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Marist Bulletin - Number 234


Restructuring is only starting - Interview with Brother Frère Roque Ari Salet

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Brother Roque was Provincial of the Province of Rio Grande do Sul, in Brazil, from July 2002 to December 2005. He has had an intense experience of restructuring in the Institute and his challenge was to put himself at the service of unity. This is an interview from Marista Sul in which he relates how he lived out this challenge as Provincial.

You led the Province of Rio Grande do Sul at a crucial moment of the restructuring of the former Provinces of Porto Alegre and Santa Maria. How did you face this challenge and how do you evaluate the work of the first Chapter and its accomplishments during the last three and a half years?
When the time for restructuring the Provinces arrived, I was in Rome. The General Council had asked me to be the Superior of the General House and to help the General Council. On my arrival, I was appointed to the Department of the Econome General to study the demands that come to Rome, especially those that concern constructions, modifications and improvements. It was then that I was chosen as Provincial of the Province of Rio Grande do Sul. When the Superior General consulted me, he asked me if I would accept this post for three years. I thought about the Provinces of Santa Maria and Porto Alegre. I knew the first one well but not the second. The charism, philosophy and mission are the same but each Province has its distinctive mark for geographical, social or religious reasons. Thus, I told the Superior General that I would accept in order to be an instrument of unity. In this sense, knowing myself and knowing the brothers, I saw the sondage and the choice of me as Provincial as a service to be given in simplicity and humility, by seeking unity at the interior of diversity.

What have been the principal challenges of restructuring? At what stage is the Province of Rio Grande do Sul?
When we speak of restructuring, we need to think of a decision taken at a General Chapter ten years ago to create more life. That is fundamental. It is not worth the bother of restructuring simply for restructuring. We also need to think of restructuring as a process. That is to say that restructuring is only starting. It is in progress in all the Provinces. It is not finished. Restructuring as such, from the administrative, economic, financial, structural, pedagogical and social points of view, will take a little more than ten years. It is the work of several mandates.
We must understand that we produce life by unifying, by seeking unity and the instruments of this unity and that it is a matter of a process that takes some time. The most difficult thing is to change our personal structures. The easiest thing is to change our external structures. We need a revolution of hearts - as the Superior General said in one of his circulars - in order to bring about restructuring. Leaders must be at the service of this restructuring, of this life, of this dynamic.
Restructuring is difficult to measure. How can I measure a stage of restructuring because measures, parameters, precise indicators do not exist. What we can evaluate is how the brothers and the communities feel and how our lay partners feel. All of that is important because restructuring stirs people and structures. It touches our emotions, our responsibilities, our personal stories and the institutional history.
It is sometimes advantageous to lose as is the case when one prunes a tree in order that it produce more. It is always painful. It touches the heart, affectivity, emotions and that really stirs people.
I tried to forget the Province of Santa Maria in order to think of the interior of a new Province. It is not so much forgetting as maintaining the values of them both; adding what is good in both. This was not the work of one person. Someone can lead and co-ordinate, but the action is the work of several. I would say in particular of the Provincial, his Council, commissions, and teams. I have never understood a Provincial government as a centralised, vertical structure, from top to bottom. I understand all government as a service and a team because when three, five, eight, ten, twelve think one thing, the impact of the ideas, points of view and knowledge brings about a positive result and produces a greater serenity regarding the decisions taken. To lead today, is thus to achieve something as a team.
The path travelled in three and a half years (prolongation of six months to complete the civil year), leaves me serene because we have worked as a team and with teams. There were six commissions, three supervisory bodies, and other organisations such as teams, Jumar, etc. Not less than sixty elements composed the Provincial government directly, in addition to directors of schools, co-ordinators of social works who are leaders in their institutions. It is a network of animators who work in harmony in view of one sole objective.

What was the strategy adopted to seek a common focal point for the whole team?
The strategy adopted was to have in spirit more centralised elements that fixed markers for the Province. From them, we developed other actions as a strategic planning for the schools.
When I started my mandate on the 22nd July 2002, the Provincial Chapter fixed priorities concerning the religious life of the brothers: vocations ministry, initial formation, on-going formation, community life and centring the life of the brothers, communities and works on the person of Jesus Christ; working in harmony with our lay collaborators/partners. What emerged from this was the deepening of the Marist religious identity and that of the layperson working with us. The discussion on the brothers identity also emerged at the level of the whole Institute. We are all invited to centre our lives on the person of Jesus Christ. We must be passionate for someone. We need passion.

Your administration distinguished itself by having produced systematic documents in order to orientate the life of the Province during the next few years. What importance must these documents have for the future?
One of the important elements of the whole three years has been these documents. Any legally constituted institution needs to have at its base documents approved by the proper authority. Nevertheless, a document cannot be something that stratifies, that freezes the work. A document must be illuminating, an indicator, something to which people refer. With more than twenty schools, we cannot let one develop its own document as if it were totally autonomous, but we are speaking here of an important concept: that of a network. The admirable path taken by the Province has been that of consolidating and strengthening this network so that education in Marists schools is done in solidarity with social works. In this sense, we can easily see how a network model is developed in the Province. But here also there is a relationship between loss and profits; many schools and institutions have thus opened their hands to share their resources for the greater good of the institution so that it brings together more people.
Today we can speak of a Marist solidarity network, a Marist education network. It is not said, but we are perceived that way. We thus need rules and orienting principles. The importance of these documents is that they allow the organisation of norms and information under the form of written communication and not only verbal communication. That makes people feel secure as to how to proceed. They know where to go, how to get there, with whom, when and how. The value of these documents is in the hundreds of people who have worked on them. It is not a team of three, four or five, but many people who have been involved in the production of these documents. Our Provincial and official documents are communal constructions. They are references approved by the Council to enlighten and reaffirm us.
The documents are not entirely finished. They can always be improved. But we are reaching a turning point that I consider to be very important. These documents place us in the vanguard of other educational institutions. The Province benefits today from solid documentation.

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