Newsletter 11: 13 August 2019

Dear Colleagues

The recent Marist Schools Australia Biennial Conference held in Melbourne a fortnight ago, was a gathering of the clan over three days which was inspirational, encouraging, profoundly optimistic and prayerful. With school leaders hailing from Marist Schools in 19 Dioceses across the country, much was gained from the liturgies, key note speeches and workshops. Apart from these more formal times, there was enormous richness in the sharing that took place over a meal, at morning tea, or during a quiet drink at the end of the day. The whole time together provided immense opportunity and scope for reflection on the work we do with our students, with the fundamental focus being how we make Jesus known and loved through the provision of quality education. The vibrancy and vitality of Marist Schools Australia as a Faith community was palpable, and noted in remarks by Archbishop Peter Comensoli and Bishop Greg Homeming, both of whom generously contributed to the Conference. We are indeed fortunate to have such a network in existence, conscious of its uniqueness on the Australian Catholic educational landscape.

Globally, the Marist family is exploring the concept of an International Marist Schools Network. Echoing calls from the last Marist General Chapter held in Colombia in 2017 and the Marist International Mission Assembly held in Kenya in 2014, a group has been convened of Marists in leadership positions from different regions throughout the world. In a letter to be sent this week, on the Feast of the Assumption, people working in Marist schools in 80 countries across the globe will be invited to respond to a short survey which has been translated into the four major language groups used by Marists: English, Spanish, French and Portuguese. The letter from the organising group invites and encourages Marist educators to imagine the reality of an international network of Marist schools as

“a global family with an evangelizing action rooted in the world of school and education”

and explore together

“the many benefits this will bring to the children and young people whom we serve, as well as to their families”.

Saint Marcellin from the earliest days of Marist education, wrote of his desire for Marists to serve in every Diocese throughout the world. The essence of Marcellin’s dream continues to prosper and for over two centuries the relationship of Marists internationally has transcended national identity and culture. Two World Wars, civil wars, violent conflict across countries and continents have never eroded or overshadowed the basic relationships of Marists with one another despite the extremely different contexts in which they find themselves. This is a rare and special gift, especially when one considers the political sensitivities and in some cases, cultural and national blocks, that stultify humanitarian, educational and economic progress at the expense of the common good.

The survey has ambitious participation targets, which underscore the critical importance of every Marist educator’s voice. Similar to our own Plenary Council consultation, the data gathered will be processed through computerised qualitative research tools, in this case undertaken by the internationally renowned Creativity Laboratory at the Marist University in Porto Alegre, Brazil. Marists from other countries and regions are acutely aware of the Marist Schools Australia network and there is great interest in hearing the Australian voice and insights. The consultation period will be from 15 August until 15 October 2019. In addition to the survey, there will be a series of specific focus groups gathered for feedback. Schools will receive details for the survey directly and access will also be made available through the Marist Schools Australia website for Marist educators no longer working in the school context.

Sally Dillon