From July 16-‐20, I was privileged to attend the Xaverian Brothers “Charism” Assembly in Bruges Belgium as an Associate. There were six of us there: Alice Hession and Kevin Shearer (both also representing Xaverian Brothers Sponsored Schools), Mike Buckley, Jeannette Suflita, Richard and me. Each of us will be sharing our impressions with you. Me first.
What impressed me most at the Assembly was the honesty and humility of the Brothers, who, in seeking to rearticulate their Xaverian charism, included both Associates and collaborators from the Xaverian Brothers Sponsored Schools (XBSS), in the process. We attended the talks, the discussions, the prayer services, the liturgies, and shared the excellent meals (which had a decided Belgian flavor). We sat with Brothers from Belgium and Africa and got to know them in person and by name. On the last day of the meeting, Brother Cornie Hubbuch told those assembled, “Associates are a NEW reality. There are no longer just Brothers, there are Associates who are walking with us, not as vowed members, but as companions on the Xaverian Way.” I experienced during this Assembly what I already knew: The Brothers are beautiful men, and I’m proud to be walking with them.
I’ve always wanted to see Bruges because Richard was once a Xaverian Brother, and he has talked about it often since that’s where Theodore James Ryken started his “band of Brothers.” Bruges is beautiful, old world, and has canals flowing through it. The house where Ryken lived with his first Brothers is now rundown and appears to be occupied by squaters. It is a vivid reminder of how poor the first Brothers were. I also visited the community house of the Belgian Brothers and saw those famous stained-glass windows, as well as the “museum” where there are artifacts, letters, paintings, and most memorably, the bones of Ryken himself. (Apparently many religious communities exhume their founders in case they are canonized and the community would thus need relics.) A delightful Brother Norbert showed us around and proudly told us the stories behind the ar;facts gathered there.
Being in Bruges was an unforgettable experience and if your travels ever take you there, have your camera handy and a good pair of walking shoes (those charming cobblestone streets are hard to navigate.) Also take time for a beer called Brugge Zot, some of those delicious Belgian chocolates, and enjoy being where Theodore Ryken started it all.