Fr. Martin Neyt, OSB, President of AIM International
Word of Welcome
In 1961, on the 16th centenary of Apostle of the Gauls, St. Martin, it was decided to officially create the Aide à l'Implantation Monastique, which was to become Aide Inter Monastères and then, in our own day, the Alliance Inter Monastères. Among the people who supported the creation of this organization, I shall mention just the names of Abbot General of the Cistercians of the Strict Observance, Dom Gabriel Sortais, and the Benedictine Abbot Primate, Dom Benno Gut.
In celebrating this jubilee, we are celebrating the history of an alliance that has slowly forged in monastic communities. The AIM has also helped forge bonds of communion between monasteries in the same region or on the same continent. This alliance came into being thanks to the visionary courage of men and women who consecrated their lives to making this great adventure possible. My predecessors: Abbot Robert de Floris, Fr Marie Bernard de Soos. The dedicated and efficient secretaries: Mother Maure Esquerré, OSB, Sr Pia Valeri, OSB, Sr Teresa Rodrigues, OSB and others until the arrival of Sr Gisela Happ, OSB and Sr Placid Dolores, OSB.
This alliance could not have been developed without the breath of the Holy Spirit. The signs are unmistakable: in the first decades of the 20th century there were just a few rare monasteries outside of the West, whereas in our own day the AIM links up over 450 monasteries on every continent.
They exist so that we can consecrate ourselves to God and his praise in the autonomy of each community. Learning to live in community in this changing world producing waves of poverty and riches, violence and peace, dictatorships and quests for democracy proves to be formidable and demanding when we have to transcend the obstacles of our own age. But we have to go through this to build up communion founded in Jesus Christ, where it is pleasant to live, work and pray.
The beginnings were modest: humble secretarial offices at Vanves run by Abbot de Floris, the advent of the bulletin, the development of links between monasteries in Africa, Asia and Latin America. Then came the period of big colloquiums: Bouaké (1964) and Abidjan (1979) in the Ivory Coast, Bangkok (1968), Bangalore (1973) and Kandy (1980) in Asia, as well as opening up to Latin America. The Dialogue Interreligieux Monastique (DIM) emerged from these many contacts, which have been described as a new Pentecost. After a few years, it became independent. The AIM's effort is now concentrated on the daily life of communities and on the links developing at regional, national and international level.
This meeting is not just the opportunity to recall the work accomplished by the AIM; it is also important to ask ourselves how the AIM should serve communities. On the practical level, how can the AIM help the Benedictine Confederation and the Cistercian Orders? Is its work to identify fragile communities and concentrate on these aspects? What is the priority for the AIM's finances set aside to help these communities?
I shall end this brief introduction with a few words that have emerged over the past 50 years and which are today acquiring new resonance: rejoicing, trust, autonomy and alliance. Rejoicing is a feeling of plentitude and thanksgiving leading to profound joy before the mystery of God, who is always at work in the universe and in our communities. The growth of monasteries, the emergence and development of some 450 communities, recall Jesus' words: "My Father is always at his work" (Jn 5:17).
The word "trust", based on hope, thrusts its roots into the fertile ground of the Gospel and the parable of the sower. God's word is like a seed that grows alone, night and day, no one knows how; it does not return to God without accomplishing its mission.
Autonomy and alliance are, if I may be so bold, the two hands of our communities, like Rodin's two sculpted hands. Autonomy, like the biodiversity of nature, is a constitutive element of each of our communities; the immense diversity and incomparable richness of each cultural location's specific identity at each moment in history. Alliance incorporates our monasteries into the divine bonds uniting Jesus Christ to his Church and to the whole of humanity. The AIM's work fits into this divine mystery. Thank you.