Off to the Missions

As a General Council of such far-spread communities we had taken time to study the directive left us by the General Chapter, to start a serious study of the problems left us by the Council, which would occupy our concern during our forthcoming mandate. We then divided the work into various committees in order to narrow down the work of each one of the eight Assistants General. There were projects suggested that would have to be studied and there were also specific needs of our fast-growing Marist missions. I was fortunate and most happy to be asked to be part of the Mission Commission, for my heart had been hungry for working on the missions. Those of us on this special commission spent several months on inspection trips and would return to France to be on deck for the several months of close work for the General Council.

We paired off in small groups for certain functions and also chose a confrere to look after our mail, to answer special requests on our behalf during our absence, and to check on our candidates at the Second Novitiate or other training centers. It was my good fortune to work closely with Bro. Hilary Mary (Conroy), the newly appointed Assistant General for Australia, New Zealand, and the various missions of the area. He took care of the visitors from my Provinces, and I then took care of his Marist religious and friends during his absence from Rome. That was the start of a very warm friendship that I would like to come back to later. We were to be real buddies.

We were now familiar with the standard procedures followed for the meetings, for the planning of the various trips, and for the reports to be presented to the General Council upon our return. We were left free to prepare our trips and to make sure that we visited each place and its Brothers at least twice in each three-year period, as our mandate was for a nine-year term. We received great help from the travel agencies and I can now say that the agency that we had in Rome was a tremendous help to all religious, succeeding in providing the best mode of travel for the lowest fares. The agency was a kind of subsidiary of the Jesuit Fathers, and close to the Vatican, called RAPTIM.

My first itinerary was set out to become familiar with areas that I knew little about. I was especially anxious to visit Sri Lanka, which was the mission of the Chinese Province, now settled mostly in Asia since China was closed to missionaries. The trip would take me from Paris to Lebanon, where I would make a short stop on business for our schools in that country. We had several schools and communities at the time whereas now we have only three main schools there.

It was to break the trip from Paris to Singapore that I made a stop to visit our Marists in the Middle East to see the schoolwork undertaken and get a bit of rest at the same time. I could handle the French and felt right at home with these Marists, who had very few visitors and were doing an exceptional job quite successfully with the Lebanese and French Marists working together. The Brothers were held in high respect and I admired their organization. I would have a favorable report for the Superiors at our General Council meetings upon return. I felt the warmth of the Brothers and their high expertise with the running of schools. After my few days there I continued on to a new territory that had been assigned to me and had become my own in many ways. This was the mission that I had inherited from the famous Bro. Jean Emile in charge of the China Province and its mission of Sri Lanka. At that time I knew very little about Sri Lanka, but it was destined to become my very favorite mission.