Online Small Christian Communities

A couple of weeks ago, I received an email from Fr. Joseph Healey, a Maryknoll priest presently working in Nairobi. Fr. Healey is an avid promoter of Small Christian Communities in Africa and around the world. He has collaborated with Bernard Lee, SM and Bob Moriarty, SM. He recently visited Tony and Beth Garascia and the Shekan MLC in South Bend, IN and shared his present research into online SCCs. Tony told him of the Our Lady of the Round Table community, and he wanted to know more. We had a lovely email conversation that sparked a lively dialogue among the OLRT members.

Fr. Healey`s energy and passion for the gift of Small Christian Communities is inspiring. And, our international connections are awesome. Chris, a member of OLRT, found out that her dear Maryknoll Sister friend is a good friend of his. Lorna, our member in Nairobi, went to visit him within days and began sharing the MLC experience in Nairobi with youth from the Our Lady of the Visitation parish. This was all shared on the smallchristiancommunities.org web-site and the SCC Facebook page. An interesting aspect of this initiative is it`s  invitation to be part of an online SCC, using a closed Facebook page. New methods for new times, indeed!

A surprising off-shoot from the energy of these past weeks is a new Blog from the Our Lady of the Round Table MLC. We have been sharing our daily lectio prayers for over five years. We discussed collecting some of our prayers into a book. But, the task seemed too onerous….there was too many prayers, and they kept piling up each day! The idea came to share our online prayer experience with others through a daily blog. The format is simple – one member`s prayer will be posted daily. No personal sharing or prayer intentions will be posted, to respect the confidentiality of the community. Our hope is that it will encourage others to pray the daily readings with us, and perhaps share their prayers, also. We also hope that it will provide a wee window into our online SCC as we learn more about this growing phenomenon around the world.

I invite you to visit us at http://ourladyoftheroundtable.wordpress.com/ .

Isabel Duarte – News from Chile

Isabel Duarte, CLM Regional Responsible Latin America

Isabel Duarte, CLM Regional Responsible Latin America

We have just received the following message from Isabel Duarte in Chile. Isabel and her husband Freddy are past National Responsibles for the CLM Chile. Isabel is now a member of the International Team as the Regional Responsible for Latin America.

Queridos hermanos:

El terremoto y el tsunami ha desvastado cientos de kilómetros en nuestras costas y también en el interior. Las reacciones de algunos grupos de vándalos organizados ha sido un terremoto moral que nos ha desvastado por dentro.

Agradecemos infinitamente la preocupación y el cariño de todos.

De la familia marianista en Chile los más afectados son los que viven en Linares (laicos y religiosos) y Talca (laicos y religiosas), dos ciudades fuertemente afectadas. La comunicación aún es difícil y no tenemos datos completos, sabemos que ha muerto Ilse del Campo, alumna de 8º Básico del Colegio de Linares; Vania Yánez, exalumna del Instituto y que terminó en el 2006 y la Sra. Lily de Abrahán, mamá de muchos exalumnos.

Necesitamos fuertemente de vuestras oraciones, para reconstruir nuestras casas y carreteras, y reconstruir también nuestra alma nacional.

Permanecemos unidos en la oración al Padre, de la mano de María.

Un abrazo a cada uno,

Isabel

(Google Translation)

Dear Brothers:

The earthquake and tsunami has devastated hundreds of miles along our coasts and inland. The reactions of some organized groups of vandals has been a moral earthquake that has devastated inside.We endlessly thank the concern and affection of all.

Of the Marianist family in Chile the most affected are those living in Linares (secular and religious) and Talca (secular and religious), two cities hard hit. The communication is still difficult and we have no complete data, we know who has died Ilse del Campo, a student at the College Basic 8th Linares; Vania Yañez, alumnus of the Institute and graduated in 2006 and Ms. Lily Abraham, mother of many alumni.

We strongly need your prayers, to rebuild our homes and roads, and also rebuild our national soul.

We remain united in prayer to the Father, from the hand of Mary.
A hug to everyone,
Isabel

Earthquake in Chile

ChileEarthquake.php

Fr. José María Arnaiz, SM, Regional Superior of Chile, has written a report and reflection on the recent earthquake. It can be read online in VIA LATINA in ENGLISH, FRANÇAIS, and ESPAÑOL.

