3rd PHASE: A DIVERSIFIED ASSOCIATION IN THE CHURCH-COMMUNION.

THE NEW ASSOCIATION FOR THE LASALLIAN MISSION

 

index
1. A complex crisis>/a> precedes the 3rd phase
2.
Towards a new Lasallian Association: basic assumptions
3. Church dynamisms for the new Association
4. A model to guide the new Association: "The Planetary System."
5. To reach the threshold: the leap to Association from the concrete and the immediate
6. Crossing the threshold: The association commitment
7. The bond of Association
8. Forms of Association in a transition period
9. To discern the mission in communion structures

 

 1. A complex crisis precedes the 3rd phase.

The present crisis, the one that is calling for a new threshold, is complex and a little more historical perspective might be necessary to analyze it. But there is a series of factors which stand out:

The fast ageing of the Institute, especially in the more developed nations, and the shortage of new vocations to be Brothers. This factor reduces progressively the Brothers' capacity of reaction and leadership in the search for new alternatives.

The Institute's difficulty, and that of the Brothers in general, as well as of most religi6us congregations, to locate their religious life in the Church-Communion, in this new ecciesial "ecosystem't, and to express their identity in this new framework. Behind all this there lies the necessity, common to religious Congregations, of "*efounding" the Institute.

Perhaps as a consequence of these factors there is a certain anxiety in some sectors of Brothers to facilitate and promote the association of lay people with the Institute, establishing ways of belonging to the Institute. Thus they expect to sofien the reduction in the number of Brothers and to maintain the Institute's influence in Lasallian educational works.

The Lasallian formation of lay persons, undertaken with more or less intensity and extension than in the previous phase, is not producing, in some people's opinion, the desired fruits. It is a frustration which is born largely of a reductionism: to reproduce, more or less, the long initiation process which the Brothers have undergone in their formation, with the little courses that are being given to the lay.

This factor requires a greater investment in the Lasallian training of lay persons, by establishing more profound and more continuingly progressive levels of formation.

It reminds us, however, that it is not the same thing "to train oneself' or, even, to give a meaning to what is being done, as to commit oneselfcompletely to Lasallian Association. The first corresponds to the general aim of the formation given in the phase of the "shared mission", and which should reach the greatest possible number of lay persons who collaborate in Lasallian educational works. The second one is a vocational option, and can be expected from only a much smaller number.

We need to perceive the waming implicit in this factor: we have to take very seriously the process corresponding to the 2nd phase so that some people might bring up the option of the threshold which gives way to the 3rd phase.

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2. Towards a new Lasallian Association: basic assumptions.

2.1 The threshold which introduces us into the phase of the new Lasallian Association is the fruit of the charismatic dynamism of roots, which exist in the ideas of Church as Communion today. Differently from the first threshold, the third offers the possibilities of various Christian identities, all of them assembled around the LQsallian mission. And, like the first threshold, the third also consists of the commitment marked with a sign, because there is no association without an external commitment among the associated.

The third phase of the Lasallian Association started with the entry of other consecrated people (Sisters, Catechists of Jesus Crucified...) into the Lasall ian heritage. But the decisive moments date from the beginning of the new century, with the entry of lay people.

2.2 The motivation: Exactly as in the origin of Lasallian Association, the new Association takes the educational needs of the children and the young 'far from salvation" as its motivation and original nucleus, as well as the willingness to answer the call, which is at the same time perceived as God's call.

2.3 The commitment: The fulfilment of a project depends on all the people implied in it, even on those who are passers-by or have other motivations. But the continuity of the project, especially in its dimension of universality, needs stability, that is to say, people who, with their presence, give priority to the fact of ensuring the maintenance of the project above their immediate personal interests. And the faithfulness of the project to its initial purposes and to its preferred beneficiaries needs 'p' rophets ", that is to say, people who assume a certain radicality to keep an eye on that faithfulness. The commitment that fulfills these two characteristics - stability and radicality- in some degree, is what allows "Association" to fulfil its purpose.

2.4 The protagonists ofthe new Association. In the Church we are in, where everybody and not only the religious is responsible for the mission, the commitment of many other people from various states of life is needed. The Institute FSC has to place itself in this new Church model, and is responsible for ti~e Lasallian mission with other groups of lay and consecrated people, those who are willing to commit themselves to guarantee this project.

