Brothers Today

Just when I thought I knew what it is to be a Marist Brother, I realise that it is far more exciting than what I first imagined when I joined 33 years ago. It is like continually discovering Narnia at the back of the wardrobe. In my years as a brother, I have been blessed with ministries with spirited youths and dedicated Marist educators throughout Australia.

However, my call is now beyond the familiar wide brown land and into foreign places where new cultures and languages challenge my perspective of fraternity, and it is blessing me with meanings in being brother in a new way. There is a deep joy in always discovering new ways of living my vocation.

Everyday may not be good but there is always something good in each day and when I am troubled by how and where I can be a brother for others, I am encouraged by what Jesus said to Peter,“But you will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes on you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.” (Acts 1:8)

How I respond to the Gospel in the Way of Mary? At the Annunciation, Mary gave her commitment to God’s invitation without actually understanding the complete consequence of her agreement. She may only have signed her life’s blank cheque for God on the strength of the angel’s promise that ‘The Lord is with You’. No pre-natal contracts with escape clauses were included. And look what happened to her and to her son!

I sense a strong affinity with Mary’s story with giving my response to God’s call, based on my faith in God’s unreasonable love for me. I am still discovering the cost of my Marist Brothers vocation as the years pass and yet discovering the many riches of sharing brotherhood with the abundance of impressive Marist men and women around the world. Mary gave her promise at the Annunciation, she gave her courage at the foot of the cross and she gave her solidarity at Pentecost: Mary’s way for me is to be a strong and gentle giver. It may seem crazy to give one’s life to God, however I have come to realize that should I want a full life, I must give it away. The young Anne Frank eloquently expressed it this way in her famous diary.“No one has become poor by giving.”

May you discover the growing abundance of God’s love in you as you share yourself with others!

Brother Tony has taught Visual Arts and Studies of Religion in NSW and ACT. In recent years, he worked in the areas of Vocation and Youth Ministries as well as with the Marist Life Formation team. Tony is currently the Co-Director of the Brothers Today Secretariat in Rome.

After 30 years of English teaching in many schools, I transitioned into pastoral work with students and staff, which I have been happily doing for twenty years now at Marist Catholic College, Penshurst. My vocation as a Brother in campus ministry enables me to bring a Marist presence to students in Years 7-10 for reflective prayer. It has been a privilege to sit with and help my students reflect in a prayerful environment on the important spiritual issues in their lives, a gentle way – I hope – of making Jesus Christ known and loved. Some passage from the Gospels is always part of our time together.

The joy in my life comes sharing the joy in the faces of the students who encounter their God in a modest atmosphere of simple reflection and prevailing silence. The concept of teenagers sitting quietly for a period is hard to grasp, but it happens! I enjoy being a Campus Minister among young people in a busy secondary school. There is warmth and good humour and acceptance in the school which makes it a place of growth for all concerned, including me. I wouldn’t give it up for quids!

Brother Tony is currently serving as Campus Minister at Marist College Penshurst in Sydney.

As I arrived at school this morning a year 12 student was waiting for me. She was disturbed and stressed at the breakdown of a relationship and how this has affected her life. In being able to share her concerns a load was lifted from her and some sense of balance restored.

In my vocation as a Brother and school counselor there is much joy is being able to provide time and a presence to help young people cope with the natural pressures and stresses of life. I do feel a deep sense of joy when I have the opportunity to reach out and make others the center of attention.

I firmly believe that my life is a gift. I have received much through family, friends and especially through God’s constant love and care. Mary used her gift of life for others, she cared for and nourished Jesus and the early Church. It is my firm belief that like Mary I need to use this gift of my life for others. My image of Mary from the Gospels as a faithful, loving, gentle, compassionate but strong person has always been an inspiration for me in my life as a Marist Brother. I ask Mary for the strength and guidance to do the same for the young people I minister to.

Brother Ray is presently serving as Student Counsellor at Trinity Catholic College, Auburn, in Sydney.

I have spent the past two years in Cambodia working with young people with disabilities and who had very little chance of education before coming to the Marist Brothers’ Lavalla School. It is wonderful to see the smiles of hope on the students’ faces, as they begin to discover life and possibilities opening up for them through the educational opportunities we provide here.

Before that I was sixteen years in Papua New Guinea and the Solomon Islands working with young people who had missed out on education, either because of their poverty or remoteness. Our Brothers were able to put skills and resources into working closely with these young people, so as to give them a sense of their own worth and give them hope when others in society tended to disregard them because of their lack of education or disability and poverty.

