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29.04.2016 14:45:47 8804x read.
The challenges facing the Brothers in Malawi today.

The challenges facing the Brothers in Malawi today.
On 11th March 2016 the last Dutch Missionary, late Br Henk van Heck, passed on, in this way bringing to a close the presence Dutch missionaries to the Malawi province. Like many FIC Dutch missionaries who came to Malawi, Henk was a model for the Malawian Brothers, helping us to grasp the meaning of true brotherhood. He had natural love for the most forgotten-the handicapped, the orphaned, the Deaf and Dumb, the challenged and the poor--and brought all them into the warmth of his heart and the goals of his life. He lived life lively and he stayed involved in its deepest aspirations until the very end, we will forever remember his positive influence.
At the passing of this hero, the number of brothers have been experiencing a steady decline from peak numbers in the 1990s. The schools, technical projects, printing press, social ministries and other ministries started by the Dutch brothers are today staffed primarily by laymen and laywomen. But vocation tour way of life today also provides a wide array of opportunities for the brothers to choose a unique path by serving our congregation in new and different ways while remaining faithful to our charism of Education and Human Formation. 
As our numbers decline, we wonder if we have not lost the spirit of our founders. This is why in this year we want to pay special attention to our apostolic mission. We want to rediscover the spirit drawing us to the origins and the uniqueness of our FIC vocation and its charism. The Second Vatican Council called on all communities to renewal through a constant return to the sources of all Christian life, and stressed that “the spirt and aims of each founder should be faithfully accepted and retained, as indeed should each institute’s sound traditions, for all of these constitute patrimony of an institute.” (Perctae Caritatis, n. 2)
In 2015 when we celebrated 175th anniversary of our congregation, the question; “what is our apostolic mission?” was taken up enthusiastically by each brother, each community and the whole province. In our discernment we were continually invited to commit whole heartedly to our mission.  We reflected on the mission we inherited from our founders, Monsignor Louis Rutten and Brother Bernadus Hoecken to see the best fit with the signs of our times and places; the contemporary needs of the people we are being called to serve. 
Our founders continue to inspire us. They do so by their writings, but even more so by their example of brotherhood and sincere concern for the poor. We honor their memories. 
We also honor the memories of the first four brothers who came to Malawi in 1960; Brother Bosco Hendrix, the mission superior, Agnus Jansen who was to establish Montfort College for the training of primary school teachers, Lambertus van Berkel who was to be the headmaster of St Patrick’s Secondary School and Tarcisio van Raaij would be the builder of new teachers’ college. From the community journals we read that the first days were difficult:
“…the brothers in Mzedi have been leading an extremely hard life. They worked as seriously as possibly till late in the night but always without any success or a ray of satisfaction. On the contrary the students grew more and more impatient; the majority of them had been forced by the Malawi Government to follow their lessons at Mzedi School which has been notorious for its bad reputation for poor results in examinations. Small wonder students doubt of our ability to help them pass their examinations. Moreover, a great part of them are non-Catholics so that good religious education has been extremely difficult. To cut a long story short, the spirt has been the teachers at the end of their tether ….” Recorded by Bro Aloysius van der Broek, 7 April 1961. 
Where do we see our vocation heading in the future?
I think what we are called to, as men religious, is also what the world is called to. That is to give space and time for communication and relationships, to be near one another and do it very mindfully. “We live in this world as human beings, together with all other human beings. Just like everyone else we wish to make the best we can of our lives. Just like everyone else we ask for the deepest and most perfect happiness.” Art 1 of FIC Constitutions.
As we become fewer in numbers it is becoming difficult to share our apostolic engagements with fellow brothers in the same space and time. The TV in our recreation halls has also robed us of quality recreation when we could share our joys and concerns.  We must learn to put in the right perspective what the world around us is longing for and what our community’s spirit is asking for. 
As we discern our apostolic mission, our invitation is to, once again, encounter the Jesus who continues to say, "What are we called to?" It is also an invitation for our FIC communities to ask, “What is our witness to be?”
In April 2016 all the brothers gathered in Mary View to review the vision and apostolic mission of the Malawi Province. We came to the conclusion that is our mission is to lead others to God, therefore, one critical priority must be to create formative communities and transform our individual lives in order to help the youth who lost the attraction to religious life to return to the fullness of their faith. They need models and holy people to lead them.
In the Gospels we are told of our Lord who went up the mountains for prayer, teaching us to be prayerful. And so must we climb our mountains. The farther one is from Sinai, the rabbis taught, the more diminished they are.
“How long have you been a monk?” the seeker asked.
“A real monk? Not long,” the elder answered. “It took me 50 years to get up the mountain of decision.”
“Do you have to see first before you decide, or is it that you decide first and then you see?” the seeker asked again.
“If you’ll take my advice,” the elder said, “you’ll drop the questions and go right up the mountain.”
If religious life is not to dry up and blow away, sick for the want of faith and waiting for miracles that do not come, it is time for us to quit the questions and go right up the mountain before there is no mountain left to climb.
“Old lady,” the innkeeper said to the pilgrim stopped for the night on the way to the holy shrine. “You will never be able to climb that mountain in these monsoons.”
“ Oh, sir,” the old lady said, “that will be no problem whatsoever. You see, my heart has been there all my life. Now it is simply a matter of taking my body there as well.”
If religious life is to be religious life, my friends, form your communities to climb and climb and climb. To where God awaits us even yet, even now.
The Dutch Brothers have shown us the way. They have been successful in their time and our time is now. They have laid our foundation it is upon us to build carefully on that foundation. Our strengthen lies in our unity. Each brother and partner has something precious to contribute.
Henry Ibrahim

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