2.5 Previous itinerary: The commitment gesture is not made overnight. It must be discerned, it must be situated in an itinerary in which people keep discovering the direction they want to give to their life and what God asks from them. It must be carried out from the knowledge of each one's capacities and the commitment it implies. And even then, one has to run risks. The same process 9f communion for the mission characteristic of the previous threshold is the one that prepares this commitment of association, and without that process it will not be possible to reach this threshold.

The process helps to revive the "initial myth" (=the foundation story). Little by little, people can narrate their own story as the actualization of that myth. In the narrative, with the different emphases of each, there come together the essential components of Association: communion, Lasallian charism, commitment, mission.

The commitment to Association must not be fulfilled before achieving a certain harmonious synthesis of those four components. This aspect, therefore, will be a fundamental objective of personal accompaniment.

2.6 The sign: Association is established on signs of solidarity and interdependence. It is necessary to express the commitment by coming to agree on signs in which the scope of the commitment is stated. We need to support one another and we need to know upon whom we can rely, whom we are counting on and to what extent.

2.7 The bond: The sign refers to a bond or type of link previously defined by common consent between the associate and the Association. The bond is made up of two dimensions:

The first one refers to the mode of interdependence between each member and the Association, the ways of making the communion among the people operative so that it redounds to the mission's advantage; in the Brother's case the interdependence takes the form of an intentional community in the framework of the district, and is structured with the District's own bonds:

Visitor, Director of Community...

The second refers to the availability of the associates towards the mission or purpose of the Association, and is established in a life plan to incamate the Lasallian charisma in a given Christian way of life; for the Brother it is the Rule; for the Signum Fidei it is his/her "Life style".

2.8 The commitment to which Association refers is one with people (the other members of the Association) rather than with its works. The commitment here does not refer primarily to the work-task nor does it consist of doing more things. It refers explicitly to the Lasallian community in its various levels. It is translated into relationship, into sharing, into communion. And finally it manifests itself in belonging. It is a bond that creates solidarity with others, and is therefore dependent on one another. It does not consist only on "taking part in" but on "belonging to" "depending on" or better still: "being interdependent"; and this is what creates the Association. The sign by which people commit themselves tends to make the sign of the community more visible, just as the immediate purpose of the Association is to set up the "community-as-sign".

Consequently, any association commitment should follow -and frequently precede- the active integration with the other associates in the corresponding community structures, both at and beyond local level.

2.9 The community is inseparable from its purpose and is justified by it. To commit oneself with the community is to strengthen the sign of its way of serving the purpose: the evangelization of abandoned youth, through education. It is the "Community of the Christian Schools".

To commit oneself is to assume the recipients and the aims of the Lasallian Community as one's own:
    The preferential beneficiaries: the "abandoned" children and young, that is to say, the poor; and the poorest among them.
    Its fundamental aims: an education which is complete and evangelizing.

Therefore, it means solidarity with the process of evaluation and discernrnent of the educational works so that they respond better and better to the Lasallian project.

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3. Church dynamisms for the new Association.

What type of Association corresponds to this third phase? If we want it to be coherent with the Church in which we live and which we want to serve, we have to build up the new Lasallian Association based on the dynamisms that nowadays give lift to the Church. Let us see those which can affect us most in this regard:

3.1 Nowadays our Church defines itself as "Church-Communion", and its mission, its raison d'etre~is evangelisation.

For today's Church, "the mission affects all Christians" (RM 2) and it must be fulfilled in communion with each other, but also in cooperation with all men and women of good will (cf GS43;VC8l)

Internally it is constituted on the following binomial: "community ~ ministries and charisms", where unity is anterior and is fundamental to the distinction; both the common Christian condition and the free and varied initiative of the Spirit which raises the variety of ministries and charisms for our common utility in the Church are being underlined; it is a scheme which, therefore, values differences, but in a complementary way which sees them as being subordinated to unity.

In this new ecclesial "ecosystem", the religious -the Brothers- are no longer separated from other Christians - and even less are they above them- but together with and infunction of the other Christians; and collaborating with other educators. They have no exclusive tasks: what is peculiar to them is to be a sign which invites to advance in communion in reference to God and his Kingdom, in the most committed aspects of the mission.

