A letter for Sharing

To all the Marists of the world, laity and brothers.  Peace and hope!

We would like to share with you our life and mission in the painful situation our country, Syria, has been experiencing for a little over a year.

 Horror encircles us on every side: every form of violence, hardship, insecurity, misery, poverty, and above all, an uncertain future.  This situation is becoming so widespread that it threatens to engulf us!

 We were conscious of this from the beginning. Our Marist spirituality has guided us to go in haste, with Mary, to a new land.

Accordingly, we have decided to choose life in the face of the culture of death, to be sowers of hope in the face of despair, to center our personal and community life on peace.

Thus, during the period of Advent, we prepared weekly times of prayer around the theme: peace, interior and exterior.  We invited all our friends.

During Lent, we also organized times of prayer around different themes inspired by the crisis (security, self-satisfaction, the other, non violence).  We closed this cycle of prayer on Good Friday with prayer around the cross centred on reconciliation.

And in this month of May, we celebrate every Saturday prayer which is nourished by the lives of Mary and our founder Marcellin Champagnat.

We had, as well, to make a decision about our apostolic activities, whether the meetings of the fraternities or the scout group meetings or the solidarity activities.

Should we cease them, yes or no?

As very audacious Marists, we chose to continue them, taking some precautions and especially taking into account the situation of the moment. At the same time, we organized a training session in learning how to deal with crisis situations.

And we drew up a logistics inventory for managing a catastrophe.

Placing ourselves in God’s care at each instant, and counting on numerous friends, benefactors, or those engaged in voluntary work, we have planned summer activities for all ages.  Thus, we hope to make our house a haven of peace, security and stability.

As for you, dear brothers and friends:

Pray with us for the children, that they sleep in peace at night, that they go to school, play, that they bring happiness.

Pray with us for the youth, those without hope, those who every day risk their lives, their studies, their future.

Pray with us for the men and women, for the voiceless, the poor, for all who suffer violence,

Pray for us!

Support our choice of peace as a way of reconciliation and pardon.


May 2012

Your Marist brothers and sisters of Alep (Syria).

Heidelberg Project

The Melbourne  Marist group decided that they wanted to do something for our community and through the encouragement of Br. Harry Prout  and his involvement with the Exodus Community in Heidelberg he suggested that we help a family in need by helping to paint someone’s house. The person he suggested was a single mother with two small children who needed our help.

Michael Noonan and I contacted Helen and made a time to check out the job and find out what needed to be done. The task was greater than either of us could do. She needed irrigation pipes around the perimeter of the house, ventilation ducts for the roof, plastering and filling in of holes in her walls that were too big to repair. Only when this work had been completed were we able to begin to paint.

As  this was well beyond our expertise we turned to our Marcellin Community. Mark Birrell the President of the Old Collegians Football Club came to the rescue, and some  amazing Old Collegians and members of the football club: Mark Birrell, Anthony Bortolotto, Adrian Gasparini, Vin Considine a myriad of young footballers and Marcellin Staff, David Desilva, Ben Frize, Michael Noonan amd Chris Pattison, who gave up weekends to help out.

A very big thank you must go to the people who volunteered their services, equipment, financial support, paint, plaster and one member who wants to remain anonymous donated a TV for Helen and the children to use.

We started this venture in October 2011 and it was completed in April 2012.

Marcellin Champagnat did not just encourage us to value manual work. He led the Brothers by example, he carried out projects with great enthusiasm and as his family we do not hesitate to roll up our sleeves and get dust, paint and mud on our hands.

Angela Tsotsos

Melbourne Marist 





Suffering is built into the birth patterns of the entire cosmos.           Rich Heffern 

Near the cabin that my wife and I keep in the Missouri Ozarks there is a grove of wild plum trees perched at the brink of a remote valley.  I often visit the grove, loving its peaceful yet quirky spirit.  Under the sassafras and plums, wildflowers sparkle with raindrops after a storm.  Moss carpets the forest floor, interrupted here and there by clumps of little red lichens, bright against the pale green.  Whippoorwills serenade the grove at dusk.  Owls haunt it by night.     Eyes of raccoons sparkle like stars up in the high branches.  And on spring mornings and evenings, the flute-like music of the wood thrush haunts the green hush.  On the best days in that thicket, it feels like some magic sleep could come and snatch you from the plainness and struggle of your life.

