with Br Rod Thomson, fms.
How do you join the Brothers?
You can contact the Marist Vocations Team here. Br Greg, the Vocations Director, will contact you and arrange a meeting. You are then invited to become part of the Contact program and maintain regular contact with the Brothers through a local Community, so as to assist you in understanding the Brothers and your own vocation. Through this initial process, you will know whether you want to progress to the next stage of enquiry.
What do we like best about being a Brother?
Being with and working for other people. Whatever the task, it is about people and making a difference in their lives. We especially work with the young and have a particular concern for those who are struggling or neglected in our world.The other aspect of this is that we are focused on lasting values. Whatever we do is underpinned by our belief in God. It is enriching to live with and work alongside other Brothers and lay people who share these same values and beliefs, and to celebrate them in our prayer together. Life in community can sometimes have its challenges, but the support and love, experienced here and in the wider Marist family overcomes all obstacles.
Why do we call ourselves ‘Marist’?
It was first used in France on 15 August, 1812 with the original inspiration for the Society of Mary. (This Society consisted of the first group who would later be known as the Marist Fathers.) The word ‘Marist’ comes from the word ‘Mary’ and refers to those who “follow Jesus as Mary did”. Our founder, Marcellin Champagnat, was inspired by this original vision of the Society of Mary. He had a great devotion to Mary, offering his work through her to Jesus on a daily basis, to ensure the success of the Marist venture. Marist Brothers follow in the footsteps of Mary and Champagnat.
What do we do each day?
The day is a balance of work, reflection and prayer and being with the Brothers’ community. As a community, we pray together each day. Each Brother also gives time to individual prayer and reflection. We make a special effort to share a meal together each evening, which is an important way for us to build our community life. Celebrating special occasions in the lives of the Brothers such as birthdays is another important aspect of our life together. Naturally, much of our time and energy each day goes into our work or ministry.
What work do the Brothers do?
Brothers are teachers, youth workers, counselors, missionaries, social workers, administrators, school chaplains, university lecturers, mechanics, welfare workers, theologians, bus drivers, etc, all at the service of young people. Brothers are mainly involved in ministries with young people, those who are marginalised or poor, and those who are searching for meaning and direction in life. We work with young people in high schools, tertiary institutions, with Aboriginal communities, and in many other settings at home and abroad. Adolescent care, juvenile justice and associated welfare work are a well established dimension of our ministry. Many of our Australian Brothers work alongside local Brothers in the Asia Pacific region. Being an international congregation (79 countries), Brothers are called to work in other parts of the world, usually in places and situations which are impoverished in some way. This solidarity with our Brothers from developing countries is an important facet of the Brothers’ work. You can read about the ministries of the Brothers here.
Why do people join the Brothers?
Each Brother’s answer to this is slightly different and yet there are many similarities. The common elements are:
• A sense of being called by God
• Making a difference in the lives of young people
• Living as Brothers in community with people who have the same beliefs
• Inspired by the life of our founder Marcellin Champagnat: his dream was to evangelise and educate young people, especially the most neglected, to help them realise “how much Jesus and Mary love them”.
How do you know whether you have a vocation to the Marist Brothers?
In the first instance, you may notice a growing interest in the Brothers and their work (or a particular Brother may be an inspiration to you) yet it may not be entirely clear to you what this means. It is hard to explain this because it is experienced in many and varied ways. It evolves over a period of time and is experienced in simple ways. You develop a sense deep within you that this is the best way to express yourself and live your life. You know that somehow God has a hand in it. You begin to feel that your life has a greater sense of purpose and direction and your faith grows in the process. You feel at home in Marist life amongst the Brothers.
How do you live without a partner and family?
Every human being is called to be life giving. For most, one of the key ways this is achieved is through having and raising children. However, there are many ways to bring life to others and our world. Considering the Brothers’ vocation, for many it would be a real sacrifice to live without a partner and family. Nevertheless, if you are living the life you are meant to, strength and meaning is found in that vocation. What people see in a Brother’s life and ministry is really the public face of a life of prayer and relationship with Christ. If that prayer life is not present, then it is difficult to live healthily in a celibate lifestyle. And it is in giving ourselves and using our gifts in serving others that life is found in simple, creative and yet profound ways. It is difficult to understand a celibate way of life without an understanding of the spiritual dimension of a Brother’s life. It is God who gives everyone the capacity to live their particular vocational calling, and a man who has discovered the gift of Brotherhood in his life has discovered that this is the best way that he can live as a loving person, enabling him to bring the fullness of life that he has experienced to others.
Why join the Brothers and not the priesthood?
To be a Brother is a specific role in the Church. The work is different: priests are primarily concerned with ministering the sacraments of the Church while the Brothers’ primary focus is on the education and support of young people in various ways. The lifestyle is different: living in community is a central aspect of a Brother’s religious life; whereas many priests live alone. The community is a source of support to each Brother and the common prayer life enhances the Brother’s spiritual life.The word ‘brother’ holds special meaning for those who make this commitment. We are Brothers to each other and to all those with whom we come in contact. It is this relationship that is at the heart of our vocation.
What training do you have to do?
Brothers spend about five or six years in training. It involves study in a chosen subject or field that will assist in working with young people. A special focus is also placed on theological and scriptural study both at university and within the formation program of the Brothers. Ministry experiences are part of this training and provide opportunities to work with the poor of our society. The formation of the Brothers also focuses on their human and spiritual growth.