“Welcoming, caring for, living and sharing our vocation”. The International Forum on the Lay Marist Vocation, an initiative of the Marist Institute to “travel a beautiful four-year path (2021-2024) of reflection and shared discernment among lay people, laywomen and brothers,” began to develop around this motto. And this forum has had, throughout this course, a phase of provincial work in which the provinces of the Marist Region of Europe (MRE) have participated.
The presence of lay men and women in Marist environments is increasingly relevant and the forum wants to take advantage of the important role that all these people play in the great Marist family, the global charismatic family. The lay activity is permanent and, during this course, concrete actions have been included around the above-mentioned forum, although they have not been the only ones, as Maristas Ibérica explains.
Thus, from its Provincial Team of Laity, a meeting was held in line with the charism in November 2021, to continue with the proposals that arose in the forum of last year. And another weekend in June is also planned for living together and thinking about the Marist mission. In addition to this, in April, with a successful participation, the traditional “Marist Day of Coexistence” was held in Lardero and San José del Parque, bringing together communities of brothers, linked brothers, fraternities and Marist encounter groups; a space for dialogue, formation and celebration that helps them to get to know each other better and to strengthen the sense of family.
From Ibérica they highlight other moments of intervention of the Marist Life Commission, such as, in addition to their Assembly and Provincial Chapter, the celebration of the family Easter in Lardero, where they met again to celebrate this intense time of faith and felt impelled to be witnesses wherever each one has his personal mission; or the first meeting of the nuclei of the Marist Christian communities of reference in March, a milestone in their provincial history.
The International Forum on the Lay Marist Vocation has four main aspects: to deepen the understanding of the Marist vocation (with special emphasis on the lay Marist vocation); to review and offer processes and itineraries of formation and accompaniment of the lay vocation; to reflect and propose possible ways of linking it to the Marist charism; to know, reflect, explore and propose possibilities of juridical structures (civil and canonical) for the Marist laity. And they have been worked on in two provincial meetings in Maristas Europa.
For example, Maristas Compostela held it in February in Valladolid, with the participation of 22 people who shared life, experiences and reflection within this great process that is taking place throughout the Marist world. This provincial meeting was the culmination of other previous processes carried out in 17 local groups since the beginning of the course and where a total of 155 people took part. In these groups, they developed working sessions on the above points and drew conclusions that were brought to this final provincial forum.
Different members of the Marist Life Team, as well as the Laity Team and the Brother Provincial, among others, guided this last work from which came out proposed lines, for the Marist Institute in general (exchange of experiences of the laity; formation on lay processes; flexible structure; international associative model) and for the Province of Compostela in particular (open local communities; animators of processes; orientation and support for groups; formation), aimed at caring for and strengthening this lay Marist vocation.
For its part, Maristas Mediterránea held its provincial forum on the theme in April and May, with the presence in the Marist House of Guardamar del Segura (Alicante) of 44 Marists (10 brothers and 34 lay people) from Spain, Lebanon and Italy, representing 26 communities or groups that carried out the process of reflection at the local level, following the sheets prepared by the Secretariat of the Laity of the Institute and whose director participated in the meeting to address two of the four major blocks of work of the forum.
Some of the key points of the meeting were the experience of silence and contemplative listening, leaving for the end the question “What has burned in your heart during the time shared?”, the presentation of the shared reflections, the time for reading and discernment, the listening in assembly and the choice of ideas and strengths to contribute to this International Forum, which has its next big meeting in Rome in November of this year.
Marists L’Hermitage, in its case, opted for the virtual way to advance in this work entrusted to the provinces. Thus, it has planned four workshops. The first was held in November 2021, with more than 70 Marists of Champagnat, who deepened their understanding of their vocation and where there were spaces for prayer, listening, dialogue and opportunity to recognize themselves and feel part of the Marist province.
The second virtual workshop, on formation itineraries and close accompaniment, was held in January 2022; while the other two workshops were also held in the following months. In each of them, time was set aside for interesting testimonies, such as that of Madame Catherine Demougin and Br. André Dury, who spoke about their Marist life. Both spoke about welcoming, listening, accompanying, rereading life in the light of the Gospel, respect, presence in the world of young people and adults, being an open community…. After this, the participants discussed the challenges they have to face as Marists in this vocational journey. And all the reflections of the groups will form part of the provincial contributions to this International Forum on the Lay Marist Vocation.