I’ve had some great chats with Marianist friends recently about the current situation of laity within our Church in general, and the lay branch within the Marianist Family in particular. David and I are in the early days of the “empty nest” stage and my mind is in analogy mode!
The youngest of our five children has just left home to start her College education. The transition time is filled with diverse emotions. We mourn the loss of our wee ones, now all young adults. Photos of babes and toddlers tug at our hearts, and our arms ache to hold a tiny bundle once more. Yet memories of teen-age angst are still fresh. The passionate ups and downs of adolescence were not easy. Battle-grounds were marked. On one side was the child’s desire (demands!) for freedom and independence. On the other were a parent’s genuine fears for the child’s well-being and security. Behind the fights over social lives, car keys and curfews, was the tug-of-war over power and authority. Both sides had their heels dug deeply, determined not to let go of the pressure. Both sides were determined to be the winner.
The years preceding the fullness of adulthood are difficult and exciting. Maybe the rebellious soul is nature’s tool for leaving behind the security of childhood. Hopefully, when the dust settles, we discover a new confidence and maturity. And, we learn the need for interdependence. David and I are blessed to have experienced this with our own children. Entrance into adult life with its many responsibilities brought the realization that parents DO have wisdom that comes with experience and years! Our children now seek and value our advice. And we, as parents, are eager to learn from their experiences as they embrace new skills and careers. Of course, these new relationships need constant nurturing and adjusting – as all relationships do.
In some ways, these stages of life are reflected in Marianist Lay Communities and our relationships within the Marianist Family. We depended greatly on the Society of Mary and Daughters of Mary in the early years of birthing and nurturing Marianist Lay Communities into an independent organizational structure. As we grew, we also experienced the same growing pains of adolescence. We did not need or want any authority figures. We could do it all on our own. Perhaps this was a necessary stage to go through?
I believe that we are at an important time in our development. The past years have been a time of identifying our mission as lay Marianists. In Nairobi, it was clear that we are ready to take greater responsibility as lay women and men in the Church and in the world. And, we realize that our greatest potential is found working side by side with all branches of the Marianist Family. We are a discipleship of equals, but we are not all the same. We must respect our different gifts. We must generously offer – and accept – these same gifts to work together for our common mission.