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Centenary of the Marist presence in Avellanes

14/09/2010: Spain - Photo gallery

10 September 2010 completed 100 years of Marist presence in the Monestir de Santa María de Bellpuig de les Avellanes. The first Marists who occupied this former Premonstratentian monastery were a group of 70 novices, with their teachers, coming from Sant Adreu de Palomar (Barcelona). The novitiate and the provincial house, which operated in this city were burned down during the tragic week of Barcelona (1909). The Brothers moved to Avellanes to continue the novitiate. Marist Spain, which was beginning to expand, needed more space and a suitable climate for the formation of young Marists. They established themselves in a XII century monastery, half in ruins, created in 1166 for Premonstratentian monks with the support of the Counts of Urgell. The abbey conserved the Romanesque cloister of the medieval period (XII-XIII centuries), the chapter hall (XIII) and the Gothic church (XIV). It was the first and largest Premonstratentian abbey of the old Crown of Aragón and had been abandoned following the disentailment policies of Mendizábal. In this way, the monastery escaped the effects of the Mendizábal programme. Three quarters of a century had passed since the monks abandoned the place.With the Marist presence in these lands of Lerida, the Marist Institute has already written new chapters in the history of civil and ecclesiastical life. The number of persons formed in this house have spread its name throughout the world as missionaries bearers of faith and culture. In harmony with each age and with the reality of the institutions, the buildings have been transformed and the church, burial place of the Counts of Urgell, has been rebuilt. Today, the transformation of the ancient spaces of the monastery into a hospice and house of spirituality offers a house with doors open to the needs of our world.The celebration of the 100 years of Marist presence in the lands of the Noguera has taken the shape of a varied programme, developed over years, which reached its solemn climax on 10 September 2010. The programme has embraced two very different but integrated centres of interest: the presence of the Brothers who have lived very significant parts of their lives in this house, and the relationship with outside institutions and authorities. The afternoon of 8 September, anniversary of many takings of the habit and first professions, brought together a large group of Brothers, some coming from afar, around the image of Mary, which had presided for many years over the great moments in the life of the novitiate. Reunited as a community of brothers around the image, they celebrated a vigil of Marian prayer, interspersed with the songs of Kairoi and tears of gratitude. In the same way, the day of 9 September was marked by a Marist community character. The dawn rosary was the opportunity for the brothers to return again to Mary’s feet to recall: “Do you remember, Mother, how many times the Salve was recited at your feet?” Brother Emili Turú, Superior General, who accompanied the brothers during this day, reminded all at the foot of the statue that “Mary has done everything for us”, as in the time of Champagnat. And he added: “The Institute has lived through more difficult times than those we are living in. See how Mary holds in her hands a child: a child is a fragile life. It is like a symbol of the Institute. She points with a finger to Jesus. Her gesture invites us to keep on making room where life is fragile. The Lord is counting on us to to go to the many places of the Institute in which the fragility of the little one endures, trusting that Mary will continue to do everything for us”.The Eucharist brought together those present to give thanks for the favours the Lord has done the Institute, the Province, this house and so many brothers and lay men it has formed. The president and animator was Father Manuel Portillo, who knew how to be in rhythm with the hearts of his listeners in order to unite them in a song of gratitude to the Lord and his Mother.The next morning was dedicated to visiting the different parts of the house which had received the touch of the architect and been given a new physiognimy, creating attractive surroundings. The brothers were especially interested in the latest remodelling of the cemetery, resting place of more than 400 brothers, in the Archives of the house and the Province, which occupy ample space, and the Archiu Gavín, which houses 48 different collections, some of them unique in the world, such as the one composed of photographs of all the religious buildings (hermitages, temples, churches, oratories…) of Catalonia.During the afternoon, the brothers visited the towns of Vilanova de la Sal, Avellanes, Tartareu and Os de Balaguer. Towns linked to the Marist history of these 100 years, particularly in the period of the civil war, when many families gave shelter in their houses to the brothers in formation who had to abandon the monastery.The celebrations of 10 September welcomed in the authorities, friends and sympathisers of the Monastery. The central act of the morning was the celebration of the Eucharist, presided over by the Archbishop of La Seu d’Úrgell, who is at the same time Co-Prince of Andorra. The monastery belongs to his diocese. Accompanying him in the celebration, besides the priest friends of the house, were the Abbot General of the Premonstratentions,Fr. Thomas Handgrätinger and Fr. Ramon Prat, Vicar General of the diocese of Lleida.Following the Mass, there was a cultural ceremony for the presentation of the book “La fuerza de la fraternidad” which records the chronological story, by decades, of the 100 years of the Marist presence in the monastery. The authorities present also spoke to point out the more important events of the celebration of this event. Brother Maurice Berquet, Superior Provincial, ran through the past to pick out the more significant milestones of this house which has been called the “Hermitage of Cataluña”. The Abbot General of the Premonstratentians, invited especially for the occasion, recorded “Bellipodium… as an ancient part of our order…, liberated by the Marists from 75 years of secularism… and which today is manifesting new life”. The president of the Regional Council, Mr Vicent Font, appreciated the good relations