3.2 The insertion of all Christians in the ecciesial mission is carried out, based on their peculiar charism (or charisms), that is to say, based on the graces received from the Spirit for the community. Besides, in the case of ministries or services that are important for the community, they are also carried out based on the recognition or designation of the ecclesial community through its representatives.

The charism, being a gift received for the service of the community, is neither a personal right nor a mere ecclesial mission: it is a gift of God which needs an ecclesial guarantee. This guarantee is given in the same field for which the charism has been destined, whether it is the small community, the local Church or the universal Church.

The participation in an ecclesial mission, whatever it is, does not consist oniy in answering a necessity, but in doing so from a concrete charism, which, when being recognized, produces a ministry, an ecciesial identity. (See in the Rule FSC the decree of approbation by the Church. "The Brothers are called to ... (mission)... according to the ministry which the Church has entrusted to them")

The Lasallian charism produces a peculiar spiritual affinity (cf.ChL 24) among many people, in the service of Christian education. That means that the Lasallian ministerial community can never be reduced to a "work organisati9n". It is this common charism that gives it an identity, life and a possibility for its own development; and it does not prevent but stimulates the presence of other charisms, personal or sha?ed, for the benefit of the common mission (cf General Council A shared mission, 3.34)

3.3 Any foundational charism, because of its meaning for the ecclesial community and because this community is the charism's trustee, receives its warranty from that community: first from the local Church, then from the universal Church. It is then that the foundational charism is institutionalized (that is to say, officially recognized); and the corresponding institution (in this case the Institute FSC) is the site of the charism's certification for those who believe they have received it from God.

A foundational charism - such as the Lasallian charism- can be discovered and lived based on other forms of Christian life, different from the one in which it was born in the first instance. The new ways of living the Lasallian charism require an initial recognition from the Institute FSC, which is the official bearer of the charism before the Church. But when a new Lasallian group reaches maturity and receives its certification from the diocesan and universal Church, then it is no longer within the Institute's competence to guarantee or supervise the experience of the Lasallian charism in that new form, but of the group which has assumed it (this is the case with the Institute of the Hermanas Guadalupanas de la Salle, and the Institute of Catechists of Jesus Crucified).

How, therefore, can we make sure of something so important as the maintenance of the original dynamism of the foundational charism, so that it be common to all Lasallian institutions? Only through communion among the institutions. From the starting point of that communion, structures will be created so that we can speci~ and deepen it, in a double level: that of the universal Association, which corresponds to the people who are responsible for the associations, and that of the local communities, which can be grouped in a communion of Lasallian communities.

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4. A model to guide the new Association: "The Planetary System."

4.1 The new "planetary solar system" can serve us as a model to apply the previous criteria to the new Lasallian Association. In the centre of the system is the sun, the Lasallian star, that is to say, the mission that calls us all and around which we move. The charism is something like the force of gravity with which the mission attracts us and the dynamism which moves us around it to give the appropriate answer. The associates form the planetary system which surrounds the Lasallian mission, but how do we place ourselves in the system?, how do we assdciate?, how and to whom do we show our membership?

4.2 In this scheme of the planetary system there can be two extreme alternatives:

1. A unique planet in the system, rotating around the Lasallian mission: it is the Institute FSC; around this planet FSC several satellites are placed, the new Lasallian associates, individually or in homogeneous groups. This has been the most common system up to now.

2. Several planets make up the system: FSC, Lasallian Sisters... And others which could start existing as autonomous planets, even if they work more like satellites of the planet FSC for the time being: "De La Salle Christian Communities", "Signum Fidei", and so on. That is to say, the new associates find their own orbit around the Lasallian Sun, according to their identity.

4.3 It will be necessary to clari~ whether the new Lasallian Association has to organize itself around the Institute of the Brothers, and therefore, dependent on it and with diverse degrees of membership; or rather the Institute of the Brothers orientates itself so as to be integrated in a new Association around the Lasallian mission, together with the other groups and institutions that keep appearing.

There can be occasional intermediate solutions, but which direction do we take? The criteria derived from the Church-communion point.out clearly in that second direction.

In this case - and this is our proposal- it is necessary to promote the autonomy (which implies the formation and maturation in the Lasallian charism) of the groups of lay and consecrated people which spring forth around the Lasallian mission. Other structures will have to be invented which concrete the communion among the different groups and institutions.

