Brothers cast wide net seeking input for symposium on identity, mission

Notre Dame, Ind. — Organizers of the first National Symposium on the Life of the Religious Brother are casting a wide net, inviting not just brothers, but all people — women religious, lay people, priests and deacons — to join a discussion about the life and mission of religious brothers in the Catholic church today.

Announcing the March 25 symposium to be held at the University of Notre Dame in Notre Dame, Ind., Fr. John Pavlik, executive director of the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, said that brothers understand “that talking to themselves about their vocation and its characteristics must be expanded to include an intersection with other American Catholics.”

The symposium would welcome participation from “ecclesial leadership, priests and chaplains, young persons both familiar and unfamiliar with brothers and ordinary Catholic laity, including parents of young people considering religious life,” Pavlik said.

The symposium is cosponsored by the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, National Religious Vocation Conference, the Religious Brothers Conference, the Religious Formation Conference, the Brothers Think Tank and Notre Dame.

Discussions will center on the Vatican document “Identity and Mission of the Religious Brother in Church,” published on Oct. 4, 2015. Martha Novelly, associate for special projects for the Conference of Major Superiors of Men, expects 200 or more people will attend.

About 4,119 religious brothers serve in the United States as of 2016, according to the latest figures available from the Center for Applied Research in the Apostolate at Georgetown University. That number compares with 37,192 priests and 47,170 women religious in the U.S.

Br. John Mark Falkenhain, an adjunct assistant professor of psychology at St. Meinrad Seminary and School of Theology in St. Meinrad, Ind., will be the symposium’s keynote speaker. Other guest speakers from different religious communities will lead panel discussions as well.

Newark, N.J., Cardinal Joseph Tobin is to celebrate the 5 p.m. Mass Saturday in Notre Dame’s Basilica of the Sacred Heart to conclude the symposium events. The Mass will honor the religious brothers.

The cost is $50 for students and $75 for non-students and includes lunch.

Check-in begins at 8 a.m. Fort Wayne-South Bend Bishop Kevin Rhoades will open the symposium with prayer at 9 a.m.

“We hope to alert others to this wonderful way of following Jesus and of serving him in a life that is richly blessed and deeply spiritual,” Pavlik said.

For more details, including registration information, visit, or email Novelly at

[Shireen Korkzan is an NCR Bertelsen intern. Her email address is]

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