Some things to mull over...
The challenges we face as followers of
Edmund Rice in a country like Australia today...
ONE THING you can say about "being Catholic" is that we
are never short of things to mull over. The opening of another year,
the beginning of Lent, the challenges facing the Church in Western
society, the sea change that has been happening in the life of the
Christian Brothers Congregation all of these sorts of things provide
an opportunity for reflection and asking questions about what do
we do next?
Br Kevin Ryan, Holy Spirit Province Leader,
in his thank you
for all of us who have been working in Edmund Rice Ministries poses
some of the questions we need to be mulling over in the Edmund Rice
newsletter also provides much "good news". One of the
best bits of news concerns the growth that the Christian Brothers
are again beginning to experience in their work in the third world.
Vocations are on the rise again and the tone of news coming from
the international level of the Edmund Rice Network has changed from
one of pessimism at declining vocations almost to one of being overwhelmed
by the work to be done. The harvest is full but the number of labourers
our own neck of the woods, there is also positive news with a deepening
interest amongst young people about spirituality. The Christian
Brothers have responded to this with the establishment in Perth
and Adelaide of two new hospitality houses open to young people.
They are seeking fresh ways in which to elicit interest in vocations
and voluntary commitments to Edmund Rice Ministries. Walking around
any of the Christian Brothers schools one also picks up a mood of
optimism and confidence. The core work of Edmund Rice that the Christian
Brothers established in Australia over a century is continuing on
imbued with that founding spirit of service to others and lifting
young people up through access to high quality education.
schools today are better resourced than they have ever been and,
in many ways, morale has never been higher. There is also a sense
of excitement out in all the newer ministries that have been established
in recent decades seeking to reach out to sectors of society who
remain marginalised against the mainstream of Australian society.
There remains one enormous and paradoxical
challenge to all this though. The fact is that there has been a
massive abandonment of institutionalised faith practice in Australia.
The paradox is that there seems to be a big increase in spiritual
awareness and much searching, particularly by young people, for
alternative ways to respond to God's movement within us. The Christian
Brothers have long had a close affiliation with young people through
their schools, Edmund Rice Camps and in other ways and are very
much alive to these changes happening within society.
a sense, the Church in the Western world today face challenges that
are every bit as significant as those which Edmund Rice faced more
than two centuries ago when he endeavoured to give the second class
citizens of Ireland, and later countries like Australia, a "fair
go" through access to basic education. Today the significant
challenge is not in providing basic education. The Church today
does though face a huge communication problem and, for some reason,
not totally connected with the allure of secularism and consumerism
alone, is unable to maintain communication at a significant level
even with her core baptised constituency. In a diverse number
of ways the Christian Brothers are seeking ways to address this
In the privacy of spirituality programs, like
Qavah and the other formation programs run in Edmund Rice Ministries,
we are able to address some of the difficulties with openness and
candour. When we enter the public arena it seems very difficult
to maintain our spirit of openness and candour and to reach out
to those now tens of millions across the face of the Western world
who are increasingly turning a deaf ear to anything much the Church
has to say. Could we ask: What would Edmund Rice have done? What
would Jesus have done?
As Kevin Ryan said in his address, the Brothers
are "open for business". Could we suggest there are three
issues that you might reflect upon as you make your way through
The first is:
what are the ways in which your work in the Edmund Rice
Network helps us "reach out" more effectively in
the community we are called to be serving in Australia today?
The spiritual, religious and educational challenges in Australia
today are far different from the ones that brought religious
orders like the CBs to Australia. In many ways they are a
lot tougher than they have ever been.
The second is:
are you, or is anyone you know, called to a vocation as
a brother? Even in Australia today there remain many socially
disadvantaged through shortcomings in their education but
the need in other parts of the world is as great as it has
ever been. The core work of the followers of Edmund Rice has
always been in enabling the socially disadvantaged take a
more just place in society through education. It has been
in enabling people to more fully utilise the talents God intended
them to use to grow into the people God wanted them
to be. Christian Brother vocations are rising around the world
again. If you would like to explore the possibilities Br
Bernard White in Perth or Br
John Webb in Adelaide would love to have a chat with you.
The third is:
Edmund Rice was a guy who thought outside the square. He was
a man who, at the age of 40, made a major sea-change in his
life and ended up providing a major response to one of the
biggest challenges of his time the lack of access to
basic education for the children of the materially poor (many
of whom happened to be Catholics). The Christian Brothers
are again "thinking outside the square" by opening
up these new communities to explore alternative forms of religious
commitment and ways of living in a religious community. Perhaps
you might like to live in one of these communities for a short
period, perhaps you might like to volunteer three to twelve
months of your life, or longer, to living in some kind of
Edmund Rice Community in Australia or overseas?.