Guatemala Trip for Marist Youths
January 15th marked the beginning of the biannual International Gathering of Marist Youth. It was held in Guatemala this year and centred around the theme of Weaving Life. Ciarán McDermott, a past pupil of Marist College Athlone (Leaving Certificate 2018), and a Marist Leader, was given the opportunity to attend, representing the province of West Central Europe. The Marist organisation is present in three schools in Ireland: Marist College, Athlone, Moyle Park College in Clondalkin and Marian College in Ballsbridge. However, the Marist organisation extends much further than the shores of Ireland. Ciarán met with people from Australia, Brazil, Mexico, New Zealand, Madagascar, South Africa, Europe and America, to list only a fraction of the vastly diverse group of 188 Marists that attended, all gathering to extend their knowledge on the international work of the Marist.
The week-long event was divided into four main topics: Community, Solidarity, Interiority and Mission. Wednesday was dedicated to ‘Community’ and included a trip to Antigua, Guatemala, a small city surrounded by volcanos. The city was destroyed in a 1773 earthquake which ended its 200-year reign as Guatemala’s colonial capital. It was soon after rebuilt and is now a UNESCO world heritage site. Ciarán was given an insight into an otherworldly culture, viewing the work and unity in the local community.
Thursday’s solidarity experience was one of emotion and motivation, when Ciarán travelled to Moisés Cisneros Primary school, which is situated an hour and a half away from Guatemala City. The school was established fifteen years ago by the Marist to provide education for children who otherwise risk ending up in gangs. It is the only school in the locality and the students leave school knowing how to read and write, use a computer, and basic maths – all skills that their parents do not possess. The project is a huge success, providing new opportunities to the young people of the surrounding shantytowns.
Interiority was the subject of Friday’s activities and discussions. It centred around the idea of understanding one’s own identity. We are dominated by things like social media, work and study, and lose sight of our true identity; who we really are. It is only by taking a step back and listening to the world, that one can find out who they really are.
The following day the group explored the topic of ‘Mission’. Fr. John, superior general of the Marist Fathers gave a very powerful presentation of his experience on missions. Originally from New Zealand, Fr. John spent over thirty years providing help to those who need it. He explained that it was very important not to intrude. The goal was initially to listen to the locals, understand and help them.
The experience showed Ciarán a completely different way of looking at life. Weaving lives together through community, solidarity, interiority and mission, to create one world of peace, harmony and equality.