Sergio and Marta, our National Responsibles in Chile, wrote the following update:

Te cuento que ha sido una tremenda tragedia, sobretodo para la gente del sur de nuestro país donde fue el epicentro. son ciento cuarenta y siete las víctimas fatales hasta este momento, al interior del Movimiento a la fecha no se ha tenido información de alguna víctima fatal perteneciente a las comunidades. Daños en las viviendas y rotura de enseres ha sido lo más generalizado en las pérdidas materiales, hay sectores sin servicios básicos aún, muchos países han ofrecido su ayuda solidaria. Para los chilenos este tipo de desastres no nos es desconocidos y la solidadidad entre vecinos y familiares se hace presente con mucha fuerza.

Te agradecemos tus sentimientos y las oraciones que las Fraternidades puedan elevar a Dios Padre por la intercesión de María Santísima por nuestro pueblo.

Un abrazo fraterno y muchos cariños a las Fraternidades de España.

Unidos en espíritu a través de nuestros Fundadores.

Sergio y Marta

We remain united in prayer, support and family spirit with all our Marianist Family in Chile. May our loving God grant the people of Chile safety in the after-math, and courage in the difficult days ahead.

We will share any news and updates as they come.

LENT – 40 DAYS TO CHANGE THE WORLD

40Days

In past years, the Marianist family in Spain developed a Lenten program called “Forty Days with the Forty Least”. It was an opportunity to journey in prayer, in spirit, and in letter writing with our sisters and brothers in the 40 least developed countries in the world. This year, the Fundación SM has developed the program “FORTY DAYS TO CHANGE THE WORLD” it will “focus our attention on the experiences, people and organizations that are contributing positively to development….It does not try to hide the problems of underdevelopment, but rather present these along with the solutions being implemented to solve them.”

The campaign is available in English, Français, and Español.

This is a wonderful opportunity to join our minds and hearts across the miles. I pray that our Lenten journey will nurture and strengthen our personal relationship with our God, and with each other. May the union of our humble efforts truly change the world!

(When you go to the web-site in English, click on the “Cuaresma 2010″ link near the bottom of the page for the day’s readings.)

Global Greetings!

global mailMarianists are great letter writers! I found this out early in my relationship with our local Marianist Brothers. Our dear mentor and friend, Raymond Roussin, faithfully sent holiday and birthday greetings to us all for many years. My home MLC in Winnipeg has its own “Minister of Feast Days”, Valerie Bergeron. A birthday or anniversary does not go by without a card in the post box from Val. (And that includes all our five children!) In my cyber-MLC, Our Lady of the Round Table, Susan Buckley holds this valued position reminding us all when a member’s special day is arriving.

Of course, now I know how deeply rooted letter-writing is in our Marianist story. Through regular correspondence, friendships and communities are maintained and strengthened when miles separate us. Each time we send a warm greeting, share news, and support each other with written words, we follow in the tradition of Blessed Chaminade, Mother Adèle, Marie Thérèse, and all who helped to found and build our Marianist family around the world.

I have always been a lazy letter writer. If a letter has to be written, or a parcel sent, it will sit on my desk for weeks. I stopped sending Christmas cards in 1991, the year that Gracie was born. Taking care of five children under the age of nine left us no energy or time. The internet was a real communication gift for me. A few moments snatched at the computer allowed me to send and receive emails from old friends. And, my Marianist connections began weaving around the world.

It is easy to begin a debate on “snail mail” vs. email. I treasure both. This Christmas I was blessed with wonderful cards picked up at our post office. Envelopes adorned with richly decorated Christmas stamps from around the world. What a long and surprising journey they had before arriving in our frozen prairie town! Hand-made cards, photos, and written messages reflected the loving care of the sender.

My own Christmas card was a simple email greeting sent out to our Marianist family. But what a surprising gift this simple greeting became! All through Christmas and the days following, my Blackberry kept beeping with messages and prayers from around the world. What joy this gave me! Personal greetings were returned with an assurance of prayers for our mission as lay Marianists in the coming year. The emails came in diverse languages, and from all branches within our family. To all who sent them….thank you….mérci….gracias….grazie!

