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Christian Brothers advance plans for Philippines focus

An in-principle decision to rechannel the Christian Brothers' energies towards overseas missions was affirmed at a meeting of the Brothers' Australian and New Zealand leaders in Brisbane at the weekend.

The move was prompted by a call by the last year by Rome-based Congregational leader Br Philip Pinto to refocus on "new and greater areas of need".

The Sydney Morning Herald reports today that, although it has no plans to quit Australia, "dwindling numbers" are focing the order to scale back its direct involvement in schools. But while many brothers will switch to mission work, the order's commitment to schools is being renewed, albeit in a scaled-back form.

The Herald says today that the order's 500 Australian brothers "were told by letter of a new mission planned for the largest bastion of Catholicism in Asia under plans to inject new energy into the order and broaden its work beyond Australia".

It says half of the 500 brothers are close to retirement age, and the order had been rethinking how best to use its stretched resources, according to NSW province leader, Br Laurie Needham. The Brothers are known mainly for their work in education, and the order runs 38 schools in Australia.

A charter has been drawn up for all schools to ensure the continuation of the tradition of the order's founder, the Irish philanthropist Edmund Rice, as much of the work started by the Christian Brothers in their schools is being carried on by lay people.

The new Philippines project represents the first joint venture mission involving all Australian and New Zealand provinces.

Br Needham said the project would broadly aim to help schools in poorer Catholic neighbourhoods but the order would first await a formal invitation from local Catholic authorities.

At a time of falling vocations, the order's decision to expand its mission work appeared almost counter-intuitive, Br Needham said. But the impulse of the gospel was "to go outwards".

Pictured: Founder Blessed Edmund Rice

Dwindling band of brothers turns its sights overseas (Sydney Morning Herald 11/4/05)

Congregation Leader Br Philip Pinto on shift from schools to Asian Missions (Edmund Rice Online 6/6/04)
Christian Brothers in Oceania - Shaping Our Future

11 Apr 2005