La Neylière: A Visit with ‘Maristes en Education’, 23rd -25th March, 2017.
In the weeks leading up to my two-day trip to la Neylière I had been told by my colleagues about the feeling of community, the camaraderie and the wonderful surroundings. However, it was only upon my arrival that I realised where this ‘Marist’ feeling and ethos, that is ever-present in my school and every-day life at work, originated.
Everyone had gathered because of a common and shared interest – to learn more about the Marist way; to reflect on one’s own practice and values and to share experiences of how it is for each individual to be a part of the Marist community. The participants had all attended voluntarily, meaning everyone was eager to get involved, mingle and share stories. This open and honest atmosphere set the tone for the two days in la Neylière.
Being the only teacher from a Marist school outside of France, it was interesting to hear the different approaches the French establishments have in the teaching of their students but also in how they create and maintain the ‘Marist’ atmosphere within their schools.
Overall, the two days were organised extremely well- including masses, meditation sessions, entertainment and a series of workshops that focused on the theme of ‘Vocation humaine et orientation’. These workshops encouraged the participants to mix as a group and hinged largely on self-reflection - a reflection of one’s own experience of vocation and what this word meant to each individual. This session revealed diverse opinions, individual paths that people had taken and choices they had made but ultimately everyone had one thing in common – life had led them in one way or another to become a member of the Marist community.
Personally, I took a lot from the workshops, which were led by a passionate and engaging speaker, Isabelle Parmentier, but there were several points that have stayed with me since then. When asked the question ‘Why did you become a teacher?’ the majority of the group answered something to the effect of ‘Because I love children.’ – the expected response for anyone who feels their work with young people is enriching and rewarding. However, this is not how we should answer this question. If we are to live out the Marist ethos behind education, we must instead answer ‘In order to love children’. We must replace the ‘because’ with ‘in order to’ – in order to help them, in order to encourage them, in order to enrich their lives – this is what our vocation as teachers calls us to do.
A quote from Jean Claude Colin sums up the Marist view on our role as educators;
‘When a man leaves the hands of his nurse, he is only sketched in rough. We must make
him into a man, form his heart, his character, his virtue etc.’
Words that continued to appear over the weekend included happiness, courage, meeting, calling, faith, companionship, trust and invitation. These are all words that not only sum up my first visit to la Neylière but also that embody the Marist ethos and what it means to be a member of the Marist community.
Emma Murphy, St Mary’s College, Dundalk