Personal and communal correspondence is not only vital to our mission as a global, spiritual family. It is grounded in our charism. On January 10th, we’ll be celebrating the birth into eternal life of Venerable Adéle de Batz de Trenquelléon, founder of the Daughters of Mary Immaculate. She is a source of inspiration and a model for me in my Marianist work. She, too, was geographically distanced yet was able to form spiritual friendships across the miles through her letters.

May the example and prayers of all our Marianist saints guide us in this New Year, and inspire us to reach out across the miles in friendship and family spirit!

Synod for Africa Concludes

Our Lady of Africa

Our Lady of Africa

The Synod for Africa has concluded. John L. Allen, Jr. has written an excellent summary of the Synod for the National Catholic Reporter titled Women may come out winners in the Synod for Africa. The results of the Synod reflect a realistic acknowledgement of present injustices while not forgetting the gifts inherent in the African continent and her people.

The Synod has presented Pope Benedict XVI with 57 propositions to consider as he prepares his Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation. Here are some of the propositions that speak directly to the laity, New Ecclesial Movements, and Small Christian Communities. There is much for us to ponder in these words, especially in light of our new document, “Marianist Lay Communities in the Church and in the World“. (Emphases are mine.)

  • The Synod renews its support for the promotion of Small Christian Communities (SCC), which firmly build up the Church-Family of God in Africa. The SCC are based on Gospel-sharing, where Christians gather to celebrate the presence of the Lord in their lives and in their midst, through the celebration of the Eucharist, the reading of the Word of God and witnessing to their faith in loving service to each other and their communities. Under the guidance of their pastors and catechists, they seek to deepen their faith and mature in Christian witness, as they live concrete experiences of fatherhood, motherhood, relationships, open fellowship, where each takes care of the other. This Family of God extends beyond the bonds of blood, ethnicity, tribe, culture and race. In this way, SCC open paths to reconciliation with extended families, which have the tendency to impose on Christian nuclear families their syncretistic ways and customs. (35)
  • Christ’s lay faithful share in the threefold mission of Christ, priest, prophet and king, because they are members of the People of God. They are therefore called to live their vocation and mission at all levels of society, especially in the socio-political, socio-economic and socio-cultural spheres. …Consequently, the Church must provide them with an initial and ongoing catechesis for a conversion of heart, supported by an adequate spiritual, biblical, doctrinal and moral formation for a social Christian conscience.
    In this regard, perhaps one of the providential tools for the development of this conversion and faith experience are the new ecclesial movements. These movements and communities of faith and communion exist in the Church as “veritable laboratories of faith”, places of formation and empowerment through the Spirit for a life of witness and mission. Thus equipped as disciples of the Lord, they act in the world as leaven. (37)
  • For those who are engaged in directing political, economic and cultural affairs, the Church is to take special care to plan a formation programme based on the Word of God and the social doctrine of the Church (cf.”The Compendium”, 12). This program is to include formation in leadership which transforms life through action (leadership training for transformative action).…Small Christian Communities are to offer assistance in the formation of the People of God and serve as a place for concretely living out reconciliation, justice and peace. (37)
  • Permanent catechists or those who act as catechists on occasion are the vital heralds of the Gospel for our Small Christian Communities, where they exercise various roles: leaders of prayer, counsellors and mediators. They require a solid formation and material support which is necessary for them effectively to assume their role as spiritual guides. They also need to be encouraged and supported in their zeal for service within these communities, especially their service to reconciliation, justice and peace.

Our Marianist Lay Communities in Africa formed their own Region within the International Organization of MLC during our 2005 meeting in Bordeaux. Lorna Mueni Kilonzo, the first Regional Responsible for Africa, constantly reminded the international team of the need for formation in the countries she represented. Her words were, “we must form formators”! Ernest Kasongo, the new Regional Responsible for Africa, is continuing the call for formation resources and programs. This will be an important agenda item for us during our meetings in Rome.

The African Bishops recognize that lay women and men, formed and educated in their faith, are needed to build both the church and society. And, they are needed for leadership within both. Ecclesial movements and small Christian communities, such as our Marianist Lay Communities, provide “veritable laboratories, places of formation and empowerment through the Spirit for a life of witness and mission.”

Synod for Africa

The Catholic Church has made headline news in Canada these past weeks. Sadly, it was focused on the resignation of Bishop Raymond Lahey of Antigonish, Nova Scotia upon being charged with possession and importation of child pornography. The news story was not only deeply depressing, but it renewed and increased the hurt, anger, and distrust that many Catholics in North America have with the hierarchical leadership in our Church. It’s becoming harder and harder to not only defend our faith, but to defend our Church. Many have given up trying.

