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American Marists and Marist Mission

26/06/2007: United States

This report summarizes the conversations and sharings held in various regions of the Province of the United States between January and March 2007. Approximately 40 Marist Brothers and 250 lay colleagues discussed the future of Marist mission from the perspectives of:

• My Sense of Marist Mission
• American Youth Culture
• The Catholicity of the American Teenager
• Among the Young – Especially the Most Neglected
• Sharing Our Call as Marists

For each topic we discussed our “concerns” based on present realities and our “hopes” for the future as we become more grounded in Marist and Gospel values.

My sense of Marist mission

Concerns:

 There is a general sense of concern about the decreasing number of Marist Brothers present in our school ministries today. As a result, there is a need to articulate clearly and specifically the Marist values that are vital to our mission today.
 These Marist values need to become part of the culture, language and experience of Marist Educators and Marist Youth; otherwise, we run the risk of failing to “walk the talk.”
 Marist schools exist first and foremost to lead students to Christ. How well do we do that? Is this an understood and spoken priority in our schools?
 It is a challenge to “love all students equally.” What do we, as adults, have to do, to learn, to know so that we can come closer to this ideal?
 There is reluctance on the part of some adults in our Marist schools to speak about their faith. Students are much more likely to share their faith if they see the adults in their school modeling this for them.
 There is great concern about the escalating cost of tuition in Marist schools. We risk losing the very young people we are meant to serve.

Hopes:
 There is a greater knowledge and articulation of Marist pedagogy in our schools today. This pedagogy can instill a sense of Christian/Marist dignity and integrity in our students.
 Sharing Our Call has been a great benefit to the adult communities of our schools. We need to develop follow-up programs that will insure that the charism of Marcellin continues to be understood, owned, articulated, and lived out.
 As we become more rooted in Marist spirituality and pedagogy, we will be better able to “love them all equally.”
 We can and must evangelize our students through every day moments.
 We can and must be open to the least favored – educationally, spiritually, emotionally, and economically.
 It is all about witness!

American youth culture

Concerns:

 We are very concerned about the manipulation of our young people by the media and pop culture.
 Related to that, we are concerned about the inability of our young people to be quiet and reflective.
 Adolescence and its related independence are happening at an earlier age.
 We are very concerned about the drug and alcohol use and how it reflects American adult attitudes of comfort and self-medication.
 We are concerned about the sexual activity of our students.
 Too many of our students are working over thirty hours a week. In some cases this is just to afford the things that the media and pop culture tell them that they have to have. In other cases it is to afford tuition or help the family’s income.
 We are concerned that some parents need to have their children be “successful,” resulting in unrealistic goals for them.
 The “second family” (youth culture, media, etc.) can supersede the “first family” as a place where kids find acceptance and understanding.
 Our kids are growing up in a world/country where violence is an everyday occurrence.
 Our kids are faced with a lack of absolutes. There is a moral breakdown resulting in a moral relativism.
 Coupled with the usual adolescent sense of immortality/invulnerability is an unrealistic sense of entitlement created by media, pop culture, and affluence of many Americans.

Hopes
 We believe that the values taught and experienced in Marist schools can provide a viable alternative to those of contemporary American (youth) culture.
 We believe that students in Marist schools are good and generous. They are also adaptable, tolerant, and resilient.
 Our students have a keen sense of social justice; they are globally aware.
 Our kids seek the genuine approval of adults as a sign of their self-worth.
 Marist Youth programs in our schools can help create a positive and lasting identity.

The catholicity of the American teenager

Concerns:

 We need to remind parents that their children’s attitudes and values are products of their own example. If parents are not practicing Catholics, there is less of a chance that their children will be.
 The American Church, in general, does not reach out to young people. They do not know what to do with them or for them, and, as a result, risk losing another generation of Catholics.
 While teenagers often question everything anyway, the Church’s credibility has been seriously weakened by the sex abuse scandal.
 If, as one report says, 77% of American Catholics do not participate in Church on a regular basis, what challenge does this present for Marist schools?
 Who are the spiritual role models for our young people in light of these statistics? What are the implications of this for Marist schools?
 While American teens may not participate in church regularly, the same reports state that they do value religion, but it is not a priority. What can Marist schools do to make this a priority.
 For most American Catholic teenagers in Catholic high schools, the school is their only experience of church. The role of the Campus Ministry and Religion departments becomes of paramount importance in light of this fact.

Hopes:
 We believe that our young people are searching for spirituality, and we believe that Marist schools have a vital spirituality to share with them.
 The sacramental experiences we offer in school are an important part of their ongoing faith formation. It can also serve as a connection to the larger church.
 We believe that we need to share our faith with our students.
 A recent workshop for chairpersons of campus ministry and religion departments was entitled “Will our faith have children?” The answer to that question is another question, “Does our faith have parents?” In the case of most of our students, we need to be the “parents” of their faith and faith formation.

Among the young, especially the most neglected

Concerns:

 The culture of the Marist school is in a tough competition with American youth culture.
 We are concerned about our kids’ exposure to and experience of drugs, alcohol, sex, and violence.
 What kinds of poverty are experienced and exhibited by kids in US Marist schools?
 There is a need for an educated partnership and dialogue with parents in addressing the many issues facing our students/their children: faith formation, pressures of the youth culture, parental expectations, academic pressures, adolescent behavior, divorce/family issues, economic issues.
 We are concerned that the pressure to succeed is out of control in our society. Gospel and Marist values are in direct contrast to this and, as a result, are often discarded.
 The term “the not yet good” (from Father Champagnat’s letter to Brother Barthelemey) has become a common reference point in US Marist schools? How well do we deal with “the not yet good” in US Marist schools?

Hopes:
 Teaching is as much about building relationships with students as it is about conveying material to them.
 As we integrate Marist values into our language, culture, and experience, we will understand more and more why openness and attention to the least favored is a hallmark of Marist Education.
 Financial decisions about the future direction of our schools need to be based on Marist values and priorities.
 We must continue faculty and student formation in Marist values.
 We must challenge ourselves to be counter-cultural/Gospel people.
 We must challenge our students to be counter-cultural/Gospel people.

Sharing our call as Marists

Concerns

 We are concerned about the lack of Marist Brothers vocations and the aging and decreasing population of Marist Brothers in US Marist schools.
 We need to be surrogate parents and role models for our students.
 The cost of a Marist education prevents us from reaching the economically least favored.
 How well do we form our students in their faith for life after a Marist school?

Contributions of Lay Marists
 The financial sacrifice of lay teachers is a genuine witness to Gospel values.
 Our lay colleagues give witness to a generosity of talent and hard work.
 The willingness of our lay teachers to witness to their faith is an important part of the faith formation of our students.
 The opportunity to minister with women brings a new dimension to the brothers’ religious life.
 Marist mission is energized by the willingness of our lay colleagues to commit themselves to Marist mission.

Contributions of Marist Brothers
 The Brothers are great examples of hospitality and community.
 The Brothers gives witness to their belief in the value of education for all students.
 The Brothers are faithful witnesses to the charism.
 The Brothers provide leadership and encouragement to love the least favored.
 The Marial quality of the Brothers; lives creates an atmosphere of community.

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