4.4 In this "planetary system" model, each orbit symbolizes a vocational identity, or more exactly, a group of characteristics common to several people, which represent a particular way of serving the Lasall ian mission (a way of answering the educational needs of the poor from the starting point of the Lasallian charism).

To have one's own orbit in the system means to have the capacity, as a kindred group of people, to live and develop the Lasallian charisma in an integral way (in reference to the various aspects of a person, not to all the potentialities of the charism, which~surpass each individual group). It is not simply a means of living a certain type of Lasallian spirituality, or a way of organizing itself as a community.

An orbit of one's own is equivalent to a global interpretation of the Lasallian charism from a given identity, with the corresponding effect on the style of community life, on the spirituality, on the service to the mission... That is why, so as to establish that orbit officially and present it as a way of Christian life, it will be necessary to have the ecclesial recognition (cf 111.3.2): first of all, from the Institute FSC which is the first guarantor of the Lasallian charism before the Church; then, from the church authorities (diocesani'universal).

The search by a group for its own's orbit in the Lasallian Association - that is to say, the constitution of a particular Lasallian identity- and its maturation until achieving the institutional recognition, carries with it a tutorial phase or accompaniment of another Lasallian group already established. Normally, at present, it is the Institute FSC that will have to do that tutorial role. It will have to be a respectful accompaniment - recognizing the difference of respective orbits -in which the protagonism and the autonomy of the group which is being accompanied must grow progressively, but based on discernment, and offering at the same tirne a charismatic contribution of quality or even prophetic denunciation when necessary.

4.5 The model in gestation in this third phase, according to the option we offer, is an Association of Lasallian institutions and groups around the Lasallian mission, and its field of interpersonal meeting is that of Lasallian Communities, made up of different groups, each of them with their own identity; and, in places where there is one, the community of Brothers would be among them.

4.6 The step to the third threshold is the entry -with its corresponding process - into the Lasallian Association, understood with the scope marked by the "planetary system", and it does not necessarily imply being directly associated with the Institute FSC.

But the entry in the Association must be done through a group or institution (cf. 111.2.8: "the commitment is to people", "it refers to the Lasallian comiriunity", "it is expressed in terms of relationship", "it manifests itself in membership") of those integrated in the Association. The commitment is specified and expressed in the context of a given group and in reference to a given orbit (type of vocational identity); it must, therefore, be the result of a vocational search, accompanied in the corresponding group. It is convenient tQ underline the tutorial role of the Institute FSC at the moment, even though in a subsidiary way, with respect to the people and the groups that are planning to commit themselves with the Lasallian Association.

4.7 The accompanied vocational search, in view of a commitment with the Lasallian Association, can be carried out through an intensive community experience, for instance in a community of Brothers, which provides the knowledge and the experience of the Lasallian charism in its various dimensions. This type of experiences can be very fruitful under certain conditions:

The 1st and most important one is to respect the frame of experience, the community itself. The person who comes to have the experience finds a community with a life of its own, with Institution. All this cannot be obscured; it would be totally harmful and suicidal for the community to dilute its internal life or the characteristics peculiar to its identity as a consecrated body with the excuse of facilitating the integration or of avoiding the differences.

Besides, the person who carries out the experience must have the appropriate preparation to assimilate it. And finally, the conditions in which the person's insertion in the community is produced and the duration of the experience must be very well defined previously.

4.8 More frequently and with more broadmindedness we should facilitate not only the occasional but also the systematic participation in concrete and partial aspects of the life of a community (of Brothers or of any other Lasall ian group) of a person who, without being assimilated to the group's identity wishes to benefit from the aspects of the community life compatible with his own identity.

It can be the case, quite frequently, that some teachers and lay catechists who, not having at hand an irnmediate lay community with which to share their faith and their life, want to live the Lasall ian charism in the frame of the Association. The nearest community of Brothers could somehow fill that deficiency offering them a certain integration which, after the first contacts and attempts, could be defined adequately.

4.9 The Brothers should be open minded about going forward in this third phase. Their experience of the "intentional community" in the service of the Lasallian mission must be a sign for those who share the mission and for its recipients.

They should include and make explicit in their community project, their openness and relationship with the lay peqple who share the mission, and how this process with these these people could be favoured.

