Bringing the University to the Streets!

ACU ‘Institute for Advancing Community Engagement’ has been linked closely to the Marist Mission for a number of years originally in East Timor and then more recently in partnership projects with Marist Young Adult Ministry in helping the young of the Atherton Gardens Estate Fitzroy. In working and partnering with this Institute in their mission of upholding a ‘commitment to serving the common good’ has aligned well with our Marist Mission. It has been supportive in adding research and learning systems to the mix in these projects of collaboration providing lasting benefits to the communities served. To have been contracted into the ACU Institute filling in for the Melbourne Co-ordinator on leave has been a very insightful experience. Programmes in partnership with other organisations have definitely taken the university into the ‘streets’! The university’s staff and students participate in programmes of ‘Beyond Disadvantage’ where they reach out to those marginalised in society and most in need, ‘Beyond Borders’ in participating in action for change beyond national boundaries and ‘Beyond Differences’ that promotes community engagement enriched by inter-faith and inter-cultural understandings. The privilege of empowering students to engage with young recent arrived migrants in the programmes of socialisation and tutoring gave witness to faith in action. For lecturers to leave the security of the lecture theatres and offices and deliver courses in community spaces to people who would not otherwise have the opportunity to ever access a university course has been awe inspiring. Journeying with these lecturers as they struggle to deliver their learning and wisdom into the ‘Catalyst-Clemente’ student programme has been very humbling. Lecturers making the content of the course units attainable and assessment achievable to adults who have experienced so much failure in their lives witnesses to an engagement for a better tomorrow. As a member of one the founding congregations of this Australian Catholic University the commitment the University continues to make to education of those in society who are the poorest and most disempowered is heartening upholding what Marists profess, the key to our mission! Our continued engagement with the University to support each other in the mission is paramount!

More than an Immersion!

How best to prepare a group of Year 11 students from Assumption College to immerse themselves in East Timor than to meet with East Timorese who are living here in Australia! The Montagne Centre recently hosted an informal workshop where 8 students and three staff ably led by Br Francis McIntosh joined an East Timorese contingent of students and their families. The occasion allowed for the sharing in the customs, and learning of the traditions that makes East Timor unique as one of our closest neighbours. As is befitting the East Timorese tradition, food became the centre-point to the gathering ably prepared for a gathering of 30 by the East Timorese. Sharing in a meal provided the forum for much questioning and searching for the right words to use as students from Assumption practiced their Tetum language in preparation for their September Immersion. To the ACK student’s credit, they will not only immerse themselves into the culture but also help contribute to rebuilding the country in renovating a Catholic School in Bercoli East Timor. There fundraising target is 30,000AUD which they are well on the way to reaching. This will provide them with the resources for the construction work and necessary furnishing of classrooms. For the East Timorese, a proud people, they found themselves very taken by the commitment and willingness of ACK to help their nation. They said and I quote: ‘we are very proud of the efforts of the students to help our nation.’ The ACK team of staff and students left knowing they had a way to go with language and meeting again for another dinner workshop was very appealing! All of us here at the Montagne Centre wish these adventurous, intrepid ACK travellers every best wish and blessings in the living, learning and working in the East Timor culture!

A Spirited Community

A SPIRITED COUNTRY COMMUNITY! A seven hour car journey from Melbourne will place you in Forbes Central NSW, at Red Bend Catholic College nestled on a small hilltop with what was once the mighty Lachlan River, now a trickle, encircling it on nearly all sides. It is here that a very spirited school community with over 700 students and staff welcomed Br Mark Paul from the Solidarity Outreach Montagne Centre, and Mr Russell Smith Indigenous Consultant, Building Bridges Organization for a four day consultation on ways the Marists could strengthen and support their local efforts. The leadership team of this College acknowledged that their school’s distance from other major centres did create a sense of isolation. What they may be missing in the isolation they have certainly made up for in community spirit! This was most evident amongst the staff and students of the College in their relationships and camaraderie! As the exploration began on where best support could be offered, the leadership team’s humility in identifying other communities in greater need than their own took us aback! A common understanding was reached that any support offered should contribute into the mission of Forbes and at the same time be a formative experience for any Marist Mission beyond Australia. The School Community acknowledged that it would have a significant role to play in not only receiving support but provide a formative experience as a preparation for participation in other Mission Marist projects and were willing to accept this. It was quickly made clear that the focus of our needs assessment should be on the Boarders of the College. The consultative meetings with Boarding staff and Boarders brought to light the needs for this group to have better opportunities for development spiritually, academically and socially. The school is identified as having the highest number of indigenous students of any Catholic School in NSW. For this particular group the opportunities in ensuring their links are maintained with culture presents a challenge for boarding staff. All boarders to have increased mentoring opportunities in study, sport, attending weekend camps, excursions and engaging in activities in the community beyond the College were seen as critical that could be addressed. Good role modeling in the Prayer animation for the Boarding house was also seen as a vital part of any contribution. In previous generations there were more Brothers within the College. They reduced the sense of isolation with their more global experience and networks of contacts. Also the Brother’s commitment to the faith and their ability to support 24/7 helped extend and offer increased support to the school community. The prospect of having placed within the school a Lay Marist Community, Companions of Champagnat, excited the staff as a means of addressing some of these identified needs. The school had prepared well for the consultation in having reflected on programmes that were on offer from the Marist Province. Of particular interest to them was the “Share the Mission” programme offered by the Formation/Vocations team of the Province. Here opportunities are given for young adults to live within a Marist Brothers community contributing into Marist Mission. The link was easily made in understanding that elements within this programme were relevant to a lay community model under exploration for Forbes. The consultation concluded with the needs identified and a Red Bend Community very supportive of a Pilot for a lay Marist community as a model of practice as helpful to them. They encouraged the further development of this. The leadership team expressed their need for further formation would be required of them to support such a community. Also in the examination of the future College development plans in infrastructure they would need to incorporate requirements that would support the venture. Russell and I left heartened by the interest and willingness of the Community to take up the commitment that would be required for the venture to succeed. I am again reminded that Solidarity with those seeking support, requires personnel with hearts formed for mission. The challenge continues! Br Mark Paul Solidarity Outreach Co-ordinator