of the region with the monastery and the support it received through its facilities and its open door policy. The Mayor of Os de Balaguer, Mr Ignasi Cortés, emphasized the importance of the initiatives that had been undertaken to promote rural tourism and the collaboration which had the renovation of the monastery had entailed. The Director General for Religious Affairs of the Legislative Assembly of Catalonia, Mrs Monserrat Coll, thanked the brothers for their contribution to the country through formal education, their presence in the social centres and leisure time education.At the end of the ceremony, a commemorative plaque commemorating the centenary was unveiled next to the entrance to the house.In the afternoon, there was a gathering with a large representation of the Marist family of Catalonia, to place in relief the life which the house of Avellanes has generated and which it continues to generate. Quotations from the Marist Constitutions served as guide to emphasize that Avellanes has been a community of family and work, centred on Jesus Christ and open to the young: community with Mary who invites to silence and encounter with God; community in mission in the style of Champagnat. All these features were expressed by means of testimonies, representations, songs and plastic elements.A large group of brothers, coming from different places, who made their novitiate in this house, took part in the events organised to celebrate this jubilee. Among the authorities present may be mentioned Brothers Emili Turú, Superior General, and Joe MacKee, Vicar General, both of whom did their novitiate in this house, and the Brother Provincials of Ibérica, Ambrosio Alonso Díez, Mediterránea, Antonio Giménez de Bagüés, and Compostela, Óscar Martín Vicario.At various times, as if a gospel of life and fruitfulness was being recorded, one heard: “In those times…” There were moments for remembering, times for something of nostalgia, but above all a great openness towards the future with hope and faith. As Brother Jaume Parés, Superior of the welcoming community, said, “the centenary is not only a look back to the past with a grateful heart, but a challenge to continue responding to the calls of the world of today”.

Remarks of Brother Maurice Berquet, Provincial of the Province of the Hermitage, at the celebration of the Centennial of the presence of the Marist Brothers at the Monastery of Les Avellanes
Respected civil and religious authorities, dear brothers and friends who are with us today for this celebration:We are gathered here to celebrate a centennial—one hundred years of Marist presence at the Monastery of Les Avellanes. This event invites us to take a double look: In the first place, a look back, beyond our hundred years, and then a looks towards the future.We are happy to have present with us the Abbot General of the Premonstratensians. It was they who founded this monastery and brought life to within these walls over centuries, until 1840. I am happy to see that this memory was recognized during the last remodeling of the building. Each room in the hostelry is named after an abbot and I am proud that mine is called Abat Antoni Gessé. The monastery maintains a living record of all the monks who lived here and who worked, prayed, and preached in the surrounding villages… offering a sign of God’s presence in their lives.Before the Marist Brothers’ arrival at Les Avellanes, the Trappists replaced the Premonstratensians during a period of six years (from 1883 to 1889). They continued witnessing through a life of manual labor and prayer. The Brothers arrived in 1910, not because they were monks, but due to a dramatic event: the tragic week that took place in Barcelona. Fire destroyed the building at Sant Andreu de Palomar which housed the house of formation; thus the Brothers were forced to abandon it.On arriving here, our predecessors began looking for an isolated location in which to establish a new house of formation. Over many years, hundreds of young men were trained to be Little Brothers of Mary. Many are here today and recognize themselves in the pictures of the photographic exhibit. From 1910 to 1994 this house would be, at various times, the juniorate, the novitiate and the scholasticate. The lives of many Brothers, whose names are recorded in the cemetery, have been touched by this place. No doubt they are participating with us in this celebration.This place was also marked by the martyrdom of the Brothers who died at the beginning of the Civil War, Brothers who, following the example of Jesus, loved to the end, to the extent of giving up their lives. These martyrs are examples for us; they are marvelous companions on the road… They show us that death is not the end of life: the end is life in the risen Christ. The beatification of 47 of them in 2007 confirmed before the whole Church the value of their gift. In the 1970s, the Youth Holy Week initiative gave new energy to this house. The monastery was converted into a center of dynamic service to the Church. Thousands of young people have taken part in the Holy Week activities and continue to do so year after year. The vocation of the Marist Brother in service to evangelization finds a new expression besides the academic. This monastery has become a place of great importance to the Marist Brothers of the Province of the Hermitage, especially to those in Catalonia, as a familiar place where one can enjoy the peacefulness of a monastery, the beauty of nature, and the memory of so many Brothers who have preceded us… As one Brother said, this monastery is our casa pairal, the Hermitage of Catalonia, a reference to the motherhouse of our Institute.The celebration of the centennial also invites us to look to the future. A centennial is neither an end point nor a point of departure. It is a stage along the way. And the past invites us to look ahead; it invites us to be creative so that this place will continue to be a place of life, of deep life, of life with God… It is a matter of following in the footsteps of those who invented this place, of those who transformed it. Life is manifested in change, not in conservation. The stones of the monastery speak to us of the entire road followed since the twelfth century.Not very long ago, the Provincial Chapter concluded its work with a proposal: that our two houses of the Hermitage and Les Avellanes continue developing