They should endeavour that the presence of the community be significant in the environment of the educational community, for the pupils, and for those who want to advance further in the process

*** Note to paragraph 4:

The "Planetary system" model applied to the Lasallian Association is, as all images are, limited. It is no more than a symbolic estimate which shows the centrality of the Lasallian mission and the possibility of living the Lasallian charism based on different Christiari identities and not only as some kind of support or complement of the Institute FSC. But it does not help in seeing the communion which must exist among all the groups/institutes and the associate, which must be apparent in meeting structures. It runs the risk of suggesting an interdependence of the groups, which would go against the spirit of the Association.

We might have to complete this image with the one traditional in the Institute, of the chevrons and the star, somehow modifying the motto "indivisa manent": "THEY REMAIN UNITED AROUND THE STAR."

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5. To reach the threshold: the leap to Association from the concrete and the immediate.

The participation in concrete projects and in the local Lasallian communities is a necessary step to discover Lasallian Association, and for a possible commitment to it. As in the origins, Lasallian Association nowadays can spring forth only from the itinerary covered in community so as to answer Association nowadays can spring forth only from the itinerary covered in community so as to answer the educational needs of the poor. In this itinerary we discover the essential components of the association commitment and the formulae which seem more appropriate locally will appear.

5.1 To discover the mission from participation in concrete projects.

The Lasallian mission is fulfilled through educational projects, such as various types of school, catechumenal programmes, recovery of students on the fringes and so on. The real participation in some educational endeavour is essential to be able to understand the Lasallian mission and to be called to commit oneself to Association for the mission. The widening of the horizon from the endeavour up to the mission is easier when one takes part in the endeavour accepting responsibilities and not simply as a mere agent; but eyen more so, when that responsibility is taken and discerned in community. That is why if we wish to speed up the step towards the third threshold it is very appropriate to propose the involvement in significant educational endeavours in the service of the poor to the groups and communities engaged in the process of the shared mission.

The enthusiam for a concrete project, with the answer to some concrete needs, is not equivalent to availabilityfor the Lasallian mission, an aspect which is an essential component in the commitment with Association. But it is necessary to have experienced the first so as to be open to God's Work and to feel God's call to participate wholeheartedly in his Work. It is in this process of discovery, which must be encouraged and accompanied, that the attitude of availability arises, which, for some people will lead to the association commitment.

5.2 To discover Association from participation in local communities.

An educational project is a coming together of the various Lasallian associates, together with other collaborators or partners. The Lasallian community takes shape around a single project or around several nearby ones, a communion of communities in which groups of Lasallian associates take part, each group with its own identity. In the relationship and coexistence with those already associated, other collaborators can discover this second essential component of the association commitment: the communion and solidarity with the other members of the Lasallian Community, rather than with the concrete works.

The shaping of the local Comm unity is a priority objective for the Lasallian Association, since it is the sign that reveals the sense of the educational project - a warranty of efficiency for the present and hope for the future- besides being the place where the Association is born and reborn.

The local community includes associate members (those who have engaged themselves in the Association through their commitment) arid other members who have integrated themselves in the community to reinforce its character of sign and/or to serve the local educational project. The associate members have a special responsibility acting as the leaven of communion in the local community.
The local community develops itself in various levels and structures. The wider level or circle is that of the educational community. The community of faith (which can integrate several Christian communities) is usually smaller. There can be other intermediate community structures, with specific purposes, such as the team animating education for justice, or the local team of our shared mission (they are supposed to be not only reflection and work groups but also developing communion among their members).
None of those levels and community structures requires the commitment of association to be able to take part in them, even when they have assumed living Lasallian spirituality in a more or less clear way, as in the case of a "De La Salle Christian community". But it needs be said that all and each of those levels and structures, though in a different way and in various degrees, are launchingpads for the commitment with Association. It is a quality leap that can be given only through the experience ofcommunionfor the mission, when thai experience is perceived as a call to give continuity to the "community for the education of the poor" and the sign that this community represents, beyond a concrete time and space and, therefore, beyond and above immediate personal interests.

5.3 To discover the actuality[relevance] of the Lasallian charism in the search for original answers to present day needs.

The association commitment refers to incarnating the Lasallian charism in the Church today so as to give answer with concrete projects, from the particular aspects of this charism, to the urgent needs we discover in the educational needs of children and the young especially those affected by poverty in our world.

