a Marianist experience of global vocation realities

Image

This is a photo of the World Council of the Marianist Family (WCMF) taken at last November’s meeting in Rome. The members represent the leadership teams from the four different vocations in the Marianist Family: Marianist Lay Communities (MLC), the Society of Mary (priest and religious brothers), the Daughters of Mary Immaculate (religious sisters) and the Alliance Mariale (a secular order of consecrated women).

In my two terms on the MLC leadership team, I attended nine WCMF meetings. We gather as equals around the table sharing the current blessings and challenges of each of our branches around the world. In these conversations, I learned much about the global reality of the church, and the global reality of religious vocations. I wrote about this in my latest Prairie Messenger article, for a special issue on Vocations…

In my Marianist work and travels I have made many friends with sisters, brothers and priests of all ages and from all corners of the world. The ones who stand out are those who are, indeed, attractive witnesses. They dare to live differently in the world but not as strange otherworldly creatures that stand above or apart from others. Hierarchical mindsets and self-appointed exclusivity may be attractive to some, but not for most Catholics today.

The attractive witnesses, for me, are the religious women and men who embrace the joys and trials of community life for it keeps them grounded in their humanity. Collaboration with the laity is assumed and comes naturally, because the only way to be church is to be church together. They do not seek special status or privilege for they know that holiness and wisdom are not automatically conferred with vows or sacramental oils. Their holiness comes from their wholeness. Read more…..

On the first Friday of each month, the Marianist Family is called to pray the Magnificat for a specific social justice issue or project. This month we are united in prayerful support with the newest project of our Marianist Sisters in India. To fully appreciate the magnitude of this project, you have to realize that the Sisters are small in number (with only a handful of members in India), but truly audacious in faith!

Singhpur, is located in a poor rural area of northern India near Ranchi. The Marianist sisters there were aware of rising rates of infant and maternal mortality in childbirth, diseases and infections that could be easily treated if there was a local medical clinic. Through the support of Accion Marianista, the Marianist Sisters, and the Italian bishop’s conference, such a clinic became a reality.

The clinic serves 28 villages and 900 students of the Chaminade School sponsored by the Marianist brothers. Currently a doctor, nurse, laboratory technician, and two nuns work in the clinic. On the day the clinic opened, November 25, 2013, it served more than 90 people. Adult patients are asked to pay a nominal fee and students of Chaminade School receive free medical service. (From the Friday Magnificat, May 2, 2014)

Here is a video put together by Accion Marianista, a Marianist sponsored NGO and supporter of the project.

 

many spiritualities…one church

Contrary to what some think, or would like to see, there is no such thing as a one-size fits all Catholic spirituality. There is one faith, but many and diverse ways to express it.

Throughout the centuries, holy women and men were inspired by the signs of their times to focus on a specific aspect of our faith and sought ways to live out that focus more deeply. For St. Francis, it was gospel poverty and simplicity. For St. Benedict, it was to follow the rhythm of prayer and work within the nitty-gritty of monastic life. For St. Dominic, it was to devote oneself to serious theological study in order to defend the faith. For St. Teresa of Avila, it was to plumb the depths of interior prayer. For Mother Teresa of Calcutta, it was to seek Christ in the face of the poorest of the poor, those rejected by society.

Franciscans, Dominicans, Carmelites, the Missionaries of Charity all have a special gospel focus or charism; an inspired gift of the Holy Spirit. And out of that focus, comes a specific mission or apostolate. This mission is nurtured and formed by its way of thinking, doing, and praying; a specific spirituality.

To paraphrase the great St. Teresa of Avila, there are many rooms in the mansion that is the Church. There is room for Gregorian chanting traditionalists and for guitar strumming liberals. There is room for introverted hermits and outgoing evangelizers. There is room for the simply pious, and for intellectually soaring minds. And, there is a spirituality to fit just about anyone. The key is to find the right fit.

I found my fit over thirty years ago as a university student. I joined a small faith group that was being formed by some local Marianist priests and brothers. We met weekly to discuss various faith issues with the zeal (and all-knowing wisdom!) of young adults. We were encouraged to question, ponder and dialogue. We celebrated liturgies together. Our prayers soared with music provided by the gifted musicians among us. We prayed and we played together. Our favorite times were retreat weekends at the Brothers’ wilderness cabin. Some of the communities and friendships that were formed those many years ago still exist today. Several of those friendships turned into marriages; including our own.

Today, these communities are called Marianist Lay Communities and are part of a community of communities around the world. I just wrote a column for the Prairie Messenger called An example of community: the Marianist tradition. It gives a wee bit of a back-ground to the spirituality that I have embraced; embraced because it fits.