MARIST Brothers of Australia, Melanesia and the Pacific are heeding a call for their ministry to spread to people on the margins of society.
It’s a response that will move Brothers into new areas of ministry outside their traditional school roles.
Almost 50 Brothers from the Australian province, and Melanesian and Pacific districts attended a gathering at Marist College Ashgrove, in Brisbane, from January 11-13, to consider the challenges and opportunities facing them in the Oceania region.
The Brothers’ Melanesia district covers Papua New Guinea, Solomon Islands, Vanuatu and Bougainville, and the Pacific district includes New Zealand, Samoa and Kiribati.
Australian Brothers vocations director Br Greg McDonald said the gathering focused on separate calls from Pope Francis and the order’s world leader Br Emili Turu to live their vocation serving those on the edge of society.
Australian provincial Br Peter Carroll said the Ashgrove gathering was about strengthening relationships among the Brothers across Oceania for shared mission.
He said there was strong feeling among the Brothers about the need to be ministering at the margins, but the challenge was to determine how that would happen.
“And of course, we need to think more than just Australia, or more than just Melanesia or Pacific; we all need to think about it as a region – where we can contribute and where the needs are greatest,” he said.
“We’ve got a couple of specific projects beginning – one is in the western part of Sydney, at Mt Druitt, and also there’s talk of a new ministry project and a new community therefore in Kiribati.”
Br Carroll said there were likely to be similar projects for the Brothers outside traditional school ministry.
“I think the reality for the Brothers is that we have always been very strongly associated with the schools,” he said.
“But we’re at a point now where we have very fine schools transmitting faith and teaching in the Catholic tradition, and the Brothers have contributed markedly to that in centuries previous but that’s not where the need is now, so much.
“It can still be, and we still have Brothers in schools and they have particular gifts in terms of leadership and teaching, and we’re not looking necessarily at moving them out of that.
“We’re also aware that the need is probably less institutional now and more community-based and hopefully more allied with local parish communities so that there’s a witness value which the Brothers give to the place where they minister but also to the local Catholic community.
“And I think it’s very likely that we will be looking at more opportunities to move into non-institutional, community-based works.”
Br Justin Golding, who, at 35, is one of Australia’s youngest Marist Brothers, was a convenor for the gathering.
He is involved with the Mt Druitt project, which will offer alternative learning support, and will work with some of the area’s poor and disadvantaged people, particularly the young.
“That’s our priority – how can we as a group of Brothers continue to live our mission of making Jesus Christ known and loved among young people, especially those most in need,” Br Golding said.
He said the Brothers were responding to that call of “who are the most needy young people in Australia? Who are the most needy young people in Oceania? And how can we as a group of Brothers, consecrated religious, live and support those people?”
Pacific district provincial Br David McDonald said Br Turu, the order’s superior general, in raising the need to reach out to the margins, had asked the Brothers: “If not you, then who? And if not now, then when?”
“And I think those are very pertinent questions for the Brothers,” Br McDonald said.
“That’s uppermost in my mind.
“I keep saying to them, ‘I know the answers to those questions – of course it’s you and of course it’s now’. “But they need to come to that realisation themselves as well.”