“Why don’t we start an inter-Congregational experiment in collaboration?” This informal question was put during a meeting of the two Institutes of Brothers in Madrid, as if someone was just ‘flying a kite’. A few days later, the question had become “And why not?” Finally, the idea stimulated the De La Salle and Marist Brothers to take concrete action in Sanlúcar de Barrameda. So at the start of the new school year of 2017-2018, three Lasallians (Mario, Jesús and Vicente) and two Marists (Samuel and Ramón) initiated this joint project by coming together to form a community.
Brothers Samuel and Mario have spoken to us about the beginnings of the venture. “To begin with, we had to ensure that our Brothers, teachers, pupils and their families would know about and understand this experiment of an inter-Congregational community, and we wanted to use it as a good opportunity for demonstrating visibly the universality of the Church and the value of Christian fraternity enriched by our two distinct charisms”.
The Andalusian area chosen is the location of the Marist College of Nuestra Señora de los Reyes and for the De La Salle College of San Francisco and the new community of Brothers is housed in the former of these.
The Brothers all have the same hopes for the project, as Mario says. “The personal stories of the individual Brothers and their experiences so far as Marists or Lasallians will no doubt be a source of great richness”. They have no specific goals and their approach is one of humility with no great pretensions, but one thing is clear to them, and that is that they want to have an experience in fraternity and convert it into a sign for the Church in the world. “In a society in which every individual is only out for him/herself, we want to offer a sign of fraternity”. And they want to do this because they see that it will help them to live their lives as Brothers in a new way.
The two religious Institutes have already been cooperating in educational and pastoral activities and this will no doubt be intensified through the new joint community. There comes to mind the current ‘Fratelli project’ run by Marists and De La Salle Brothers for the refugee children in Lebanon. Not that it is the intention to copy that, but it can serve as an example and an inspiration for what can be achieved when working together, respecting one another and sharing so as to support the educational activities of both Institutes. By its very nature, the religious life is called to be prophetic in our times. The Brothers involved in the venture express it as follows. “Through this prophetic act, we want to show that fraternity is possible even in a world afflicted by individualism and competitiveness. We intend this action to be an explicit sign that the Church needs to make in a world that is so atomised and divided.”
Ultimately, their most important challenge is to continue to respond to their vocation to educate children and young people, evangelising them and attending to the local needs, building a meaningful fraternity in the neighbourhood. This feeling is summed up perfectly in their concluding remarks. “Our wish is that the hope with which we are approaching this experience will be shared by all our Brothers and will lead the young people to be open to the action of the Holy Spirit. If we can say something just by our lives, that will be message enough. Words would be superfluous.”