Yet, there is hope in our Church. I’ve been following the Africa Synod of Bishops taking place in Rome from October 4 – 25. There are some interesting ideas coming from the African bishops, ideas that reflect our own Marianist vision in many ways. Unfortunately, the words of these progressively thinking Bishops, speaking out for justice and peace, aren’t making even a small blip in our secular media.

I’ve been reading the coverage of John L. Allen Jr., the Rome correspondent for the National Catholic Reporter in the USA. There is a complete index of his articles online. On October 14 he wrote, “As the Synod of Bishops for Africa reaches its midway point, its key themes seem to include empowering women (both in the broader society and the church), a perceived Western assault on the African family, globalization and its discontents (especially chronic poverty), and dialogue with Islam.”

Cardinal John Njue of Nairobi was described as one of the ‘big guns’ in the African church. Njue asserted that “Africa continues to thirst for good governance”. Bad governance is too often the reality “where unchecked hunger for power has led to impunity, corruption, manipulation of people, and other similar social political evils.” (Cardinal Njue celebrated the opening mass for our Nairobi meeting. We were all moved with his affirmation of the role of the laity in the Church.)

Archbishop John Onaiyeken of Abuja, Nigeria spoke of irresponsible actions of multinational oil companies in Africa. He also observed how it was time for Catholic/Islamic relations to go beyond dialogue to concrete collaboration in issues of peace and justice.

Cardinal Peter Turkson of Ghana, the general secretary of the synod stated “The synod fathers have heard the cry of women…women need to be recognized in society as well as in the church as active members.” Fellow Ghanaian, Archbishop Charles Palmer-Buckle of Accra, gave an interview to John L. Allen Jr. where he posed this intriguing idea. Instead of a synod of bishops, why not a “pastoral congress of the universal church.”? The full interview is well worth reading, especially for his concrete strategies for integrating women into Church leadership within the present structures. These include actively promoting the education and formation of women, and promoting “women’s affairs” diocesan offices.

Those who attended our International Meeting in Nairobi, were deeply moved by the faith and energy of our sisters and brothers in Africa. Pope Benedict, in his opening address to the Synod, called Africa an “immense spiritual lung” and praised the “extraordinary human wealth” of Africa. I echo his sentiments, and smile at the images of African drums and Congolese choirs in St. Peter’s Basillica!

Cardinal Njue

The past leadership team meets with Cardinal Njue in Nairobi. August 2009

WDP 2009 – Who is my neighbour?

W

Today’s Good Samaritan gospel asks the question, “Who is my neighbour”? (Luke 10) Jesus challenges us to go beyond the comfort zone of close family and friends. He challenges us to expand our vision and our hearts to a more inclusive, ever-widening circle of neighbours. This is why making, nurturing, and supporting international connections are so important. The miles between us melt when we form global friendships. World news becomes more significant when we have sisters and brothers affected by tragedies we see in photos and newscasts- the horrible flooding in the Philippines, the droughts in Kenya, violence in the Congo, and persecution of Christians in India. These are no longer disconnected stories and images. These are our neighbours.

We think that our hearts can only take so much. There are enough problems in each day, in our own place and time. Yet, our loving God is ready to expand the capability of our hearts to embrace all of God’s creation. To not only love, nurture and support all our neighbours, but to be loved, nurtured and supported in return.

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Our annual Marianist World Day of Prayer is a grace-filled opportunity to spiritually connect as a global family. Each year, a different host country invites us to learn more about life in their country. We gather with Mary at a shrine dedicated to her honour. We join with her and our sisters and brothers to pray for the special needs of the host country, the Marianist Family, and the whole world.

This year, we gather on October 11th with our Marianist family in the Democratic Republic of Congo at the Shrine of Our Lady of Peace of Fatima. The invitation, back-ground to the Shrine, and prayers are available in ENGLISHFRANCAISESPANOL , and in  PORTUGESE. We pray in a special way for peace and justice in the Congo. May Our Lady of Peace show us the way.

