulants; 1 junior; 1 affiliate; 3 laity)
22 PORTUGUESE (18 Brothers; 2 postulants; 1 former Brother; 1 layman)
8 SPANIARDS (7 Brothers; plus 1 celebrated Brother, deceased in Spain )
3 GERMANS (3 Brothers)
1 Luxemburger (1 Brother)
1 Italian (1 Brother)
1 Czech (1 Brother)

They were authentic apostles of culture, most of them, in a land of atheists. It is true that for every missionary AD GENTES the entire world is his home. And for these distinguished missionaries, Brasil was, in fact, their home. To this galaxy of dead heroes we may add others – 6 exactly– who live the AD GENTES spirituality here, in « Brasil-Norte », as long as God wills it: 2 Frenchmen (of 95 and 87), 1 German of 90; 1 Spaniard of 87 and 2 Portuguese (of 88 and 84).

Brothers of 8 different countries: 128 who have crossed the « frontier », 6 who are still here: a beautiful anthology which may be an example for the young (and the not so young) missionaries AD GENTES of the modern era. They knew how to succeed in this corner of Northeast Brasil, with the instruments they had available, much more modest than those we have today. I wish the new missionaries AD GENTES the best of success in announcing the Gospel, and in the multiplication and the propagation of the Marist charism in the lands of Asia and elsewhere.

Br. Arménio Martins
Province of « Brasil-Centro Norte »

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