This is what Jesus did. And I like to think that in my own small way as a Marist Brother I can show, by my living with them, that their lives are important and that their contribution to society is valued. As Mary brought Jesus to the world, I hope I can let these young people experience the love Jesus has for them.

Although it has been many years since I left the classroom I still enjoy my life and ministry as a Brother. I do this by contributing to the school in accompanying Special Education students on their weekly 'work experience', as they distribute the Community newspaper in the neighbourhood areas around the school.

In the Brothers' community I enjoy helping with simple services to those Brothers who are busy in school and especially to those with health issues. I am grateful to our good Lord for generally good health so I make the most of the outdoors, especially walking and bike-riding.

Brother Noel Hickey, 88, continues to enjoy working with students and staff in the Special Education Department at Newman College in Perth.

Recently, I attended as camp with 90 Year 11 students from Marist schools together with their teachers, other Brothers and a fine group of young Marist leaders. What a great weekend it was! I felt I was greatly privileged, even as I took a back seat, to listen to these young students as they shared their life-stories, their concerns and joys, and how their faith as young Catholics was all part of the mix.

I reflected as I drove home how lucky I was to be part of the weekend and able to share some of my own story with these students. What they took out of what I said, I will never know, but I do know this … it was good to be with them. I’m not often directly involved with students on camps these days. Most of my time and ministry as a Brother involves music, something I’ve always loved and which continues to engage and inspire me, exploring ways how music can lead us to God and deepen our faith. I always believe that when a beautiful melody is wedded to, say, the words of Jesus in scripture, then by sharing in that music and song, we walk on very holy ground, just as Moses did in the desert at the burning bush. Music opens us to mystery, to beauty, to God!

Finally, living my life in community along with a group of seven other men, of whom I’m the youngest is both a challenge and also a joy - even after 50 years of religious life! We learn a lot about ourselves, living and sharing life with others, and this is what religious life offers us as Brothers, and if we try to live it honestly and generously, it is a life of deep satisfaction and joy. I’m still working at it, and feel it’s keeping me very much alive.

Brother Michael Herry is an accomplished liturgical musician and song writer. He is involved in full-time ministry, both in parishes and within the Australian Marist Community.

Why live in community? Are you like a priest?

These would have to be top two questions asked of me by people who see me as part of a Marist ministry but don't really know much about me or my life outside the work context. And they're good questions!

My response to the first is that the witness of my life, lived together with other Brothers, is meant to emanate a tangible joy of what living the Gospel is like for us. If I doesn't, I (and they!) should give it up and choose another life pathway. I'm not suggesting that community life is easy or always 'pleasant' (what life is?), but I do genuinely believe that if God's Spirit is animating our shared life as Brothers then one of the clear gifts of that Spirit will be joy. And what does that joy look like? Being able to share comfortably, pray openly, challenge respectfully and, most importantly, laugh often.

I think my life is very different from that of most diocesan priests I know, although priests who have chosen ordained life within a religious congregation do share some similarities with my life, depending on their order. All Christian people are called to serve with and live out of joy, but for Marist Brothers our joy is lived in a particular Marian style.

Every day we proclaim in our community prayer that God has done good things for us, and our hearts, like that of Mary, unashamedly give praise to God for God's action and unfolding call in the events of our lives. We find it very easy to speak about this with each other, and I know this ease has grown in me through my personal experience of coming to know Jesus and understand his journey of joyful response to his Father.

I know this transparency is what makes many groups of Marist Brothers appealing groups to be around. In fact, it's a quality that's evident amongst gatherings of Lay Marists in ministry too. I guess Brothers have an advantage, though, in that it's what we 'come home' to every day and proclaim again before we head out to walk alongside young people the next morning.

Brother Michael served most recently on the Marist Mission and Life Formation Team, following nearly twenty years of leadership in the area of Faith Formation in several Marist schools across Australia. During the past six months Michael has been on sabbatical studying Spanish language at the Javeriana Pontifical University in Bogotá, Colombia and the University of Guadalajara in México. He is a keen liturgical musician and enjoys jumping aboard two wheels on and off road.

You know when you’re at home. You know when you belong. That’s it for me and the Marist Brothers. It’s really been that way from the start, and has only deepened with the unfolding of the years. I can’t imagine not living in community, or not having my energies focussed on making a difference in the lives of young people; and I can’t imagine it without the God of being.

