Thank you for this opportunity to offer you a few reflections on these last few days with you in this beautiful setting. I have visited the College of St Marc before but this is the first time that I have come to this centre that is ideal for reflection and discussion, for prayer, for your District retreat, and also for relaxation. Congratulations to Brother Georges and all responsible for the vision and the implementation of this project. It is a wonderful asset for the District and for the local Church and you are lucky to have it as a resource.
In the first place, I want to thank Brother Regis for the invitation to join you for this second session of your Chapter and to all of you, my Brothers, for your friendly and Lasallian welcome. I have felt very much at home among you and it has been a delight for me to meet friends of many years as well as to encounter new friends. I have had the privilege of visiting your District on previous occasions as Secretary of Formation and, in consequence, I have some knowledge and experience of the wonderful educational work for which the District is responsible in each of the Sectors of your District. I want you to know that, at the Centre of the Institute, your contribution to the Lasallian mission, especially to those most in need, and your commitment and contribution to inter-religious dialogue (evident again during the discussions of these days), is recognised and greatly appreciated particularly in these very difficult times for all Sectors of your District.
I congratulate you on the fraternal ambiance that has characterised your discussions during these days, for the open and free exchange of views, and for your willingness to listen respectfully to each other – at times at some length! I was very pleased and impressed by the way the work of your Chapter responded so directly to the directives of the General Chapter. I am convinced that our most important contribution to the Lasallian mission today has much to do with the quality of our witness as consecrated religious, disciples of Jesus in the tradition of St La Salle, committed to serve young people, especially those in need, in whatever circumstance we find ourselves. Without a personal relationship with the God of Jesus Christ, nourished by significant moments of personal and community prayer – which, we know was the experience of our Founder – all our strategies, plans, programmes and lines of action have little meaning. They are like words from an empty soul. Consequently, I was very pleased with the emphasis during these days on personal and community revitalisation which, unlike many Chapter propositions, calls for personal and community commitment and engagement, to on-going personal reflection on the tension between “doing and being”, to the responsible personal use of new technologies, to the cultivation of real relationships rather than virtual relationships, to the support of the first of “those confided to my care” in my community which, I think, is often more difficult than supporting those “confided to my care” on Facebook or other social media.
As I mentioned above, in all of the Sectors of your District you are providing significant educational service to young people but I was impressed by the evident desire of many of you to find more creative ways of “going beyond the borders” to respond, in your own locality, to the needs of those young people displaced by war or ravaged by poverty or neglect. There is clearly a great sensitivity among you for those young people in all forms of difficulty and a genuine concern to protect and proclaim their rights in all our educational centres and beyond. Your willingness as a District to engage in the “Fratelli Project” is already a sign of this desire to respond to immediate educational needs but it was evident from your discussion that the vision of many of you is not limited simply to the “Fratelli Project”. Clearly, commitment to any such project has to be based on adequate discernment and a prudent awareness of the resources of the District, both with regard to personnel and finance, but it is important to remember that the Gospel calls us to generosity from our poverty, not from our richness or surplus.
I also commend your attention in the Chapter to the support, accompaniment and formation not only of the Brothers but especially of your lay colleagues without whom the Lasallian mission is not sustainable. Hence, the importance of effective, participative and collaborative MEL structures, both at Sector and District level, to prepare and animate leaders committed to developing the Lasallian identity of our centres into the future. It is true that your resources in terms of Brothers are limited, and that, in consequence, you have to re-examine the nature and effectiveness of your vocations’ programme, but it is also important to realise that the District has also been blessed abundantly with so many committed lay partners who make the Lasallian mission their own.
I am aware that, as we come to the end of this Chapter, we are also approaching the end of Brother Regis’ mandate as Visitor and so, on behalf of the Institute, I want to take this opportunity to thank him officially for his years of leadership of the District of Proche Orient. Despite what some people may think, leadership is never easy but he has fulfilled his responsibility with great commitment to the Lasallian mission, with attentiveness to Brothers and lay partners throughout the District, and with sensitivity and tact in difficult situations – and always with gentleness and good humour founded on the spirit of faith. Regis, we are grateful for all you have done, we hope you will have some time for your own physical and spiritual nourishment, and we wish you well wherever the Lord takes you on your Lasallian journey.
And, as Brother Regis’ mandate finishes so Brother Fadi’s begins in September. I am grateful to him for his willingness to assume the responsibilities of leadership and I know that he will be blessed in the challenges ahead, many of which have been identified during these last few days. But he will undoubtedly need your help and collaboration in so many different ways. In the last few days, you as a Chapter have indicated the road-map for the District for next four years – it is important to highlight that it is your road-map. You have to negotiate it together. You have to implement it together with Brother Fadi as your Visitor. Sometimes Capitulants are very good at producing work for others – especially for the Visitor and the Council! I hope you realise that in this Chapter your have produced significant work for yourselves. All of you have the responsibility to work together to implement what you have planned for your District. I hope you can embrace this new beginning with enthusiasm and creativity, with fraternal collaboration and teamwork; in other words, with the zeal and the spirit of faith worthy of followers of St John Baptist de La Salle.
Thank you again for your welcome and God bless you in the work ahead.
Br. Aidan Kilty