To come to assume the third essential component of the association commitment it is necessary to be involved in community in the dynamics ofreading and discovering the needs of the young and in the planning of the solutions, also in community, The itinerary of John Baptist de La Salle and the Lasallian Association of the origins will be present in this dynamic, as a reference point which enlightens the new stage that nowadays has been entrusted to us.

The dynamic we are referring to is usually carried out through already functioning educational projects, such as the present Lasallian schools; but the existence of this dynamic in the interior of the organization of the project is what marks the difference between "incamating the Lasallian charism today" and " maintaining an educational work through sheer routine or inertia". The associate members assume here their prophetic role as well.

It is also convenient to guard against another possible contusion in the present circumstances. The initiative and the management of a Lasallian project corresponds, normally, to a Lasallian group or institution, but Lasallian associates from other groups may participate in the fulfilment of the project; each intervenes with the characteristics of its own identity. Nowadays, most of the existing Lasallian projects - mostly schools- are initiatives managed by the Institute FSC; other associates can take part in them, as well as many more educators, partners in mission. This "de facto" situation runs the risk of provoking a mentality (which can take hold both by the lay people as well as the Brothers) in which "to associate" is equivalent to a commitment for maintaining the works of the Institute FSC. The confusion will tend to disappear in the same measure as other Lasallian groups or institutions start projects of their own in which, among others, the Brothers take part. Meanwhile, we will have to be very clear with the message: the purpose of the Lasallian Association is not to maintain the existing projects and works, but to incarnate the Lasallian charism in the Church and in the present world.

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6. Crossing the threshold: The association commitment.

6.1 From the starting point of taking part in Lasallian educational projects, in local Lasallian communities and in the dynamics of discovering necessities and searching for solutions for the individual or independent way, but uniting with other people to support each other and achieve the purpose which is the underlying purpose of those endeavours, communities and dynamics of search.

The association commitment can take several forms. All of them have as their common denominator the will to incamate the Lasallian charism today, in communion with other Lasallians, for the benefit of the Christian education of youth, especially the poor, and to do it with a certain stability.

6.2 The association commitment is a leap, however big or small, because there is a change of level; it is the step from the concrete and the particular to the universal. It is not a flight from reality because the leap has its return, to discover afterwards the universal dimension lying in the concrete and the peculiar.

The commitment implies, in a first moment, overcoming the immediate, not to be dominated by the concrete circumstances that surround a project, not to accept to depend on the hypothetical success or failure of the project, or to limit the enthusiasm and dedication to the concrete recipients of the project... and all of this simply because the person, illuminated by faith, has transcended the particular situation and feels that he/she is partaking in the Plan of God, the Work of God, the Kingdom of God. They have discovered themselves to be as instruments in the service of that Work, and with that global perspective they assume the particular project because with it they fulfil, here and now, the mission received from God.

The association commitment implies also overcoming the bonds characteristic of the immediate community -the personal sympathies, the abilities and interests of concrete persons, the internal ~ans, ...- not to renounce them, but to relativize them in terms of a wider horizon, that of the communionfor the Lasallian mission; in this communion other people whom we have not chosen take part but with them we feel called for the Lasallian mission. The association commitment underlies the authentic foundation and motivation of the community, the mission. Thanks to this commitment this community becomes ministerial, because the responsibility assuined in community before God and the Church regarding the mission -and the projects in which the mission is specified- acquires priority, rather than the personal whims or wishes of the moment.

Finally, the association comm.itm'ent implies overcoming the dynaniics with which we analyse the situation of poor children and look for answers; not because we disregard it, but because the Lasallian charism, or rather, the Spirit, surpasses that dynamic. Those who commit themselves with the Lasallian Association have had to discover in their hearts the light with which God enlightens "those whom He has chosen to announce his word to the chiloren" (R 193,1); and that is why they do not feel satisfied with a dynamic of analysis, but need a spirituality from which they can find and live wholeheartedly the sense of what is being done. The commitment implies the option to live the Lasallian spirituality, from which they might incarnate the Lasallian charisma in the Church and in the world today.

6.3 The commitment with the Lasallian Association is more an offering than a contract (even if it also has the characteristics of a contract), for the same reason that the Lasallian Association is more a communion of people, united by the Spirit to serve the Lasallian educational mission, than an organization (even if it is also an organization).

