‘Where two or three are gathered’

| Susan Klemond for The Catholic Spirit | July 15, 2015 | 0 Comments

The what and why behind lay ecclesial movements

Bunny Vouk of St. Pascal Baylon in St. Paul, right, leads discussion at a Communion and Liberation gathering July 10 at St. Ambrose in Woodbury. Joining in the discussion are, from left, Anna Knier of Maternity of Mary in St. Paul, Carmela Parisi of Annunciation in Minneapolis, Lorraine Schlueter of St. Ambrose, Judd Moorhouse of  St. Ambrose and Dan Stokman of St. Joseph  in West St. Paul.  Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

Bunny Vouk of St. Pascal Baylon in St. Paul, right, leads discussion at a Communion and Liberation gathering July 10 at St. Ambrose in Woodbury. Joining in the discussion are, from left, Anna Knier of Maternity of Mary in St. Paul, Carmela Parisi of Annunciation in Minneapolis, Lorraine Schlueter of St. Ambrose, Judd Moorhouse of St. Ambrose and Dan Stokman of St. Joseph in West St. Paul. Dave Hrbacek/The Catholic Spirit

At Archbishop Bernard Hebda’s first public Mass in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis July 12, a group of Catholics held a banner reading “Welcome, Archbishop Hebda” and played music and danced on the Cathedral of St. Paul steps. The Catholics were members of the Neocatechuminal Way, one of approximately 15 lay ecclesial movements in the archdiocese.

Catholics who aren’t familiar with lay ecclesial movements might recognize what some of their members do: provide faith formation, reach out to the poor and marginalized, and seek holiness through regular gatherings and daily disciplines.

“In the world of today, you need to be able to be a Catholic in different ways, much more than the two options, lay or ordained,” said Massimo Faggioli, an associate theology professor at the University of St. Thomas in St. Paul who has researched the movements. “In the Church of today there are so many different charisms and needs, and the movements have filled these gaps.”

Lay Catholics have historically found different ways of living and supporting each other in the Catholic faith through focused movements and structured communities. Often started by a single founder, a large number of lay movements worldwide serve the Church in many apostolates independent of, but often working with, parishes.

Well known international movements include Communion and Liberation, Focolare and the Community of Sant’Egidio, all of which have local members who may be active in their own parishes but also committed to the movement’s work.

Like many members of lay ecclesial movements, Sant’Egidio member Dale Schmidt feels that his community meets a need beyond the scope of his parish. That, however, doesn’t preclude the international community from integrating into parish life locally.

About 10 core members and other occasional members serve the elderly and meet weekly for prayer at St. Richard in Richfield. Founded in Italy in 1968, Sant’Egidio members seek to pray, communicate the Gospel and befriend the poor.

St. Richard parishioners are receptive to Sant’Egidio’s presence, and some participate in its outreach projects, said pastor Father Mark Pavlik.

“People know the group prays on a regular basis for peace, the sick,” he said. “It benefits the parish to know an organization at the parish is not just praying for the prayer chain, but are getting together regularly to pray for the good of the Church.”

A sign of the Holy Spirit

Movements fill roles that they discern Jesus calls them to, said Jeff Cavins, archdiocesan director of evangelization and catechesis, whose office has contact with some of the movements. The number of lay movements in the archdiocese is stable, he said, adding that about half the movements in the archdiocese are national or international.

Encouraged by its teaching on the laity, many movements formed after the Second Vatican Council and now have gained official Church status. The movements are evidence of the laity’s growing role in the Church’s mission and have been encouraged by recent popes.

The variety of lay movement recognizes this role and the work of the Holy Spirit, said Faggioli, director of the Institute for Catholicism and Citizenship at the University of St. Thomas and author of “Sorting Out Catholicism: A Brief History of the New Ecclesial Movements” (Liturgical Press, 2014).

Waves of new movements have risen periodically in Church history, Faggioli said. The most recent one began early in the 20th century and peaked around Vatican II in the 1960s, he said.

St. John Paul II and Pope Emeritus Benedict XVI encouraged development of the movements, while the Church continues to consider their role, Faggioli said. Pope Francis has continued to offer support, but cautioned them against becoming a Church of movements.

It’s unclear if the number of movements are growing today, Faggioli said. Some have drafted statutes that the Vatican has approved and are recognized by the Pontifical Council for the Laity.

Seeking holiness

Despite some outside criticism that members should focus energies on parishes, movement members say they work for the same goal: holiness.

The 1983 Code of Canon Law states that new movements and

associations are an authentic way to live out a dimension of Catholic life, said Gordy DeMarais, senior coordinator of the Community of Christ the Redeemer, a

Catholic charismatic covenant community based in West St. Paul.

Many lay movements have an emphasis on personal prayer, conversion and living the Christian life fully in one’s state in life, said DeMarais, a parishioner of St. Louis King of France in St. Paul and founder and executive director of St. Paul’s Outreach, a Catholic ministry organization for college campuses.

Founded in 1978, CCR members support each other in daily life rooted in Christ. The community has roughly 350 adult members, said Jim Kolar, CCR founder and coordinator who is a Cathedral of St. Paul parishioner.

Lay ecclesial movements offer lay Catholics a way to live their faith in a mainstream western culture that rejects many Christian values, Kolar said. “It becomes increasingly important that people find ways of living their Christian life within the context of others in which they’re loved and supported and encouraged by other Christians who have that same desire and the same vision,” he said.

CCR members don’t see their life together replacing parish life, but as a way to live more fully as Catholics in their parishes and the archdiocese, DeMarais said.

Ministries whose origins are connected to CCR — youth ministries St. Paul’s Outreach and National Evangelization Teams Ministries, and the diocesan priest fraternity Companions of Christ — show the community’s gift to the local Church, he said.

People of Praise is another charismatic covenant community that emerged from the archdiocese in the 1970s. One of 22 branches in an international ecumenical movement, locally 90 percent of its 500 adult members are Catholic, said Tom Caneff, a parishioner of St. Bonaventure in Bloomington.

Members are called by the Holy Spirit to care for each other in covenant relationships established by solemn agreement. That’s something Caneff said he hasn’t seen in parishes.

Beyond giving a joyful greeting to Archbishop Hebda, the Neocatechumenal Way offers faith formation for baptized Catholics to understand and live their faith more deeply, said Daniel Lopez, who with his wife, Alexa, oversees Minnesota NCW communities, including one at St. Bernard in St. Paul and several in southern Minnesota.

NCW was founded in 1964 in Spain to provide adult Christian formation. The movement came to Minnesota in 1989. About 80 members meet at St. Bernard, said Lopez, adding that NCW is integrated into the parish.

Involvement in the movement Communion and Liberation has helped Bernadette Vouk, a parishioner of St. Pascal Baylon in St. Paul, participate more fully in the Mass and sacraments, she said.

Started in Italy in 1954 and established in the archdiocese in 2002, CL fosters faith formation, Vouk said. About 50 members meet weekly, mostly at local parishes for prayer, song and discussion of faith-related texts.

“Through my life in CL, I understand more of what it means actually to be a part of parish life ?— which is that we’re united by Christ’s presence,” Vouk said. “And that’s the whole reason we’re together.”

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