The 2013 Council of the Society of Mary meeting in Dublin instructed the New Zealand and Australian provinces to work more closely.
More particularly, the 2013 Council asked each province to investigate how to go forward with a possible reconfiguration.
In March 2015, a joint two-day meeting of the Australian and New Zealand provincial councils was held in Wellington, and among other things, this initial meeting nominated a ‘small committee’ to work on choosing important elements to be included in the ‘framework’ that would eventually be incorporated in a “model” of a new single province that would be proposed to the Marists of Australia and New Zealand for acceptance.
Following on from the March provincial councils’ meeting, the small committee of Fr Peter McMurrich (Australia), and New Zealanders Frs Paul Martin and Tim Duckworth, met last week in Wellington.
New Zealand Marist provincial, Fr David Kennerley said one of the small committee meeting outcomes is to ask the Marist Asia District to consider joining a reconfigured Australia – New Zealand province.
Saying a reconfigured Australia and New Zealand province will not deliver utopia, Australian Provincial, Fr Bob Barber SM outlined are some key elements to the framework.
- Recognition of the unique cultural, financial, legal, and historical identity of the two Provinces;
- Not forcing unwanted major changes on the lifestyle and circumstances of confreres, the majority of whom are elderly; and
- seeing that our structural changes will facilitate the continuing our Marist mission within our prioritised works in a focussed way”.
Optimistic, Fr Barber is of the view there is no reason to fold our tents and stop working to have a future that continues to be mission oriented.
Both the Australian and New Zealand provinces have a strong association with District of Asia.
Founded in 1981, the Marist Asia District has 11 Marist priests working in the Philippines and Thailand.
Currently New Zealander, Fr Pat Devlin is the district leader, while fellow New Zealand Marists Frs Frank Bird and Damian Dempsey are also working in the District.
Fr Bird works in the education ministry of the Marist Asia Foundation in Ranong, Thailand, and Fr Dempsey works in the Marist formation ministry in the Philippines.
The District has 3 young men in Marist formation and a further 13 who are interested in Marist life.
The District of Asia, and Provinces of Australia, New Zealand and Oceania are already part of the informal Marist Asia Pacific (MAP) meeting that meets annually to discuss matters of common interest and the sharing of resources.