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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 81


Brother Alfonso Fernández, Mexico,Vice-President of the Latin American Confederation of Religious (CLAR)

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Br. Lluís Serra

Brother Alfonso de Jesus Fernández Pena, 52 years old, was born in Mexico. After studying pedagogy and mathematics, he obtained his Degree in Pastoral and Catechetical Theology in the UPS (Papal Salesian University) of Rome. He has dedicated himself to education and formation. He was Provincial of Central Mexico (1996-2002) and a member of the General Chapter. At the moment he is president of the CIRM (Conference of Religious of Mexico), vice-president of the CLAR, and Superior and Director of the Pedro Martínez Vázquez school in Irapuato (Guanajuato).

At the beginning of May, the Presidency of CLAR to which you belong has gone to the Vatican. Is it a routine visit or a call from the order?
We have come before the end of our period of service, which finishes in July 3 in Mexico City with the XV General Assembly, to acknowledge and maintain our relationship with the Dicasteries of the Consecrated Life and with the Doctrine of the Faith. We were also interested in getting acquainted with the new secretary of the Doctrine of the Faith.

Tell me some more about CLAR
The Latin American Conference of Religious (CLAR) began March 2 1959. At this moment in time there are 22 National Conferences of Latin America and the Caribbean.
Among their objectives are: the coordination of the initiatives and services common to the National Conferences; the promotion of communion and mutual collaboration between the Institutes and the Societies of Apostolic Life; and the establishment of an appropriate coordination and cooperation with the CELAM (Episcopal Latin American Conference)

How would you describe their relationships with the Dicasteries of the religious life and of the doctrine of the faith as well as with the CELAM?
With the Dicastery for the Consecrated Life it is a case, one could say, of maintenance.
With the Doctrine of the Faith we have had some difficulties that have forced us, last October, to discuss the term refoundation and also some points supported by the theologians of CLAR.
We have good relationships and various activities in common with CELAM

I have the impression that you, religious men and women, live immersed in the political, social and economic problems of Latin America and that you confront the gospel message with audacity. Do you believe that your voices cause discomfort?
I believe that the process of the road to Emmaus has elicited a very positive response in the religious life of Latin America and some mistrust in the Doctrine of the Faith that has attracted attention in the use of terms like Council of the Religious Life, refoundation, option for the poor, etc.

You often speak of the road to Emmaus. Explain to me what that is.
CLAR encourages all religious to continue travelling the roads of refoundation, with a new momentum which maintains what we already have and helps us to form, in creative fidelity to our charismas which invite us to a religious life that through its fidelity to the Gospel is more significant for the Church and the world of today.
The XIV General Assembly, held in Venezuela in the year 2000, invites us all to carry out a PROCESS of the Religious Life in Latin America and the Caribbean, under the banner: For the road to Emmaus, looking for roads together in the zeal to express, by our word and our life, the essence of following Jesus through the religious life.

One of the basic tenets of CLAR points to a renewed preferential option for the poor. In what practical aspects is this summed up?
That the religious men and women, by means of an analysis of the present day reality, help to give new answers to new situations.
Without relinquishing the strong courses of action of the seventies and of the eighties, we now emphasise other areas, such as accompaniment, presence, solidarity with their causes and creative hope.

They also speak of a new ecclesiasticism. Which model of the Church do they propose?
More than just producing a model, it will encourage the renovation of the religious life as the prophetic experience of brotherhood, in the communion of ecclesiastic charismas integrated in one local Church and open up macro ecumenical dialogue with the world.

Young people constitute another point of the programme. In what sense?
To discover the symbolic universe of juvenile cultures and to take into account the challenges that they present to our educational and pastoral practices, to recreate religious life in this time of change.
The young people under 25, who constitute more than 50% of the population of Latin America and the Caribbean, manifest very bloody wounds that force us to reassess our social, political, cultural and religious projects.

Being an entity of men and consecrated women, they have not avoided the problems that affect women. What challenges in this field do they hope to solve?
To encourage gender consciousness in order to discover the wealth and fruitfulness of the reciprocity in relationships of men and women in the interior of the religious life, and to recover the historical memory of the feminine religious life of Latin America.

You are looking for a reincarnated spirituality. How do you plan to achieve this far from easy synthesis?
It is not easy but we are proposing some means which we believe can help, such as favouring personal and community encounters with Jesus Christ in a reincarnated spirituality which is liberating and based on our culture; to socialize the experiences of spiritual animation; to support the prayerful reading of the Bible and the signs of the times; and to promote the symbolic expression of our culture in iconographic images, our own symbols, liturgical expressions, etc.

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