Nairobi – Faith in Action

I’m still pondering about my time in Nairobi this past summer. Certain experiences defy words. Perhaps there is a fear that feeble attempts at descriptions will take away from the deep truths that are still being processed within the mind and heart? I wanted to write a ‘post- Nairobi’ post, but where to start? This morning, I received a wonderful email from one of my new friends, Ann Kihagi. She is a perfect example of that certain “something” that I find so humbling and inspiring in our Marianist sisters and brothers in Africa.

Ann works for an organization called BasicNeeds in Nairobi. The purpose of BasicNeeds is “That the basic needs of mentally ill people in Kenya are met and their basic rights are respected.” As is the situation in most parts of the world, poverty and mental illness often go hand in hand in Nairobi. Job training is offered as well as treatment to nurture and promote dignity and independence. For Ann, “My work with people with mental illnesses or epilepsy also gives me lots of joy when I see the levels of hope being restored by a touch of love and concern.”

Ann (center) at BasicNeeds

Ann (center) at BasicNeeds

In addition to her work with BasicNeeds, Ann is now working on a new initiative with Lorna Mueni Kilonzo – our past Regional Responsible for Africa. This is a collaborative project among the Marianist Lay Communities of Kenya to address the many needs of youth, especially in the target area of Makadara-Nairobi East. The project has a holistic approach of providing spiritual, educational, and vocational formation for children who are at risk due to the extreme poverty and violence of the area. Lorna is a dear friend of mine. She and I worked together on the past leadership team. We are also members of the cyber-MLC, “Our Lady of the Round Table”. Upon Lorna’s retirement from international work, she told me that she was going to spend more time working with youth. Little did I know the energy and work that was going into this project! Ann gave me a sneak preview into the draft proposal. Wow!

Anastacia Wangari is yet another “Magnificat” woman who gives her time and energy to attack the root cause of poverty. A mother of four, she worked at IMANI (Incentive from Marianists to Assist the Needy to be Independent). IMANI’s Maria House is a job-creation program for women. It teaches skills such as sewing, book-binding, weaving, and knitting. There is on-site child care for young mothers who are learning a trade. Anastacia also helped to found a small school for children who cannot afford the required tuition in the public school system.

Bro. Jack Ventura and Anastacia at IMANI

Bro. Jack Ventura and Anastacia at IMANI

These brief descriptions of the works being done by Ann, Lorna and Anastacia are but a small example of the generous spirit we experienced in Nairobi. And, the words are still insufficient to describe the tugging of mind and heart that is taking place as I continue to ponder it all. Our document, Marianist Lay Communities in the Church and in the World, challenges us to bridge the gap between words and action. How do we incarnate the gospel of Jesus into a world so in need of justice, peace, hope and love? How are we, as Marianists, called to do this in our own place and time?


Women in the Church and in the World

In our Nairobi document, Marianist Lay Communities in the Church and in the World, we state

We promote a more active role for women and their participation in decision-making of the Church. (3.9)

How do we promote this more active role for women? One way is by being involved in the current discussions within the Catholic Church on the role of women. The Pontifical Council for the Laity has a special Women’s Section . In February, 2008, an international congress was organized to celebrate the 20th Anniversary of the Apostolic Letter, Mulieris Dignitatem , “On the Dignity and Vocation of Women”. Our International Organization of Marianist Lay Communities received an invitation to attend this congress, “Woman and Man, humanum in its entirety”. I was fortunate to be the delegate, and wrote a Report for the Marianist Family.

PCL_Women

Our involvement in international dialogues within the Church is still very new. It comes as a result of our ecclesial recognition as a private association of the faithful. It is a valuable gift to have the opportunity to bring our Marianist voice to the table. But, as always, tasks come with the gift. We need to be informed of present views that are being presented. The women’s section of the PCL began an initiative through their web-site to open the conversation to all those in the Church involved in promoting women in the Church and in the world. Online resources are being updated regularly. A special invitation was given to Ecclesial Movements that are in relationship with the Pontifical Council of the Laity to share their writings and research. That’s us!

We need to take advantage of this opportunity. There is a growing desire within our Marianist family to study the Marian dimension of Church as a model of more egalitarian, inclusive, participatory and dialogic model of leadership. We need to promote this conversation on local, national and international levels. We need to explore concrete ways to answer the challenge from our Nairobi document. We need to identify lay Marianists who can research and write on the topic of women in the Church and in the world, or who have already done so. We need to bring this voice to the Vatican table.