Madagascar: Pastoral Visit of the general Superior in the District of Antananarivo: November 15-16

Tuesday, November 15, 2016: Closing Celebration of the 150 years’ celebration of Brothers’ presence in Madagascar in Lycée Stella Maris of Toamasina.

Toamasina, the most important seaport of Madagascar saw the arrival of the first three French Brothers heading to Antananarivo in 1866. It is only in 1962 that Lycée Stella Maris in Toamasina was founded. Ever since its foundation, many Brothers and lay teachers have dedicated themselves body and soul to the service of children and young people. The closing celebration of the 150 years of Brothers’ presence was for the Lycée Stella Maris a beautiful opportunity to honour its educators. The Grand Chancellor, Bishop Désiré Tsarahazana, Archbishop of Toamasina, granted during this celebration, 19 medals of merit and 5 medals of officer to teachers of Lycée Stella Maris. The Brother Superior, Robert Schieler, and the Brother Visitor, Mamy Olivier Rabarone, were invited to hand over these different distinctions. Two Brothers, Jean-Noël, the school principal, and Pascal, Director of the Brothers’ community received each the medal of the Chevalier.

To avoid any confusion with the distinctions given by the Church, those granted by the State had been given the day before. Stella Maris welcomes seminarians of the archdiocese for their secondary studies. These seminarians, thirty in total, pay a reduced school fee. Among those to be ordained during the closing of the year of Mercy, on Sunday, November 20, three are former students of Stella Maris.

During the Eucharistic celebration, the Assembly of the faithful prayed with different groups of students coming in dancing processions to mark specific moments of the liturgy: entrance, Gloria, Liturgy of the word, Procession of offering, Thanksgiving… The Mass was beautifully led by three different choirs. It ended with the presentation of decorations and a series of Speeches: that of the Br Jean Noël, the school principal, the Br general Superior, the representative of the beneficiaries, Mr. Odon, and finally the Archbishop, who thanked the Brothers in particular for their contribution to the formation of seminarians.

Other outstanding events of this morning: immediately at the end of the mass, the general Superior, the archbishop and the Br Visitor proceeded to the inauguration of a gallery of paintings on the school wall fence. Finally, the archbishop blessed a new statue of the evocative Virgin Mary of Our Lady of the Star. Snacks and drinks gathered the guests in the school celebration room where the Malagasy demonstrated once more their particular genius in songs and dances…

At 3.00 pm, Brother Robert Schieler met members of associations and various Lasallian groups in the audio-visual room of Stella Maris.  Those members were children and young people especially: young Lasallians, choir members, Scouts, Guides, dolphins of Blessed Louis Rafiringa… Accompanied by the general Councillor, the Br visitor and the Brothers of the community of Stella Maris, the Brother Superior joined the Community of Saint Joseph School at 5.30 pm, where the Guadeloupian Sisters were also waiting for him to have a time of sharing followed by the diner.

Wednesday, November16

Very early in the morning, we had a bit of sunshine. A small rain fell to remind us that we were in the raining season. Three consecutive days of grace were granted to us and this facilitated the celebration of the feast and at the same time the visit of the general Superior.

This Wednesday was basically dedicated to the little ones. After a brief visit of goodbye to the archbishop, the Superior went to Saint Joseph School neighbouring the archdiocese. This school, the District’s second in terms of foundation and Brothers’ property is 147 years old. Other schools closer are being opened everywhere in the city. Therefore, Saint Joseph is experiencing a decline in the number of students. The kindergarten and the primary school have 400 students this year. The Brother Superior asked a few seemingly simple questions to the children: Do you know what a Superior means? Who is John -Baptist de La Salle?

The next touring was Our Lady of Lourdes School, entrusted to 5 Guadeloupian Sisters. This school, inherited from Their Brothers, has 21 teachers, 800 students from kindergarten to primary. An enthusiastic reception, with a hedge of honour just at the entrance welcomed us. These little children sang beautifully the chorus and the first verse of the Hymn to Saint John Baptist de La Salle. The Principal, Sister Vivianica, presented her school after telling the children who their visitors are. She underlined the good collaboration with the Brothers in particular through the registration of their students at secondary level in Stella Maris… The students’ Parents Association Chair, Madam Nina, who came especially for the occasion, thanked the Brother general Superior for this visit. The votes of thanks were accompanied by offering of souvenirs. A lunch, which the Sisters only have the secret, gathered the Brothers around the general Superior before taking off to Antananarivo at 2.55 pm.

General Councillor for RELAF (Translation by the regional secretary)

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