as centers of formation for Brothers and lay Marists, centers where the Marist charism of Marcellin Champagnat can be discovered and enjoyed. This shows how important this house is for us today.I am very interested and pleased with the present role of this building: a center for human and Christian formation, a center of Marial and Marist spirituality with a community dedicated to the service of welcoming everyone, men, women young people,… welcoming those who seek a place in which to deepen their lives. In this way the monastic tradition of this place is being recovered in the present moment. The monastery also welcomes the community of our elderly sick Brothers who, by their presence, witness to the fidelity of God in their lives.At the same time it is a center open to its surroundings. Being a Portal del Montsec the Monastery of Les Avellanes is part of the economic, cultural, ecological and social life of the region of the Noguera. It is a sign of openness, of welcoming the lives of the men and women of this time in history. The Gavin archives contribute to this insertion into the fabric of the region and of the Generalitat. Like Mary at the wedding feast at Cana, it is a monastery attentive to all the human needs and especially the spiritual needs of the people of the area.A reflection attributed to the writer André Malraux and to others is “the twenty-first century will either be religious or it will not”. May this monastery be able to offer the men and women of today a place of silence, of spirituality… a place to discover beauty, a place to encounter diverse people… Now this is also the new vocation of the building, a vocation needed more than ever.What will this place be like in another hundred years? Neither you nor I can know. But I have a dream. May it be said in 2110: “Here I have discovered that my life makes sense, here I have seen the Marial face of the Church, here nature enchanted me, here I met the person who has changed my life, here I have walked as a liberated person…” And so all the efforts put into this place will have borne fruit. Many thanks to all for your presence at this event of Marist life at the Monastery of Les Avellanes.Br. Maurice Berquet, ProvincialSeptember 10, 2010
Thomas Handgrätinger O. PraemABATE GENERALE
Visit in Monestir de les Avellanes
Dear Superior Generale Emilio Turú Rofes,dear Superior del monasterio de les Avellanes P. Jaume Parés Casellas,dear Marist Brothers, Brothers and sisters.It is a little pity that I cannot speak Spanish and not at all ‘catalán’. So I will say some words in English, some sentences of congratulation and felicitation to the hundred years jubilee, of the 100 years presence of the Marist school brothers in the old monastery of Bellpuig de les Avellanes.The anniversary of 100 years presence and work on the formation field is the reason and cause for joy and happiness for all gathered here, a reason to say thanks and appreciation for all what the confreres with her cooperators has worked, done and initiated in this time, to be proud about the great endeavour and inset of so many Marist confreres who have given their best powers and energies, their heart and brain, to build at first a religious centre of community life and prayer, to start with a noviciate-house for the juniors of the Marist Congregation, then and from them to build this religious, spiritual meeting.After the suppression of the old abbey Bellipodium de las Avellanas in 1835 this place was for 75 years secularized till the arrival of the Marist confreres 1910.And now, since 100 years, here exist again a prestigious Centre and a religious community to continue the “spiritus loci”, to persue the God-dedicated, consecrated life as it was intended from the begin when the Norbertines came to this place in 1166. This was a famous, rich abbey, which was flourishing especially in the 18 century. Under the regular canons of this abbey we can commemorate three famous historian J. Caresmar, J. Pasqual and J.J.Martí. From this great history there are still testimonies as the famous Chapter room and dormitory also from this time with many other signes and relics from the pass.We have to thank as Norbertines, as the “Order of Prémontré”, that the Marist confreres has preserved this place “Santa Maria de les Avellanes” and fulfilled and inspired with new life. From the beginning this place and this monastery was dedicated to “Beatae Mariae Virginis” as it was costume in so many other Norbertine houses. Our first Abbey in France Prémontré was dedicated to Jean Baptist, and later on also to our Lady Mary, Mother of God. My home abbey Windberg in Bavaria is dedicated to Mary Assumption and has the official name “Sankt Marien zu Windberg”. So as all other old Orfers and as many congregations we have a great veneration and estimation to Mary, the Mother of God. The Marist C0ongregation bear the name of Mary ans stays so under the special protection of the Mother of God.So for me it is a great joy and privilege to visit this old part of our Order’s history, to see the change and development in the history. Immediately you feel you at home when you stay on a origin Norbertine ground. But we see now also a new tradition, a new charisma, a new branch on the tree of religious Orders. So I am very happy to be here, to be invited to the celebration of the centenary feast of your presence and wonderful educational work.So I wish for this jubilee with great thanks and joy the plenty of blessing and grace for all confreres, especially the elders ones, to all the guests, participants of this spiritual programme. I wish the plenty of the Holy Spirit in all actions and intentions of spiritual guidance and religious formation as well. I wish a nive feast full of joy and happiness, full of good meetings and contacts, full of interesting talks and exchanges.I wish for the future, that this place can continue to inspire this house, more over the coming young generation, this area and surrounding.I wish that also in future this “Monestir de les Avellanes” can remain as a centre for spirituality inspiration and spiritual guidance in a hopeful unbroken tradition in the future.God bless you all and again thanks and congratulation.+ Thomas Handgrätinger Abate Generale_____________Thomas Handgrätinger O. PraemABATE GENERALEViale Giotto 27 – I-00153 ROMA

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