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18 June

St. Elizabeth of Schoenau
1900: the first Brothers leave for Bom Principio, Brazil

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Marist Bulletin - Number 301


Mission Ad Gentes - “Sponsor a Brother in Asia” campaign

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The marist Institute presented a CD on the Mission Ad Gentes by the end of May. The CD-Rom was produced by The Bureau of International Solidarity with the aim of launching the “Sponsor a Brother in Asia” campaign.
It is an interactive CD in five languages (the official languages of the Institute and Italian) meant to be distributed to all the communities and missionary works of the Institute, to develop awareness on the Marist Mission Ad Gentes and collect funds to support the missionary brothers www.champagnat.org..
The idea of the CD was born some months ago; since then BIS has been working, together with Franciscans International (Geneva), brothers and lay people, in order to have it ready by the General Conference held in Rome from May 20 to June 2. In that occasion copies of the CD were consigned to the provincials and destined to the administrative units.
With this issue of our bulletin we are sending two texts: the first one is written by Br. Luis Sobrado on the Marist Project Mission Ad Gentes and its main issues. The second one is written by Br. Seán, Superior General, about the Sponsor a brother in Asia campaign.

Br. Luis García Sobrado, Vicar General

Often, in my interaction with Marist Brothers and Marist laity around the world, I am asked to say a word about “that Project of Mission Ad Gentes”. When I finish explaining, people keep silence for a short while. Clearly, they are impressed, perhaps shocked... And then, inevitably, two questions come to the fore: Why this? and Why now?

Why this?
This Mission Ad Gentes project was launched jointly by the General Council and the General Conference (Sri Lanka, 2005). It proposes to send 150 Marists (Brothers and Laity) into eight to ten different countries in Asia: Cambodia, Thailand, Indonesia, North India, Myanmar, Kazakhstan, Laos, Nepal and two other countries that I prefer not to mention here.
Let me tell you why.
First, together, these countries contain close to 2/3 of the world’s population. This is even more so, if we count people less than 25 years of age.
Second, these are the countries where we find the most urgent needs for children and young people. The 2005 UN on Youth, without mincing words, says that here are found the more pressing calls for action to meet the right of basic education, reasonable health conditions and family support for the world’s children and young people.
Third, our Marist presence is weakest in this region of the world when compared to our presence in Africa, Oceania, the Americas and Europe.
Fourth, here also are found the most challenging needs for the evangelization of youth. Vatican documents repeat, one after the other: the third millennium is the time of God for the evangelization of Asia (cfr. “Redemptoris Missio” and “Ecclesia in Asia”). Part of this urgency comes from the fact that as Christians, we need to enter into a religious dialogue with Asia to rediscover the wonderful gift of Christ to the world of today.

Why now?
First, we are, from the times of our Founder, an Institute with a strong tradition of Mission Ad Gentes. In the last twenty years of so, the average age of the Marist Missionary Brother has passed from approximately 40 years of age to 63 years. Without doubt, this is due in part to the multiplication of responsibilities that our young brothers are asked to assume in many of the works we have established in the countries were we already have a presence. However, the Ad Gentes dimension continues to be an essential aspect for the vitality of our life and mission. A call to renew, in a resolute way, our commitment to Ad Gentes can not wait any longer.
Third, Choose Life, our XXth General Chapter document, asked us to do exactly this but in new way: with a collaborative effort that will bring different nationalities and cultures together in forming the new Mission Ad Gentes communities and launching new educational projects. Keeping in mind the number of brothers in the Institute and our advancing ages, the more we wait to begin such a move, the more difficult it is going to be for us to meet this General Chapter recommendation.
Fourth, missiologists and local churches in Asia are telling us that we have a window of opportunity of about ten years to move missionaries into and to establish meaningful presences in Asia. This is the opportune time, before the growing consumerist trends and materialistic values take hold in the cultures of Asia and harden many hearts to the possibility of discovering the loving presence of the Risen Lord in their midst.
Finally, the more I see this Project developing, the more I become convinced that this is the kind of action that Saint Marcellin would undertake today.
We are at the threshold of a new era in the history of humanity and in the history of the world. Only decisions filled with the strength of the Spirit of God and characterized by audacity and careful discernment can stand up to the challenge.

Your Brother in Jesus, Mary and Marcellin,
Luis García Sobrado

Brother Seán D. Sammon - Superior General

Our new Mission Ad Gentes effort in Asia, but a dream when presented 18 months ago during our General Conference in Sri Lanka, becomes stronger and more visible with each passing day. The 17 members who made up the first group of volunteers have finished their five-month orientation program and 15 of them are now in the process of establishing themselves in the countries to which they have been missioned. Numbered among those are Bangladesh and Cambodia.
A second group of volunteers has gathered in Davao and within four months its members will also begin to move further into Asia. We have plans to repeat this cycle every six months until the fall of 2009. By that time over 100 additional brothers, with at least one from each province and district in the Institute, will be calling Asia “home.” Something tells me that Marcellin will be delighted when we reach that milestone.
Due only to the extraordinarily generous financial help received from the brothers of three provinces and the assistance of Catholic based donor agencies in Europe, we are now able to assure a proper missionary formation for those brothers who have volunteered. The Bureau of International Solidarity will continue to work with donor agencies when it is time to launch apostolic works beginning January 2008 and following.
In the meantime however, the responsibility for funding each group of brothers during a one-year “in between time”—that period when those involved will be living in the country to which they have been missioned so as to study the language and begin to acquaint themselves first-hand with the local culture—will fall almost entirely on the Institute. In addition, if we hope to have donor agencies help us with the apostolic projects we will be setting up, we must be prepared to “co-finance” some of these undertakings.
Whenever I have appealed in the past to the Institute at large for help, the response has been more than generous. Your generosity at the time of the volcanic eruption in Goma was only surpassed by your extraordinary help at the time of the tragic tsunami in Sri Lanka.
My appeal today, however, is not due to a natural disaster but rather in order that we can advance our mission in Asia. The campaign is entitled: “Sponsor a Brother in Asia.” This campaign is a special one and my hope is that it will attract the interest of our students and others with whom we work in our new Mission Ad Gentes effort. For example, not being able to go to Asia himself or herself to evangelize, a young person may be willing to support a brother who is able to serve in one of its many countries. So, the funds given for this campaign will be designated for the Mission Ad Gentes project solely.
The Bureau of International Solidarity has prepared this inter-active CD that contains information on our new missionary efforts in Asia. It includes the post-synod apostolic letter about the present-day Church in Asia, “Ecclesia in Asia”, profiles of the countries to which we are going and information about each brother who has volunteered.
This CD also contains information on the “Sponsor a Brother in Asia” campaign, ideas for fundraising and instructions on how to deposit any donations in one of the designated accounts that are being set-up for this purpose. The students in one of our schools, for example, may want to take on responsibility for supporting one or more brothers as part of a mission awareness program. In so doing, they would learn the brother’s name, and something about the country in which he is serving as well as the challenges facing the Church there.
This Mission Ad Gentes: “Sponsor a Brother in Asia” campaign CD has been made available through the Bureau of International Solidarity and our friends at Edelvives in Spain.
In closing, thank you for all you will do to begin your own local campaign to Sponsor a Brother in Asia. With your help and God’s blessing, the work of Fr. Champagnat and Our Good Mother will continue in a renewed way in Asia. Blessings and affection,

Brother Seán D. Sammon, FMS
Superior General – March 2007

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