When summer heat and insects arrive, however, the grove is plundered, looted and pillaged.  By August every leaf is tattered and eaten.  Tent caterpillars devastate the limbs of the plum trees.  Drought drains the moss and lichens of their bright colours.  Most songbirds, I read once, are plagued with pests.  So the wood thrush that sings so sweetly hides lice in its feathers, maybe even worms in its heart.  A lover of this grove, I can’t help but notice – and feel somewhat dismayed at – the wrack and ruin that its passage through the seasons brings….

I can’t help but notice too, that the wild plum groves of my life and the lives of others share the same fate as the one in the Ozarks.  As we go along, we become nibbled, torn, patched and a little wormy.

On the threshold of life, we probably all wrote something in our teenage diaries: what will the future bring?  What’s in store for me?….work, friendships, loves and fruitful associations, travel, successes and so on…but also these – cancer will strike someone we love, illness and disease may appear and encounters with bigotry, sexism, divorce, loss….  In my own family and in the lives of my closest friends we can catalogue encounters with Alzheimer’s, heart disease, hypertension, alcoholism, job losses and any number of lesser yet disruptive crises.  We can all make our own lists.  We run a gauntlet and few of us escape major struggles. In any room filled with the likes of us, we could simply fill it to the rafters with tears.

We might long for an ethereal, bodiless, heavenly spirituality free from the messiness, tears and mortality of bodies.  But in this world in which we draw our breath, matter mediates the divine.  It’s elemental theology that human life, in all its imperfections and glory, is a key source of revelation. 

The struggles and the depredations tell us something about God…

Job [Ch.38] devastated by loss and ultimate hardship is visited by God in a whirlwind and asked: “Where were you when I put the stars in the heavens and laid the foundations of the deep?”   Prayers of awe and wonder are the proper responses to these visiting whirlwinds.

From this wider perspective, nature’s depredations in the wild plum grove and the aweful things she does to us in our lives take on a deeper aspect of mystery.  Chaos dances with creation within and without – and leads to who knows what…?  The worms in the heart of the wood thrush share reality with qantum mechanics and the theories of relativity “Is our birthright and heritage to be ring-streaked, speckled and spotted not with the spangling marks of grace where beauty rained down from eternity, but with the blotched assaults and quarrying of time?  I am a frayed and nibbled survivor in a fallen world, and I am getting along.”[Annie Dillard]

Struggles and disasters come to us all, and we do the best we can, everyday heroes and heroines.  The paradox is that we become whole by becoming torn and tattered.  Everyone, every frayed and tattered thing that lives is holy.



 Regional Meeting of Lay Animators, Auckland Feb 20 - 24, 2012


A meeting of Brothers and Lay Marists who are part of leading the animation of lay Marist life across the Region of Oceania came together at the St Francis Retreat Centre, Auckland. The 19 Marists gathered represented the Administrative Units of Melbourne, Sydney, New Zealand and the District of Melanesia. Initiated by the Secretariat of the Laity, it proved to be a wonderful oportunity to explore the ways that we will all contribute to a “new relationship between Brothers and Lay Marists, searching together for a greater vitality of the Marist Charism” (document of the XXI Chapter). Below is a joint statement from the participants:


We are unified in our belief that God has touched us and given us a Marist heart.  We are unable to live any other way, as we are Marists. We are guided by this same Spirit to explore new ways of living the charism.

The charism of Marcellin is a gift of God to the entire ecclesial community. Hence, our respective vocations are lived in a spirit of communion. A clear and strong identity for both Brothers and Lay people is essential for the vitality of this relationship to take us into the future. 

There is an urgent need to define and develop the Lay identity to enable new pathways of engagement and belonging. We see the importance of a new paradigm for Lay Marist vocation. We are committed to researching the practicalities of this and implementing the model.