Therefore the gesture of commitment is usually expressed as afeeling ofofftring:in the form of a vow, promise, sign of availability, etc., and it marks out the three recipients of of a vow, promise, sign of availability, etc., and it marks out the three recipients of the offering: God - as origin and end of our offering - the other partners of the Association as mediators of the offering and those who have motivated this Association, the boys and the young in need of education.

The mediators of the offering are the other associates. In a general sense, all those who share the Lasallian mission, but in a specific and explicit way the association commitment refers to the people of a group or institution with which, in an interdependent way, it commits itself to maintaining the purpose of the Association.

The gesture of the commitment gathers substantially the purpose of the association. The Lasall ian charism arises historically with a clear purpose: "the human and Christian education of the young, especially the poor"; but, always in reference to the integral unity of the project, it is possible to stress charismatically some nuclear aspects ofthe whole without losing the global perspective: the. education for justice, the strengthening of the community in all the educational aspects, the growth of interiority and of faith... Above all, the new situations and needs of the young can also awaken new ways of living and of applying the Lasallian charism in community. It is the Spirit who has the word.

The object of the offering - the matter of the commitment- is oneself. It is life that is at stake. People commit themselves with a way oflift, in solidarity with other people, from attitudes which guide life in a particular direction. We should notice the difference: the benefactors give of their time or their money...; the Lasallian associates give their own person, integrating it in interdependence with other people.

6.4 The formulation of the offering or commitment in the various groups of associates does not have to run according to the same rules. Simplicity is recommended and avoiding the use of excessively ambiguous terms; but we could propose some common elements.

For instance, we may coincide in the reference to the Trinity, just as expressed in the Brothers' consecration formula, since in that point there is no difference among Christians: it comes to be an actualization of the baptismal consecration.

The nucleus of the commitment has also a common element liable to be formulated in a similar way: "J promise to unite myselfand to remain in society...". From that starting point each group or institution of Lasallian associates will make its own specifications.

In any case we cannot forget that the commitment formula is only a sign-or part of the sign. It is in the bond that we must look for explanations and specifications.

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7. The bond of Association.

Commitment is life: it is beyond the sign which expresses it and it must not be confused with it. The association commitment is lived in the community for the Lasallian mission, in between these two coordinates: stability and radicalism.

The Association needs signs to be visible and to be able to institutionalize, a necessary condition for its continuity. But inside the Association not everybody has to express his/her commitment with a sign. What is really necessary is to live the commitment in a visible way. It is a way of speci~ing the bond in its double dimension:

1st. The communion for the mission is lived out with a clear feeling of membership and interdependence in two levels closely related:

In the immediate level, with a group of people with whom we live communion "here and now" and share and deepen the Lasallian charisma. With them we try to build or strengthen the sign of the local community before the recipients of the mission, and it is to that aim that we work in developing the bonds of communion with the other groups of associates if there were any (for instance, lay people and Brothers) and with all the others who share the mission.
In the universal level (or tending to the universal), with the Lasallian institution in which the latter group is inserted, or the one which serves as reference in the tutorial phase of maturation in the Lasallian charism. The solidarity towards the rest of the Lasallian Association is extended through this institution.

2nd. The lifetime availability for the mission is made operative when assuming a plan -more or less structured and detailed- whose mainlines are defined in the two interdependence levels: in the framework of the Lasallian institution and that of the local group or community. The plan bears direct relationship with the type of identity of the associates (lay, religious...) and with the Lasallian charismatic orientation we intend to give to this identity. Thus, it will tend to specify:

its relationship and participation in the Lasallian heritage;
the relationship of its specific Christian identity with the Lasallian mission; its contribution to creating the community;
the experience of the Lasallian spirituality; the availability for the mission;
the interdependence with the Lasallian institution;
permanent formation.

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8. Forms of Association in a transition period.

In the present transition stage, and because of the lack of structures to facilitate the association of lay people around the Lasall ian charism, some provisional clues could be given, knowing that the Spirit always surpasses our expectations and that we have to pay attention to discover it wherever it arises with new schemes.