Four decades have brought immeasurable joys, both in community and in ministry, especially in school ministry. I am energised by being with young people, educating them, journeying with them, trying to model for them what it means to be like Mary and not to sit on the sidelines of life but to give it a full-hearted “YES!”. It has also asked a lot of me at times, even often, but that’s the story of any worthwhile life, isn’t it? To be a Brother is for me to have a life with daily meaning, with deep purpose, and with a profound sense of a fulfilled and sustaining humanity. And to be with others who feel them same.

Brother Michael has been involved in educational leadership for over 30 years and is currently serving as National Director of Marist Schools Australia and Executive Director of Marist Ministries.

I try to live every day of my life as a Marist Brother with passion. It’s a passion that is tied to a core belief that being 'Brother' to others is a great way to go! There is something about relating to young people as a Brother that enables me to empower them to live more fully their faith.

My vocation has enabled me to work with young people in many amazing places including East Timor, Australian Marist schools, Youth Detention Centres and Universities. These have all been places of growth in which I have been called to live the Gospel with passion and to live justly and walk humbly with my God and others.

My current ministry of leadership at The John Berne School requires me to provide firm guidance with young people who are struggling to be accepted by their society and to conform to the norms of what it means to be a successful Australian today. As a Brother and principal, I try to support my students by maintaining boundaries and providing a secure learning environment in which they can grow in self-esteem and learning.

When so many aspects of these young people's lives are in turmoil I find myself drawing inspiration from the way Mary lived her life where she stood firm, believed that all things were possible, and affirmed her Son to live out his mission here on earth. Our Marist charism and spirituality likewise calls us to love young people all equally – what a challenge! Because they have been hurt so many times in their young lives, our students often push the staff way, rejecting their guidance. As a Brother, I have no choice but to hang in there for them, letting them know they are still loved and will not be rejected. Our school motto, 'Hope Always', becomes real for me everyday, as I work with these amazing students and staff.

Brother Mark is currently serving as Princiapl of The John Berne School in Lewisham, Sydney. He has worked in special education and solidarity projects including Marist Youth Care and East Timor.

What gives me joy as a Marist Brother today is ministering to young people alongside other committed Marists. My role as a Pastoral Associate in a multi-cultural High School in Sydney calls me to minister to teenage students and staff where they are. Much of my work involves being a listening presence each day. I have enjoyed my recent upskilling in a counselling degree and hope to use these skills more in my ministry.

Celebrating Eucharist most days allows me to extend and enrich this listening heart. Daily prayer and reflection calls me and challenges me to meet Christ in the young and to follow Him in the way of Mary.

Br Mark hails from Casino on the North Coast of NSW. A Marist Brother for 44 years, Mark is currently serving as a Pastoral Associate at Marist College, Eastwood where he is involved with St Vincent de Paul, conducting retreats and various prayer programs for students. An avid cricketer and sports fan, Mark loves nothing better than relaxing with a good book or casting a fishing line along a beach.

One of the gifts of my vocation as a Marist Brother is to journey with young men and women in their own search for God through Youth Ministry and Religious Education. Through prayer, liturgy and faith sharing, my aim is to create a space where young people can encounter Jesus Christ. Moved by an experience of His presence, they become empowered to be evangelisers in faith for their peers. It is a powerful experience to listen to the personal testimony of an adolescent or young adult as they stand before other young people and proclaim their belief in Jesus and a God who loves them!

Walking with young people on their faith journey asks me to be patient, understanding and open as they wrestle with life’s questions and where God is leading them. Mary had these qualities in responding to God’s request to be the mother of Jesus, and I find in her great strength and encouragement as I wrestle with my own spiritual journey.

Brother Justin completed five years at Trinity Catholic College as the Youth Ministry & Liturgy Coordinator at the end of 2013. He is currently participating in the Institute-run Brother Formators for a New World course at Manziana, Italy. He is a keen tennis player who also enjoys the outdoors.

I am in my 50th year as a Marist Brother. I live at Templestowe, an outer suburb of Melbourne. Across the years I have worked mainly in schools, as well as being given time to pursue academic studies. This has all been very fulfilling. At the same time as carrying out this ministry, I have lived in Marist communities in three different States of Australia. When I joined the Brothers I was not aware of how they lived. I was more focused on what they did in schools. I quickly became aware that Marist community life, among other things, involves considerable time in prayer, both personal and communal. This aspect of our Brothers’ vocation now gives me the greatest joy in my own life.

