Study Session - part 2: settling in

We are now just over a week into our Session.

From right to left, Bro. Ewald (Haiti), Bro. Guy (Canada),
Bro. Emmanuel (Togo) + Bro. Alain (France).

Bro. Arturo (Argentina)

Our activities have included:

- talks given by Bro Merino (Spain - Assistant Superior General), Bro. Jean Pétillon (France - former Assistant, co-responsible for Ongoing Formation) and Bro. Guillermo Davilla (Uruguay - co-responsible for Ongoing Formation).

- small group discussion/sharing

- personal study

Topics for these 3 activities include: our religious consecration, our congregation's charism and identity, Mary as a model for religious life, the spirituality (+ writings) of our Founder, Fr. Jean-Marie De La Mennais, our 3 religious vows (poverty, chastity and obedience), Vita Consecrata (Pope John-Paul II), a return to our sources of inspiration (Bible, Rule of Life, Vatican II, the Fathers of the Church, culture)... In a future article I will summarise some of the important points for me personally that have come from these activities.

"Oh it's such hard work this!" Look at those faces. In reality, the atmosphere here is very light-hearted. The Brother on the far left is Bro. Daniel Gautier (France), our French-Spanish translator, with whom I have worked a few times in the past (me doing the English-French work, as I occasionally have to here).

Other activities:

- daily prayer (obviously! - creatively adapting our normal routine: Divine Office, Mass, Meditation...)

- day "pilgrimages" to sites of interest in relation to the life of our Founder. Bro. Merino gives us information about important events in the life of the Founder as we travel around. On Monday we visited various sites in and around St. Malo, Jean-Marie's birthplace, having a picnic lunch at the Brothers community there. Today we visited the picturesque Breton town of Dinan, St. Malo, where Jean-Marie met with some difficult challenges in his work and also La Chesnaie: a country retreat that belonged to the Founder's maternal grand-parents and that in his early years as a priest in particular would be where he would go to mull over ideas, to study and to write, often with his younger brother Féli (an important but controversial figure in the history of French social philosophy and religion).

Here are some photos from the trip to St. Malo:

Bro. Augustine (Uganda) on the ramparts at St. Malo.

A picnic lunch at the Brothers' community, St. Malo. 

Bro. Joseph (St. Malo community) having just wiped some cobwebs 
off the statue of our Founder that he had repainted last week.

Bro. Emmanuel (Togo) 

Bro. Albert (Uganda)

3 of our Hispanic brethren (left to right =Bro. Nacho (Spain), Bro. Fernando (Chile) + Bro. Alberto (Spain)). 

Bro. Jean-Noël (middle, Superior of our St. Malo community),
left = Bro. Arturo (Argentina), right = Bro. Miguel (Spain - Assistant General)

Bro. Guillermo (middle - Uruguay), one of the 2 Brothers responsible for running our study course.

I've become the main musician for accompanying (on guitar) our prayer times, with a French Brother helping too (I would have liked more Brothers to get involved, but there do not seem to be many confident musicians in the group). There are, however, lots of very strong singers, especially the Ugandans who (as I learnt there 2 years ago) are very adept at singing in 3-part harmony.

Before I came here I was asked to be ready to occasionally teach the group modern Christian songs that I use in my school + parish ministry with young people that we can then use in our prayer and that my brethren (especially the English-speaking Ugandan + Tanzanian Brothers) can then take with them and make use of back home. I was also asked to provide a few films to watch and discuss in the evenings: the first one being last night - "Freedom Writers".

As you can see, it's all go! There is another group of 15 younger Brothers here (from countries including Uganda, Haiti and Congo) following a similar type of study session, but they are preparing to take their final (perpetual) vows. We have some talks and activities in common. Hopefully in the next few days we will also be having a football match between the 2 groups.

One of the bonuses of being here for me is being able to spend time discussing books, music, films, theological + philosophical ideas, etc... with the aforementioned Bro Jean Pétillon (now in his mid-70s but incredibly youthful in spirit and full of energy). He has been one of my mentors in the congregation since I joined in 1990 and it's always a pleasure to spend time with him. He is one of those people with whom I feel the Spirit's presence most powerfully. In our discussions I find my mind opening to new ideas, making connections, discovering new understanding, and you sense that he responds to what you say too.

Bro. Jean (left - France), having a chat with our coach driver 
during our picnic lunch at La Chesnaie.
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