With his mother’s words ringing in his ears, 16-year-old Max Sculley made his way from his Melbourne home to begin his vocation as a De La Salle Brother in Sydney.
Fifty-six years later, with decades of service to young people, the community and many other ministries, Br Max’s mother’s initial assessment of his chances of succeeding in religious life were clearly wrong.
“It made me all the more determined,” Br Max said.
“At that time most kids left school about Year 9.
“Even if I hadn’t become a brother I would have left then.
“My mum said to me I had to leave school and start looking for a job before the end of the year finished.
“I’d been having a running battle with my mother about joining the brothers from the time I was 14.
“She was strongly opposed to the idea and she raised all sorts of arguments.
“And she never lost an opportunity to discourage me from joining the brothers.
“But, anyhow, that made me all the more determined and come the end of the final year at school I told Mum ‘I want to join the brothers’.
“So we had another big argument and eventually I wore her down.”
Br Max said he had many up and downs in the initial years of his vocation.
“I nearly left in the novitiate,” he said.
“After I’d been in the novitiate for 18 months I was within centimetres of leaving the brothers.
“I was feeling depressed, suffering from anxiety and I was really questioning whether I was in the right place or not.
“But through the grace of God I came through that crisis and ever since then I’ve never had any doubt I should have been a De La Salle Brother.
“And I’ve become progressively happier as the time has gone on.
“This is where I should be.”
Br Max’s vocation has taken him all around the world.
“I’ve taught in high schools in different parts of Australia, in New South Wales, in Victoria, in New Zealand … also I have done adult education work in Papua New Guinea and in Kenya, working in formation with our young brothers there for four years,” he said.
“So I’ve been around to a few different places.” Br Max also studied in the United States, completing a Maters of Arts in Formative Spirituality from Duquesne University – where he also qualified to become a spiritual director.
“Another thing I’ve always been interested in is psychology,” he said.
“I gained my Bachelor of Science in Psych-ology many, many years ago.
“But that background in psychology has been quite helpful to me in spirituality.”
Br Max said he’d been privileged to study and work around the globe.
“The most important part of my background is that I’m a Catholic Christ-ian,” he said.
“Then I received a call from God to join the De La Salle Brothers.
“And I regard that as one of my best qualifications.
“I’ve striven to lead a spiritual life according to the to the mind of St John Baptist de la Salle.
“The life in the brothers for me has been extremely enriching.
“I’ve been involved in the Cursillo movement, been involved in (Catholic) Charismatic Renewal in New Zealand and Australia, I’ve developed various courses in evangelisation over the years and I’ve been involved in adult education for a number of years in the Sydney archdiocese and I’ve still continued that on in a small way up here in Brisbane.”
Br Max credited his upbringing and early schooling to aiding him in religious life.
“We had five boys in our family, all spread out, there was about four years between each one,” he said.
“Mum and Dad seemed to plan it pretty well so they could cope.
“Mum and Dad were certainly loyal Catholic and sought to live out their religion.”
After his primary education at the local Presentation Sisters school, Br Max attended De La Salle College, Malvern, an experience that would strongly influence his life.
“To me it was a great experience, a good school, well run, and I attribute that experience in part to my vocation,” he said.
“I was impressed by a number of brothers who taught me.” Br Max said his order was continuing to promote vocations, despite fewer men joining religious life.
“We haven’t given up,” he said.
“Some religious orders are allowing themselves to die, we don’t believe that we are meant for death just yet and we are doing what we can to encourage young men to join us and to nurture them in formation.”
Recently Br Max published a book Yoga, Tai Chi, Reiki – A Guide for Christians after years of extensive research into the topics.
The book was launched by Bishop Jul-ian Porteous, Auxiliary for Sydney, at Geebung parish, on Brisbane’s northside on September 8.
Br Max said he wrote it to assist Christians and people of good will to see the spiritual dangers involved in these three practices.
He hopes to alert Church leaders to these dangers and to encourage them to provide guidelines to their members.
“We do have quite a number of Catholic leaders whether religious or lay, involved in all of these practices,” he said.
Br Max said the book had been well received and he’d been complimented for his assiduous research.
“Here in the parish one person who got the book on Saturday and she came up to me after Mass on the Sunday and said, ‘Look, I started to read your book last night and I read the whole thing right through in one sitting’.
“She said, ‘You’ve written it very well and I found it very interesting’.”
Br Max plans to continue writing and is looking forward to the next challenge in his life.
“Possibly at some later date I may be able to produce another book, which includes other material I haven’t included in this one. It’ll all depend on how this one sells,” he said.
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