There is a desire to provide opportunities for Lay Marists to explore their vocation at greater depth through a variety of formative experiences. We are keen to build on the strong foundation that already exists in our formation programs and develop new ways for all Lay Marists young and old to access our spirituality.

This is our moment in Marist history. Now is the time to act. There is urgency within those gathered to identify specific ways forward, to abandon the answers of the past that do not satisfy and, with Mary, go in haste to a new land.

Below is a photo of the leaders of lay animation who gathered:

back row (L-R): Joe McCarthy (Melb), Br Anthony Robinson (Syd), Br Michael Callinan (Syd), Br Rodney Pauru (Melanesia), Br Carl Tapp (NZ) second back row (L-R) Br Terry Costello (NZ), Br Darren Burge (Syd), Chris Lus (Melanesia), Alan Parker (NZ), Simone Boyd (Melb) second front row (L-R) Br Michael Green (Melb), Br Paul Kane (Melb), Mario Frazzetto (Melb), Tony Clarke (Syd) front row (L-R) Wendy Tame (Melanesia), Carole Wark (Syd), Lucy Sinei (Melanesia), Christian Nobleza (Syd)




Mittagong came alive with the presence of Marist Brothers and lay Marists from all across the Oceanic Region for 6 days of ‘lived experience’. Shared Formation dares Brothers and Lay to be community to each other whilst reflecting on and deepening their understanding of faith and vocation, relationships, recreating Marist life and Marist mission. Each day is framed by prayer and eucharist, and working parties for the respective topics work well into the evenings to prepare their presentations and processes. Read the statement that was encouraged out of the participants by the synthesising team. Below is a photograph of the participants.


Read the full document that came out of the conference.


Pilgrimage Reflections…

One of the questions on the Pilgrimage Evaluation sheet asked us to nominate and reflect on the highlights of the trip. As I attempted to complete the evaluation while flying from San Salvador to Los Angeles, I found that question to be almost too hard: there had been too many highlights and my mind was `too full’. The only thing I was really sure of at the time was that one of the most rewarding aspects of the pilgrimage was the wondering and questioning that it inspired. As I sit in my office at Assumption College Kilmore, almost a month after returning, certain aspects of the trip stand out more clearly than others.

After leaving Paris we moved to Champagnat country. There we visited a variety of historical sites that hold special places in the Marist tradition. For me, one of the most affecting was atop Mt. Pilat, looking down at Bourg-Argental. I clearly remember thinking that I would not traverse the mountain on foot on a fine, spring day, let alone through the snow as Marcellin had! To see the scale of the landscape that Champagnat had walked in order to visit a sick brother was awe inspiring. As a group we stood beside the remains of the farmhouse which had been home to the farmer who found Marcellin and another brother when they were lost in the snow. Together we prayed the Memorare, as Champagnat did that night. This experience was a powerful reminder of the legacy of care, compassion, strength and determination that we, as Marists, are bound to continue in our vocations.

We were privileged to meet numerous Marist brothers throughout our travels. We were repeatedly warmly welcomed and witness to their passion for their vocations. Br Louis, who showed us through Champagnat country, is particularly memorable for his personal affection for Marcellin. Br. Edgardo in Guatemala demonstrated a sense of humour, depth of feeling and commitment that enabled us to see Guatemala with hope, rather than fear or despair. Br. Jim Jolley of the Melbourne Province opened our eyes to the work of the Marists at the United Nations (Jim works in Geneva in the area of the international rights of children). In Rome, Br. Emili Turu and Br. Joseph McKee graciously welcomed us to the General House. These busy men made time to meet with us to discuss our experiences and the recent General Chapter, before hosting us for dinner. Traditional Marist hospitality was enjoyed by us all! These are but a few of the Marist brothers who took the time to share with us some of their thoughts and responsibilities. Each demonstrated a sense of humour, a clear sense of purpose, and a welcoming of us as part of the international Marist family. More than once, in various locations, we were told that their house is our house!

