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Superior General visits the Provinces of Norandina and Santa Maria de los Andes

11/05/2007: Argentina

The past four weeks have taken Brother Sean Sammon, our Superior General, to the provinces of Norandina and Santa Maria de los Andes. The first is made up of three countries: Columbia, Ecuador, and Venezuela, while the second encompasses Bolivia, Peru and Chile. While in Norandina Brother Sean was able to visit the entire Province, his time in Santa Maria de los Andes, however, included five days in Chile only. Brother Laurentino Albala, Provincial of Norandina, accompanied him throughout his time in the three countries that constitute that Province, while Brother Pedro Marcos, Provincial of Santa Maria de los Andes, was his companion and guide during his visit to Chile.

Each of the visits was made up of meetings with the brothers of the region as well as sessions with Marist laity, parents, students and former students, and administrators, teachers, and others serving in Marist schools and social projects. Those sessions held with the brothers focused on the topics of vitality and viability and included a discussion of the process of renewal underway within the Institute. Meetings with Marist fraternities were aimed at strengthening the sense of Marist lay identity; presentations that traced the developing role of lay men and women in our Church from Vatican II until the present were part of the program in several places.

Gatherings with students followed a variety of formats. In several instances Brother Sean gave a presentation on faith among young people today. On more than one occasion he began with a personal story telling students about his experience with a brain tumor that was successfully removed in 1994. He went on to explain to them that this event caused him to begin a pilgrimage from his head to his heart. He likened that journey to the pilgrimage of faith that each of us must undertake in life. Students responded quickly to the presentations sharing their own experiences of faith and their struggle at times to find their place in the institutional Church. The moving accounts of several left no doubt, however, that faith is very much a part of the lives of the majority of young people today.

When addressing school faculties, Brother Sean told them that the purpose of a Marist school was, in part, to teach young people to dream, to dream very large dreams about changing our world, together and because of the message of Jesus Christ. He spoke about the courage of Marcellin Champagnat who began the Marist congregation with ¨an old house, two potential recruits, and no money—but a very large dream indeed.¨ In several workshops he pointed out the five characteristics of Marist education and encouraged school communities to work toward co-responsibility in mission.

The variety of works in which Marist brothers and Marist laymen and women in this region of the Institute are involved today was apparent throughout the visits. They ran from well-established colleges with long years of tradition and an alumni grateful for the difference Marist education has made in their lives to new community centers in poor neighborhoods that were attempting to change the lives of children and young people whose families had very little materially. In more than one instance these latter projects were aimed at fighting the exploitation of these young people.

As he left to return to Rome, Brother Sean expressed his gratitude to all involved for the warmth of their welcome and their extraordinary hospitality.

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