Almost every descriptive paragraph about what and who the Society of Mary is, in books, pamphlets and on the internet says the Society is an International Congregation of Priests and Brothers. I thought I might reflect this month on the International aspect of being in the Society.Recent events like the Launch of Fr Charlie Girard’s magnum opus here in Wellington, and thoughts of heading off to meet with confreres in Aussie to prepare for the General Chapter or a trip to the Seminary–all remind me of the internationality of this little society.
Other associations abound too–hearing Mick Mahoney speak so affectionately of Brazil and Matt Crawford of Mexico are good reminders to me that the Society exists in many corners of the world. Even Phil Cody who sits in the office next to me takes haec minima to Antarctica as often as he gets the chance as have many other Kiwi Marists.
Spending time with the young Marists, the visit from our closer neighbours reminds me more and more of friendships forged and support given by Kiwis to others and by overseas Marists to Kiwis.
When we head off to the Northern Hemisphere we are great at taking up residence in Society houses wherever we can con our way past the front door. There have been times when overseas Marists thought that there were few of us left in New Zealand! But we far flung antipodeans need to get our “fix” every so often of things Marist and Northern.
I am so looking forward to the General Chapter and its internationality. Last General Chapter I discovered so much about who and what we are internationally and was astounded to hear Marists from the other side of the planet say things that we say here.
There is so much to celebrate about being an international congregation and so many friendships formed through missions and ministries done worldwide in close cooperation with others.
At the same time there is much to be remediated as well. It seems that in many places where expatriot missionaries have done great service, local confreres are feeling that it is time to allow the next stage of development to occur and for the reins to be handed over. This is not meant to be awkward or dismissive or even judgmental about race and culture–it’s just that time-has-come feeling. And letting go is hard. Of course whoever does my job after me will never be quite as good as me –even if he does it so much better.
There are other simpler more gentle things that older confreres bring to a house where the new broom sweeps more vigourously. I hunger for that day when I hear some young Marists overseas admit they need or will permit themselves time off to relax and recreate.
I also feel sad and embarrassed to see and hear young Marists I have lived and worked with from Oceania and elsewhere missing out on the basic things of life like food, medicine and good communication.
Phil Cody told me the other day it was all very well for me to be outspoken and that people know I will go where angels fear to tread but that we all cannot. I accept that, but I am looking forward to supporting Paul Donoghue and others from Oceania at the General Chapter. I hope we will actually get some traction over the needs of Oceania and other mission areas of the Society. The time has come to get real and the place to do it is at the General Chapter. Last time we did not discuss matters that were too sensitive.
This time I’m determined to make space and time to do that. I don’t think I am necessarily right but I do know when things are not right!
Internationality is not just about coming together with others from all corners. It requires us to be able to walk the same footsteps, to be able to listen and really hear, and to want together to find solutions.