In Central America we were blest to visit numerous schools run by the Marists. Doing so enabled us to glimpse the lives of the students who are lucky enough to attend Marist schools in this region. Visiting cities and going to their schools enabled us to gain a very different sense of a place than that which you normally get when you land, guidebook in hand, and head off to see the sites. We went to schools that serve wealthy students, we visited schools that serve the poor; both were filled with young people who were delighted to be there! The fees paid by the families whose children attend the wealthier schools support the schools that provide education for young people from poorer areas. This is known by the fee paying families, and accepted as the cost of attending a Marist school. The Marists are clearly respected throughout this region, not only for the quality of the education that they provide but for the work that they do to support those most in need. The school that adjoins the Retreat Centre where we stayed in San Salvador is called San Alfonso in the mornings – this is when the school functions as a fee-paying school. Classes begin at 7.00am and students leave at 12.30pm. At 1.00pm, the school becomes C.E.C. Maristas and provides education for students whose families cannot afford to pay fees. This school is staffed by volunteers who finish teaching classes at 6.00pm. We visited one school in Guatemala where each year the brothers visit the homes of every applicant – the admissions procedure is based entirely on which of the applicants most needs the experience of attending a school where they will be safe, cared for and loved. Visits such as these led to me to reflect on how well we minister to the poor in our daily lives.

A clear highlight of the pilgrimage was meeting and getting to know Marists from throughout the Melbourne Province! It’s not just that we had fun together, nor the fact that we got along so well that stays with me – it’s the passion that was demonstrated by every person in the group for what they do, and how they strive to ensure that the  Marist charism is alive and well in their workplaces. In both formal group meetings and relaxed conversations, the embracing of the vision of Champagnat was evident and inspiring. With staff such as these throughout the Province, the brothers can be assured that lay Marists are fired by Marist charism and determined to do their best for Marist ministry.

My head is still full. I’ve memories of new relationships, music trivia, a choir in Lyon, cheese and wine, an Irish priest in Guatemala, airports, celebrations, fears of dying on various forms of transport (exaggerated? The other pilgrims can be the judges!), Pink in a church, poverty and hope. Importantly, I’m still grappling with what the experience has taught me about being Marist today, here, in our ever so privileged country, with our very, very lucky young people. The question of how we all as Marists, brothers and lay, strive to fulfill Champagnat’s dreams in our realities is one that, hopefully, we all remember to reflect on in the rush that is our every day.

If you’d like to read more about the adventures of the pilgrimage, please visit our blog at

Carolyn Young

Director of Mission

Assumption College Kilmore


‘Lay Marist’ is a term given to men and women who feel called to the Marist spirituality and mission. Having a lay marist vocation is to resonate with the charism of Marcellin Champagnat and be drawn to contribute to and live out the Marist mission as a lay person in the church. At the heart of the Marist mission is to bring Jesus alive in the life and world of children and young people, drawing on the tendernes of Mary and the boldness of Marcellin Champagnat. Marist mission is particularly concerned with building solidarity with young people who find themselves disadvantaged in the world.


Gail Coates, Director of Mission at Marcellin College, Bulleen recently wrote a piece that described what it means to her to be a Lay Marist. To read this most inspiring article, follow the link:


The Oceanic Partnership Commission is holding a Lay Partnership Conference at Riverglenn, Brisbane. The conference will be held from Sunday, 4th July - Wednesday, 7th July. Ten representatives from the Southern Province will attend the Conference to join in with the discussions, deliberations and decisions regarding the Lay Marist world.



The Marist Sydney Province, Marist Ministries Office are holding a Joint Formation Program in May 2010. Br Peter Walsh (Vocations and Formation Team), Joe McCarthy (Lay Marist Ministry) and Lee McKenzie (Director of Staff Development, Lavalla Catholic College) will take part in the program, which has an anticipated outcome that “participants would be skilled to develop and animate Marist life in their local area and throughtout the Province for Brothers and Laity who feel called to a Marist vocation today”. It is a 3-4 day live in experience to be held at The Hermitage, Mittagong.


NEW RESOURCE: “Gathered Around the Same Table”

Only published late in 2009, this book collects the ideas, dreams and vision relating to the vocation of Lay Marists worldwide. Click on the link below, and you can either download the book, or access a powerpoint that provides a summary: