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Monday, 27 July 2015 14:50

Christian Brothers helping those on the margins of society

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Br Sean McManus Br Peter Flint 150Helping people who are struggling and living on the margins of society has been a big part of the lives of Christian Brothers Br Peter Flint and Br Sean McManus.

The only two Christian Brothers remaining in Tasmania, Br Sean and Br Peter have used their vocations to help others, in the charism of Christian Brothers founder Edmund Rice based not on charity but on helping people to help themselves and flourish.

“We have a three word motto Presence (being with people), Compassion (meaning you come with heart) and Liberation (removing things that block people from flourishing) to sum up what Edmund Rice was about,” Br Sean said.

“The word liberating is important and is about enabling people to stand up and engage with people in such a way that they are able to flourish.”

With plans in his younger years to be a deep-sea diver, Br Peter was drawn to life as a brother after being involved with a night shelter run by the Brothers of St John the Baptist in Victoria.

“It somehow seemed a good way to live,” Br Peter said.

Br Peter’s life has taken him in many different directions including time as hospital chaplain in Belfast in Northern Ireland, assisting in the prison system, working with adolescents with mental health issues and teaching and counselling students.

“I think [the Christian Brothers charism] is to be at the margins of theology, and certainly to be at the margins of society and to nudge things along,” he said.

For Br Sean McManus, the Christian Brothers were always a big part of his life.

“I lived right next to St Patrick’s College in Launceston so I knew the brothers as neighbours, I knew every brother’s name and I went to school at St Patricks,” he said.

“I never thought of being a brother until late in year 12, but something about it just felt right and I’ve been confirmed in that as I have gone on.”

Through his life as a Christian Brother, Br Sean has worked and taught in Tasmania and Victoria, as well as in East Africa in some of the most economically marginalised areas in the world.

Br Sean is also a member of the Tasmanian Catholic Justice and Peace Commission, involved with groups assisting refugees, as well as with Edmund Rice Camps which he feels plays an important role in educating young people to be advocates for human rights.

While Christian Brothers’ numbers were now small in Tasmania, Br Sean said there were great benefits of living as part of a religious community.

“There is a saying, you alone can do it but you can’t do it alone,” he said.

“And that’s true of us, there is a strength of being more than just yourself.

“Even though there are just two of us here, I certainly feel much linked to other brothers in other parts of Australia and other people who have caught a bit of the fire that was in the heart of Edmund Rice.”

This article was first published in The Catholic Standard, the official newspaper of the Catholic Archdiocese of Hobart.

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