Marist founder, Fr Marcellin Champagnat, was celebrated in Negombo on June 10. His feast day, which went under the banner of “One heart one mission”, was also marked by another special event, the first assembly of Marist laymen. Educating and taking care of the young, especially in the most distressed areas, is their mission.
Negombo (AsiaNews) – Marist brothers of Sri Lank celebrated the feast of their founder, Fr Marcellin Champagnat, last Sunday, June 10, in the “Marceline Nivasa” Marist provincial house in Negombo, about 32 km to the north of the capital, Colombo. In addition to the Mass of celebration, the first assembly of Marists Lay Partners also took place on the same day. Several of the participants – Berty, Joe, Noel, Nirosh – spoke to AsiaNews about the inspiration they found in Fr Champagnat’s teaching for living a simple life and for understanding and helping others.
Librarian and teacher of young novices at the Marist provincial house, Berty Fernando (age 71), a 16-year veteran of the Marist Stella congregation, told AsiaNews that he was very happy to have become a Marist Lay Partner. This teacher of physiology and Catholic doctrine said that Marists have a special devotion for the Blessed Virgin Mary, who brought up and gave Jesus, a great prophet, teacher and communicator, to the world. “Jesus himself was a layman, not a priest,” Fernando added. “I think that the Marist Brothers were historically laymen. The only difference between lay and religious Marists is that the laymen do not take vows.”
The role of the laity is very important for the Marist congregation, as they take the teaching from the cities to the villages where the brothers are not allowed.
A former student of the Marist Stella College, Joe Fernando (age 59) told AsiaNews, “What we are today is thanks to the Marist Brothers. What they taught us is fundamental to our lives. The time has come for us to help them now that the world has changed and teaching has become more difficult. What I will try to do over the next year is to find ways to give a hand to the Marist Brothers in Sri Lanka. And I believe that we Lay Partners can do many good things to make our society a place where everybody can live peacefully”.
The Marist Brothers are a Catholic congregation. Their community was founded in France on January 2, 1817, by the young Fr Marcellin Champagnat. Within a few years, Fr Champagnat set up dozens of schools to meet local needs and intensely dedicated himself to teaching. Still today, the more than 4700 Marist Brothers continue this effort in 77 countries around the world, working with the young, especially the most needy, through schools, associations and youth centres.