I had listened to the words of others about the importance of prayer but I had to find out for myself. And this is where the rhythm of the communal day has helped me considerably. Community prayer in the morning and evening, Eucharist sometime during the day and private meditation in the morning all assist me to discern what I believe God is asking of me. I am very blessed!

1. What gives you joy in living the vocation of a Brother today? Each day I am blessed with so many opportunities that remind me why I am a Marist Brother. When a local resident of our largely disadvantaged area calls out with a wave, “Gooday Harry!” and either goes on their way or stops for a chat; A familiarity, sense of being appreciated, trusted and seen as a friend; When I can sit with a resident facing Court and waiting, helping break the tension and relieve the anxiety; When I can advocate for a resident seeking attention from the Office of Housing, or accompany someone to Centrelink, Police or Hospital. Offering hope and compassion; When I gather at Sunday Mass with like-minded Christians, share together our understandings of the day’s scripture, pray about issues that affect our neighbourhood, families and beyond, hear the responses of children from their kids liturgy, share Eucharist and a cup of tea and chat after. When I can share with another brother, listen to his experience of weekly visiting prisoners, visiting shut-ins and telling each other of latest thoughts on possible alleviation of injustice in our area.

2. As a Brother, how do you see yourself responding to the Gospel in the way of Mary? The call of a Marist Brother is to respond to the Gospel in the way of Mary. I feel I can do this best when I am boldly and without reserve facing injustice, much of which is institutional, in an attempt to make sure the voices of the poor are heard. By standing next to the crucified of today letting them know they are not alone. When I am a being a parent presence to those whose lives have been damaged and disturbed, helping and encouraging them to allow their best selves to shine. I am following Mary’s spirit when by taking time alone to hear and know where and how God is leading me and us in ministry, personal life and community.

Brother Harry lives and works among disadvantaged families in the Exodus Community, West Heidelberg, Victoria.

After all these years I still find amazing joy in my vocation as a Marist Brother. I put this down to the fact that I have always been around young committed people. Saint Marcellin called us to work with youth and in particular those in the greatest need. Not only to work with them but to make Jesus loved and known.

From my early years as a Brother I had a faith community around me. This is still true but now my Faith Community has extended to our Young Marists. It is so rewarding seeing them living the Gospel in the way of Mary. They are the key people to our mission for the young. All I need to do as a Brother is be a presence to them and mentor them. When they go out on ministry they are well formed. This enables them to be authentic. My greatest joy is when they minister to the poor in our society.

I often wondered why I was called to be a Marist Brother. In my early years I modelled myself on my father (strong educator - discipline). However I joined a group of men who were both strong and gentle. Mary was Marcellin’s model and She became my model. It was that gentle side of me that I allowed to grow in my adult life. That brought me the wonderful gifts of generosity and compassion.

The parables in the Gospel have become my favourite reflection pieces. I often find myself interpreting the parables as if Christ was living in today’s world. I am often asked to talk about caring for the homeless and recounting stories from the streets. This is a Gospel way of sharing my ministry. Mum was my first Mary figure, and I find myself, like her, always thinking of others. I now respond to the Gospel with a Marial focus and live out my life accordingly. I now know why I am a Marist.

Brother Doug is based in Fitzroy in the heart of Melbourne. For over 55 years Doug has been in ‘first gear’ doing non-stop ministry with students and young people at risk. His current ministries include vocations presentations, Remar Youth Ministry and connecting young adults with the marginalised though the Vinnie’s Soup Van. A life-time member of the Collingwood Football Club, Br Doug was also a co-founder of the Bagong Barrio Education Found.

I have been working in primary schools for 38 years now and enjoy meeting children and families from a variety of backgrounds. At present I am the Principal of Ltyentye Apurte Catholic School in Santa Teresa, a fully Indigenous community and school, 90 kms east of Alice Springs, Central Australia. The Marist Brothers have had a ministry here for the past 30 years. The Arrerente people have with their own language, rich culture and a deep spirituality. I continue to be energized by the desire of children in a remote community to learn and by watching them as they grow in so many ways through access to education.

The title ‘Brother’ is a constant reminder to me that in my work I should always seek to build family spirit amongst others. In my relationships I am called to nurture and support others – to spread the Good News more by actions than by words. In this way I follow Mary who was constantly present to God and to others. This is summed up in the motto of the Marist Brothers: All to Jesus through Mary.

Brother Daniel is currently serving as Principal of Ltyentye Apurte in the Central of Australia, Northern Territory.