Mary's Impact on Youth Today (2)
June 2019
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Mary’s Impact on Youth Today - Part Two
Fiona Holani-Liava’a

Marist Logos Youth Development
Kia ora, my name is Fiona Holani-Liava’a and I am very fortunate to be a part of the Logos Project Connectors team. What a connector is in the Logos Project is a volunteer youth worker who helps out with the programmes that Logos Project runs in Catholic schools in Auckland City. We are a Marist organisation founded by the Marist Fathers 20 years ago and I’m very blessed to be a Marist. Though, when I was first invited to go to Guatemala with Antonia Swan, my travel buddy, to attend the Marist International Conference, I thought of myself mostly as a representative of Logos; but it wasn’t until I got there and interacted with my fellow Marists from around the world, young and old, clergy and laity, youth and elderly, that I actually realised that I am a Marist, and that I can claim being Marist as part of my identity. So I’m very blessed to have come away with that conclusion.

One of the most impactful things that I encountered at this conference in Guatemala in January was being with my community. The group of 200-300 of us were split into 15 groups and there were 11 people in my group. We were Group 12 - Team Blue and we were made up of 1 Aussie Marist brother, 1 Aussie Marist Missionary Sister who had lived in Brazil for the last 20 years, her name is Sr Grace. We had 1 Italian, 3 Mexicans, 1 Peruvian, 1 Brazilian, 1 Guatemalan, 1 US American and me, and I’m from New Zealand and I am of Tongan ethnicity. So what I realised with the diversity of our group was that it was very enriching. With our discussions we each brought unique perspectives and experiences to share. It did bring a lot of challenges - even trying to get through one task in our group - and that was because not all of us could speak English or Spanish - there was always one person in the group who didn’t know what the other person was saying so everything was translated twice; and when people are translating sometimes nuances and meanings are left out of those translations. However we were able, as a group, to help each other understand and move forward. My biggest takeaway from this, and also interacting with other people at the convention was that we as humans - we speak a universal language. It’s beyond mere words. The language is connection. We are able to understand each other’s feelings, each other’s personalities and emotions. And even if we think we’re so different, we can focus on our similarities and find unity in that. And we can continue to push each other forward. So I fell in love with my community and I fell in love with everyone I met at the event.

Another very impactful event that I encountered was the day that we covered “Solidarity”. We had 4 themes: the first one was, Interiority, Community, Solidarity and Mission and “Solidarity” really touched my heart. What my group did, Group 12, we visited Hogar Marina Guirola Leal which is an orphanage caring for young children and youth with disabilities. We spent the day playing with these vibrant, energetic and beautiful children and I was very blessed to be touched, in my heart, by them. At first I was so nervous before going in to the orphanage because I had never done this before. I don’t have a lot of experience with young children and I don’t speak Spanish so I was wondering how I was going to connect with these children. When the little sisters who look after the children were explaining some of the backgrounds these children come from, I had to hold back my emotions and my tears because their suffering was very sad to me and my heart was heavy but I was able to push through it with the help of my community friend. His name is Eddy, he’s from the USA. He told me, “just be a kid and play with them”, and he was right. Some of the children couldn’t speak, nearly all of them were confined to wheelchairs, yet we all had so much fun (and exercise) running around with these energetic and also hilarious children; racing around the track, dancing to reggaeton music, and talking. I found that we spoke the universal language of fun with laughter and smiles and play and singing and dancing. They understood me and I understood them; and they ended up giving me more than I could ever give back to them. I will never forget their beautiful faces and the love that warmed my heart that day. It felt bittersweet to leave them knowing we couldn’t do much more for them but their joy and laughter, despite their challenges in life, filled my soul. They did more for me that day than I did for them.

So some of the workshop takeaways for “Solidarity” was “Your neighbour is the other.” “When you go out to be with people on the margins of society, we also get in tune with ourselves.” “Think globally, act locally” “The core of solidarity is the pursuit of peace and justice” “Step out of your comfort zone, for that is where the growth is”

Thank you Maristas for giving me this opportunity to meet these beautiful young people from Guatemala and from all around the world. I’m proud to be a Marist.

God bless.

Simply use these questions as a starter to guide your sharing.

What stands out for you in the Scripture above?

Share your thoughts on Fiona’s statement that ‘human connection’ is the universal language?

Fiona had to rise above her emotions to be present with the children and just play. When have you risen above your emotions to be present with another person in solidarity?

What do you think Fiona meant when she said “Step out of your comfort zone, for that is where the growth is?”

When do you think Mary stepped outside her comfort zone?

Conclude in prayer together

Then pray: -

Thank you Lord for the gift
of belonging in Mary’s family.
Renew our identity and commitment
as part of the global Marist family.
Weave us together as a community
willing to respond to Mary’s call to move
beyond our comfort zones
with kindness, friendship and solidarity
as instruments of mercy in prayer and action,
for the glory of God
And in the name of Christ Our Lord. Amen.