In 1819, two French priests, Fr. Jean-Marie de la Mennais and Fr. Gabriel Deshayes founded the Brothers of Christian Instruction, an international religious congregation committed to education among the working class and making Christ known and loved. As the congregation began to grow, they traveled beyond France to England, Africa, Asia, North America, Spain, South America and Oceana. In 1960, the Brothers of Christian Instruction founded Walsh College, later Walsh University, with the same spirit and commitment to education and making Christ known.
To celebrate the bicentennial of the Brothers of Christian Instruction, Miguel Chavez, Associate Vice President for Mission Implementation, along with the help of FIC Brothers Walter Zwierchowski and Charles Desjarlais have established a Walsh branch of The Mennaisian Family. This cohort will follow in the spirit of La Mennais by bringing Mennaisian spirituality to campus through the charisms of the Brothers of Christian Instruction. This August, Walsh was honored to welcome the newly appointed Superior General Br. Herve Zamor, who met with Chavez to discuss forming The Mennaisian Family on campus.
The Mennaisian Family is an international organization of men and women who learn about the Brothers of Christian Instruction, share in their spirituality and joyful charism, and commit to making a difference in the lives of others. Currently, the Walsh campus is home to the following FIC Brothers Walter Zwierchowski, Charles Desjarlais, Chrysostom Ahimbisibwe, Michael Bulumba and Guillermo Davila.
“At each meeting, members of the Mennaisian Family will pray together with the Brothers and listen to a brief presentation by one of the Brothers or a representative,” said Chavez. “Following the presentation, there will be a time of guided group discussion and storytelling. After a time of reflection, the Mennaisian Family will share a meal together. Participants will receive quarterly workbooks that will help facilitate discussion at meetings, guide daily prayer commitments, and offer insights in discernment and discipleship.”
The Mennaisian Family will help students bring to life the characteristics of the Brothers on campus including a joyful presence, sense of familial accountability, dedication to the salvific work of education and commitment to servant leadership.
“For the Brothers, it’s their prayer that inspires, guides, forms and informs their actions and desire to make Christ known and loved on campus,” said Chavez. “Their spirituality, which is the intentional activity that flows from prayer, animates all of us on campus. Explicitly or implicitly, as members of this community, it’s their spirituality and charism that breathes life and purpose into who we are and what we do in education. Whether it’s a desire to serve the poor, making a difference by using our gifts and talents, demonstrating Christ’s love to all we meet with a missionary zeal, or embracing hope in times of hopelessness, we carry out the legacy of the Brothers of Christian Instruction when we, like them, are animated by love.”
As the program continues to grow, Chavez and the Brothers look to the future, where cohorts may be able to travel to visit the Brothers and other Mennaisian communities abroad.
“Students within the Mennaisian Family will participate in trips to Alfred, ME, or La Prairie, Canada, to visit special locations that chronicle the history of the Brothers of Christian Instruction and meet with Brothers who continue to shape and influence Walsh University,” said Chavez. “These trips will also provide our cohorts the opportunity to use their time and talents to serve the Brothers and their surrounding communities. In the future, we hope to meet up with others within the greater Mennaisian Family all over the world including Tanzania, Uruguay, Rome, Uganda, France and more.”
The Mennaisian Family will be an integral part of the Walsh community in furthering Walsh’s mission of being leaders in service to others.
“Living out the Mennaisian charism involves seeking the small opportunities to serve God by serving others,” said Chavez. “Fr. John Marie de La Mennais, the co-founder of the Brothers of Christian Instruction, wrote to his Mennaisian brothers and sisters, ‘Nothing is small in the service of God, and your perfection does not consist of great things that rarely happen, but in the small things that happen every day’ (RFIC 84-86).”