8.1 The groups "Signum Fidei" nowadays answer the model "planet (FSC) with satellites". Their bond with the Lasallian Association is closely knit through the Institute, or more exactly, through the Visitor in each District. They will probably need a bigger maturation period and better training in the Lasallian charism, to put into operation a progressive interdependence among the SF groups , to reduce progressively their dependence on the Bothers so as to find new ways of communion with them, and to come to "register" a fully adult Christian Lasallian lay way of life.

8.2 Among the Christian communities which are identi~ing themselves with the Lasallian charism and within the framework of the Lasallian educational communities we have to discover and foster possible leaders - people, groups - which could serve as a reference point to promote commitment.

8.3 There can be lay people or priests who wish to associate but who lack a Lasallian group other than the Brothers. The Institute, through a district, can facilitate for them the bond they need at two complementary levels:

with apartial integration ma community of Brothers. It should be defined as far as possible but without squaring it up: it is important to do it respecfully, both with the identity of the person who is integrating and with the community accepting him/her;
with some bonds of membership and interdependence with the District, which define their implication in the mission, in the frame of the corresponsibility, and the means that are being offered, as well as the corresponding obligations, for Lasallian spiritual growth.

8.4 In the Lasallian Christian communities and similar groups, some of their members can feel called to the association commitment without abandoning their own lay identity. The first element of the bond is their integration in the Christian community to which they belong (it is understood that it is in communion with the other Lasallian communities). Their association commitment falls upon the communiiy itself, because it is its guarantee of fidelity to the Lasallian charism. The other more universalizing level will have to be made, as in the former case, through the Institute FSC. This fulfills its role of tutoring, as the first guarantee of the Lasallian charism before the Church, and pushes towards maturity and autonomy. In this case it seems appropriate to start developing communion and interdependence bonds among the various Lasallian Christian communities.

8.5 A whole lay community could decide to integrate itself in the Lasallian Association to better serve the mission of Christian education, and not finding for the moment an institution which agrees sufficiently with their idea of the Lasallian charism, decide to speci~ their membership and interdependence through the Institute FSC. The integration must be carried out seeking the equilibrium between the respect to the autonomy and lay identity of the group, on the one hand, and the participation in the structures of communion, service to the mission and training which the Institute might be able to offer through the District, on the other.

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9. To discern the mission in communion structures.

9.1 Knowing that the "mission needs constantly to be discovered"(R 51), the Association promotes communion structures in which the associates come together to listen to, analyse and seek answers to the urgent needs of the mission, as well as to discern the present works in the light of the Lasallian charism.

However, most of the structures existing with that purpose have been born in the Institute FSC and respond to the peculiarity of the Institute: General Chapter, District Chapters, Councils, commissions... All these structures have progressively been opened to the presence of the lay and other Lasallian associates. This encounters two inconveniences:

First, that those structures, born in and for the Institute, refer to multiple aspects of the Brothers' life; sometimes it is not easy to know how to define the aspects in which the other associates can take part;
Second, when opening those structures peculiar to the Institute to non Brothers, the consequent sensation and mentality is that it is a question of associating with the Institute, and not with a Lasallian Association in which the Institute fits too.

9.2 So as to solve these inconveniences it will be necessary to revise those structures so that they evolve or new ones are created, in such a way that in the Lasallian Association it may be possible to distinguish the appropriate structures to discuss among the Lasall ian associates the questions that are common to the mission or to the Lasallian charism in general, and the structures that a given group or institution, such as the Institute FSC, might need for the animation of the life of its members.

In all those cases we have to distinguish clearly the participation of the associates and of the people invited to those structures. Anyone with anything to offer or to receive in the corresponding assembly can be invited. But only the Associates can have the capacity of deciding deliberation in their own fields.

9.3 The District and the Region, at least in the ARLEP, can still be valid structures to facilitate the communion of the various Lasallian groups among themselves, not only with regard to the Brothers (cf. R 124, 127). In the same way, most of the structures for training, spintual animation, coordination of educational and pastoral activities..., that are at work in the framework of the District and the Region can be useful for the other Lasall ian associates, and not only for the Brothers. In any case, a revision is needed and we must be ready to change whatever might be necessary to avoid two possible vices: on the one hand, to assimilate the lay to a style and procedure that are specific of the Brothers (celibate, with no family obligations, members of an intentional community...) and which need not be those of the lay people; on the other, the meddling of the lay in the organization or even in the orientation of aspects peculiar to the Brothers' life.

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