Fr. André Fétis, SM, Superior General of the Society of Mary, Rome, introduced the Marianist Family Encounters Project to an international audience at the Horizon conference in Spain in July 2023, using the following video featuring Bro. Jesse O'Neill, SM:
Here below is the video script:
Greetings in Christ with our Mother Mary. My name is Bro. Jesse O’Neill and I serve on the Provincial Council for the Marianist Province of the United States as the Assistant for Education.
I am grateful to our Superior General, Fr. André for inviting me to share with you a recent initiative of the Marianist Family here in the United States called the Marianist Family Encounters Project.
This initiative serves as a beautiful expression of how we as the Marianist family can participate in the life of a Synodal Church: a Church that truly listens to all peoples: a Church which gives voice to the voiceless.
I am speaking to you today from Mount Saint John, a Marianist property here in Dayton, Ohio, which houses several ministries over a 150-acre campus and nature preserve.
This beautiful landscape showcases the magnificence of God’s creation and our human efforts to steward it.
Indeed, it is a metaphor for the work that we are called to do through the Global Compact on Education, the Laudato Si’ Action Platform, and the Synodal Process in the Church – all working together in harmony for God’s glory.
So, in that Synodal spirit, we brought everyone together from all branches and ministry sectors of the Marianist Family, namely Marianist lay communities, Sisters, and Brothers spread across our universities, schools, retreat centers, parishes, and other organizations.
As the leadership teams of the Marianist Family in the United States discerned what needed to be done, it became obvious to us that the best way to combine our efforts was to first take the time to listen to one another in prayer and dialogue.
Thus, were born the five goals of the Marianist Family Encounters Project – namely, To promote Justice, Peace, and the Integrity of Creation. To transform through integral ecology. To listen and Educate in Faith. To foster Sustainable Lifestyles. And Empower through Family Spirit.
And to stay connected we developed the Marianist Encounters website; www.marianistencounters.org. On our home page is one of our central messages, “None of us has to do everything, but all of us are invited to do something.”
We have received stories of grassroots initiatives by students, faculty, staff, and religious personnel across our ministries – each a precious Marianist Encounter.
Here are a few examples.
Right here on this Mount Saint John campus, solar panels are being installed with the goal of becoming energy neutral.
Also here on campus is the Marianist Environmental Education Center, a leading voice in environmental advocacy and education.
At our Marianist Family Retreat Center in Cape May Point, New Jersey an interfaith retreat was held recently for refugees from Afghanistan and Ukraine.
And at our Marianist schools, it is the initiatives led by our students that are most encouraging to observe.
At Gross Catholic High School in Bellevue, Nebraska, they set up three student-led committees on: Recycling and Plastic Consumption, Toxic Technology, and Sustainable lifestyles, and Care of women and children.
And our Marianist universities are at the forefront of social justice and climate action, especially aligned with the 17 United Nations Sustainable Development Goals. Here are a few examples:
At Chaminade University of Honolulu in Hawaii they house the only international United Nations Institute for Training and Research in the Pacific region.
And at St. Mary's University in San Antonio, they became the first in Texas and one of the initial 133 international universities to join Pope Francis' call to a seven-year journey of implementing Laudato Si.’
And the University of Dayton in Ohio is a founding member of the Laudato Si’ Action Platform and the first Catholic university in the United States to divest from fossil fuels.
All of these examples are but a glimpse of what can happen when we come together in a Spirit of Synodality.
This is who we are as Marianists. Like Mary, we listen and ponder, and we respond with boldness and courage.
The Marianist Family Encounters Project is an example of the wonderful things that can happen when we come together in the Spirit of Synodality.
No one person, nor any particular charism within the Church, can singularly accomplish all that needs to be done urgently.
However, we must know that our contributions as a Marianist Family are nevertheless critical to this work of building God’s kingdom here on earth.
Our Marianist charism is a gift to the world.
Thank you for all you do in contributing to our Marianist mission.
May the Father, and the Son, and the Holy Spirit Be Glorified in all places through the Immaculate Virgin Mary. Amen
Fr. André shared some feedback he received from the international audience. Excerpts from his email to Bro. Jesse are given below:
Yesterday I completed my participation in the Horizons gathering for young, perpetually professed brothers and sisters. I've returned from Spain and am now back at work in Rome.
We showed the Marianist Encounters video at the end of a day of reflection on synodality. The content and form of the message were much appreciated. After a somewhat theoretical reflection on synodality, it was good to see how it is practiced on the ground in Marianist families.
I was also very interested in the link with respect for our common home and ecology according to Laudato si.
The message got across very well and elicited some great reactions from the participants. For example, some brothers and sisters from Africa mentioned that they felt encouraged to work in this way at home, in a way adapted to concrete situations.
I think we've achieved what we set out to do. I would like to thank you for your generous collaboration and that of Mr. Savio Franco and Hazel Franco, who worked with you. Making a video is a lot of work, so I thank you for accepting this great effort and helping our young brothers and sisters in their reflection.
I am sending you a picture of the group. Here are your future disciples for Marianist Encounters! (this picture was taken before my arrival ... )