Of what use are dreams if they do not come true? What do we want new models of community for if we do not know how to give them form, how to make them a reality?
The growing conviction that Mission should shape each community, and the desire to have our communities enter into “the dance of mission”, are provoking initiatives that are worth our attention.
They may seem utopian but they just might be real! For this what is needed is a dose of fantasy, audacity, and availability to let oneself be led by prophetic imagination.
It is already happening!
At the start of last June I had the good fortune to participate in a gathering – I would call it “mystagogic” – which was in response to a wish and project of the last General Chapter of the Marist Brothers. Its slogan was “With Mary, go in haste to new lands!”. The Superior General invited Brothers of the Institute to volunteer to join new “communities in mission on the peripheries”. They entitled the project, “International communities for a new beginning”. More than 90 Brothers responded to the call of the Superior General. From among them a few were chosen, coming from Australia, Canada, Spain, Italy, Cameroon, United States, Argentina, Brazil, Venezuela, Paraguay, Chile … Surprisingly, among those chosen were young Brothers, some of middle age, and even some elderly men. Along with them was a smaller – and young – group of lay people, including a married couple, from various countries.
The participants – after a short stay at the General House in Rome – moved to a rural area in Tuscany, near Arezzo and a few kilometres from Camaldoli and the village of Soci where there was a small complex of houses available for holidays in the countryside. The brothers and laypeople were distributed across the houses to provide a real-life experience of “inter-communities sharing life and mission”.
Each community-house (fraternity) had its own rhythm of life, cooked for itself, did its own shopping, organized its own way of living together, its prayer and meetings and also offering hospitality to the other communities or visitors… Obviously there were also moments when the whole group gathered for combined activities, group reflection, liturgy and prayer…
I was invited to participate in the experience and join one of the fraternities. My contribution was to present – to the whole group together – over three days, some insights and reflections on shared mission, communities shaped by mission and the idea of “new wineskins” for the “new wine” of the charism or innovative proposals.
This initiative of “international communities for a new beginning” was a response to the realisation that what is needed are not only sessions on formation and spirituality – which later are easily forgotten in the humdrum of daily life – but sessions with concrete objectives and imminent outcomes, not only of a personal nature but community as well, not only work-related but expressive of prophetic and mystical mission. It is not a matter of preparing oneself to be available in general – without concrete goals – but to begin something new, an expression of the charism in today’s global context, something challenging, along with real people with whom one has shared an experience of interiority and initiation. In fact, it is hoped that this group will start up “communities for a new beginning” in various spots around the world: for example in East Harlem (New York), or in Sicily (welcoming refugees and immigrants) or in other frontier and peripheral places where needs are especially urgent.
Origin, objective, form: “going further”
The XXI General Chapter of the Marist Brothers proposed to establish:
“an evangelising presence among children and young people in vulnerable situations, which would be significant and where other others are not going”.
The objective of this project – already started – is not simply to reproduce more conventional communities under regions or provinces. Rather, old patterns are being broken and traditional boundaries of administrative units and regions are being crossed. This is the origin of the desire to “explore possibilities of international collaboration for mission”.
Moreover, it is intended that these communities be open and intercultural, working on a real communion of cultures within themselves, valuing their diversity and their integration into their local context. In this way, these communities will give evidence of a meaningful way of life, an authentic witness to fraternity and sorority and be adaptable as decided by their members (brothers, lay men and women, religious of other congregations …).
These proposals must be based on a strong prophetic and mystic spirituality, to be taken up and cultivated as an absolute and central priority.
In a recent letter, the Superior General, Br Emili Turú proposed:
“the establishment of at least two international communities in each of the seven regions of the Institute – except Asia – in such a way that in 2017 at least one will be functioning in each region.”
Responding to this proposal of the Superior General, the group designing and implementing the project opted for a sort of community that would have at least four members, at least three of whom would be Marist Brothers and the other(s) lay. Anyway, each region of the Institute will decide how these communities will be made up of Brothers, lay men and women, volunteers. The members commit themselves for different lengths of time, especially the lay people, but an effort will be made to ensure the continuity of the community.
The General Council has appointed a formation team which will also function as the permanent accompaniment team of these communities. The Econome General was involved in preparing the Budget. At the end of this formation program, the Superior General assigned the members of the different communities, with an eye to their preferences, languages, cultures, personalities, as well as the expected apostolic tasks.
Moving into a new phase: a challenge for all Institutes
It is a given that consecrated life has to move into a new phase in our time. We have devoted a lot of energy to charismatic initiation (at times, months spent in places sacred to our Institutes), but with no concrete mission plan (a new missionary heart and missionary outreach). What happens? Those who took part in the experience lose their ardour in once more “doing the same old work as always”, with no possible outcome in tune with the radical nature of what they experienced. And so, the new does not happen …
On the other hand, our provincial and regional structures constrain us in such a way that they block what is “inter”: each one looking after its own territory. It is very difficult to restructure them for the sake of “the demands of mission”.
Thinking of “my” Province, “my” region cuts across charismatic energy, disempowers it, domesticates it. We need to find ways of breaking with our fixed schemas, to take up in a decisive manner what is “inter” in a world that is more “inter” than ever. And we need to “unite” to be present to frontier situations, on the peripheries. Something new is being born. Can you not see it? But, look out! Wherever something “new is born” there is “a dragon”, there are “Herods”, ready to kill “new starts” as soon as they appear. May it not be said of us that we form part of this group that kills dreams. Only by dreaming the impossible, will we ever get to what is currently unimaginable.
In Spanish: http://www.xtorey.es/?p=3506