VATICAN CITY, SEPT. 17, 2001 (Zenit.org).- The Church needs the Marist family in order to fulfill its task of evangelization, of education of the young, and of promotion of women, John Paul II said today.
During an audience in the papal residence of Castel Gandolfo, the Pope received the participants in the general chapters of four Marist institutes that were inspired in the spirituality of St. Marcelino Champagnat (1789-1840) and his companions.
“Today the Church gratefully welcomes the missionary work carried out, and the gifts of God´s grace manifested in, the life of your institutes,” the Pope said when he welcomed the Marists. He thanked Father Joaquin Fernandez, superior general of the Society of Mary, for his kind words on behalf of the participants.
The papal address was focused on the decisive importance of education for the Church. “The world of education is difficult and exacting, because it demands that educators constantly adapt to youth and their new expectations,” the Holy Father said.
“Do not be discouraged in the face of present difficulties; of age that apparently separates you from the youngest; of lack of means; and, above all, of laborers to work in the vineyard!” John Paul II exhorted them.
“Instead, look at youth with the eyes of the Good Shepherd, as a multitude without a shepherd, but also as a field that turns golden for the harvest, and that will bring fruit at the opportune time,” the Pope said.
“With your life, you are called to help youth discover the joy of following Christ in the consecrated life,” the Pope concluded. “Do not be afraid to propose this path to youth in search of truth.”
The Marist institutes present at the audience were:
–The Society of Mary (Marist Fathers), founded by Father John Claude Colin, companion in the seminary of St. Marcelino Champagnat, which today numbers 13,600 religious, including 1,133 priests. Their superior is Father Fernandez.
–The Marist Brothers, founded by Champagnat himself, number 4,939 religious. Their superior is Brother Benito Arbues.
–The Marist Sisters of the Congregation of Mary, founded by Jean-Marie Chavoin, whose superior is Sister Gail Reneker. They have 466 religious and novices.
–The Missionary Sisters of the Society of Mary, whose superior is Sister Patricia Stowers, and who number 612 religious.