This year makes the sixth year for the Marianist Brothers coming to the Solomon Islands to run their program for teachers, catechists and Sunday School teachers. This year, Bro.John Sandrowicz, S.M. makes his first visit to the Solomons. Bro. Roger Poletti, S.M. was here in 2006 and is this years’ coordinator for the MAST Program. Bro.Timothy Driscoll, S.M., who has coordinated the last 5 MAST Programs was leading the Marianist Pilgrimage to World Youth Day in Sydney with 150 students coming from the 2 Marianist schools in New York.
MAST is an acronym for Marianist Apostolic & Spiritual Training.The brothers focus on making teachers aware that they are a real catalyst for spreading the Gospel of Christ in their classrooms,villages,and communities.Therefore,time is spent building up those pillars of the faith that will strengthen them as Catholic educators.
The theme for this year’s workshop comes from St. Paul’s letter to the Philippians where he writes, “I can do all things through Jesus Christ who strengthens me.” Each day begins with a prayer service.Time is also spent learning new music for our concluding Mass. It is in a Caribbean style and has been very well received.A daily “Word of the Day” presents several maxims to offer the participants sage advice.Classes are also presented on the Saints,the Sacraments,and on a booklet by Judith Dunlap entitled, “When You Teach in a Catholic School.”The afternoon sessions includes videos featuring true stories of people who in the field of education and who have made a major impact upon their students because of their passion and love for this profession and their students.
Each week on Friday, the tables are turned and the participants have the opportunity to become the teachers.The class is divided up into several groups and asked to discuss the major themes and topics from the week’s presentations.Each group must then come up with a symbol of strength which they draw out, not using lines, but using the words and phrases that they highlighted in their discussions.Each group then presents their findings to their classmates.Both Bro Roger and Bro John have commented how pleased they were to see the wide range of symbols and the real depth of understanding that the participants have displayed. For the brothers, this is also an opportunity to see and the views and challenges that the people of the Solomon Islands understand to be facing them as they grow as a Church.
The week’s workshop closes on Friday afternoon with Adoration of the Blessed Sacrament and a Eucharistic Holy Hour.This is followed by the closing mass.At the end of mass,each of the attendants is presented with a certificate for their participation in the MAST Program and a compass.The compass is a reminder that as teachers, we have two jobs. First,to fill young minds with knowledge. Second, to give those minds a compass,some direction,with which that knowledge can be utilized and applied.Just as the compass of a mariner will always point to the north, the compass of a Christian teacher must always point to Christ.This continues to be the goal of the MAST Project,to continue to build and to strengthen the relationship between the teachers,their students,and their God.