Saturday, January 31, 2009

Profiles of "the movements" in the Irish Church

Here is a list and introductory note on the nine main "movements" or dynamic Catholic organisations that have emerged in Ireland since Vatican II.

1. Alpha Ireland – a renewal movement for the unchurched and those who have lapsed – started in the Church of the Trinity (Anglican), Brompton and spread worldwide.Paddy Monaghan is the present leader in Ireland and has a good backing team;

2. Charismatic Renewal – started on a university campus in the late sixties in the USA and often described as "Pentecostal Catholics";

3. Communion and Liberation – professional people mostly with an intellectual and Italian flavour, founded by Mgr Luigi Giussani in Milan in the 1950s;

4. Focolare Movement - founded by Chiara Lubich, promoter of world unity and collaboration - a centre at Curryhills, Prosperous, Co Kildare;

5. L’Arche Group of Communities – inspired by Jean Vanier - a centre in Kilkenny;

6. Neo-Catechumenal Way – founded by Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez in Spain – in dynamic creativity with the institutional Church, but not seen much in Ireland;

7. Parish Cells Movement – like the Basic Christian Communities – Fr Michael Hurley, PP Leixlip - linked with Alpha;

8. Sant’Egidio Community - founded by Andrea Riccardi, promotes international peace and service of the poor - has a centre at St Paul’s Church, Arran Quay, Dublin;

9. Youth 2000 and Pure-in-Heart Group – for the twenty-somethings, associated with World Youth Day - Seán Ascough, Clarendon Street, Dublin.

1. Alpha Ireland
Alpha is a 10-week course which began in 1990 in a Church of England context in Brompton London as a renewal course for the unchurched and those who had lapsed. It became highly successful especially through the work of Nick Gumbel, a barrister become clergyman. He has developed a series of booklets and a DVD that is almost a DIY evangelisation kit but that needs a community. It has been approved by Catholic bishops worldwide and their website here advertises the courses. Paddy Monaghan is the Coordinator of Alpha Ireland and he has a board of very able people directing him.

The course explores the basic questions and truths of the Christian faith –Who is Jesus? Why did Jesus die? How does God guide us? What about the Church? It also uses a weekend away in the middle of the 10 weeks to talk about being filled with the Spirit. It is like a crash course in Christianity presenting the core of the Gospel, the ‘kerygma’, and it works best as part of an overall parish programme of evangelisation or catechesis. Alpha participants are encouraged to continue their spiritual journey afterwards through parish cell groups. See 7 below. below.

2. Charismatic Renewal
This movement originated in 1967 at a weekend retreat in Duquesne University, Pittburgh and had its biggest impact in Ireland from the mid seventies. It focused on the role of the Holy Spirit in the life of a Christian emphasising two key aspects – baptism in the Spirit and the charisms.

Baptism in the Spirit is seen as an intense spiritual experience akin to a spiritual rebirth. It can occur at any time within the prayer group culture but is usually prepared for through the Life in the Spirit Seminars. This is a seven-week series of prayer meetings with instruction how the Spirit enlivened the Apostolic community with the expectation that this power then can be similarly experienced in the here-and-now. The fifth week session is an opportunity for people to be prayed with to be "baptized in the Holy Spirit" - seen as a "fanning into flame" of the gifts and graces of baptism and confirmation. It enables a profound personal response to God's call to take Jesus as the Lord and Saviour of your life. The remaining two sessions are to stress continuity and give teaching on the charisms.

The charisms as St Paul lists them in 1 Cor 12:8-10 have a slightly exotic aura about some of them that may arouse scepticism. They are listed as: “wise speech, the utterance of knowledge (= becoming articulate about what you believe), faith, the gift of healing, the working of miracles, prophecy (the gift of speaking God’s message), discernment (the gift of distinguishing true spirits from false), speaking in tongues (or ecstatic utterances), and the ability to interprete the utterances.” But charisms, St Paul insists, are to build up the body of Christ, the Church. The list is not exhaustive; there are many other more mundane charisms, such as being a good listener, welcome and hospitality, a word at the right time (like Mary at Cana), organisation and planning, IT and financial expertise.

Some of the Charismatic Renewal culture – laying on of hands, expressive and spontaneous prayer, hymns, awareness of different gifts, etc - has been incorporated into mainstream Catholic practice. There are Charismatic Renewal prayer groups meeting in every diocese and an annual conference is held. The central office is at Emmanuel, 3 Pembroke Park, Ballsbridge Dublin 4. Bishop Martin Drennan of Galway is the liaison bishop.

The outstanding figure of the movement internationally is probably Charles Whitehead. For many years he was at the central office in Rome and now works with youth in the diocese of Northampton. He spoke recently in Dublin.

3. Communion and Liberation
An ecclesial movement whose purpose is to educate its members to Christian maturity to collaborate in the mission of the Church in all the spheres of contemporary life.

It began in Italy in 1954 when Fr Luigi Giussani established a Christian presence with a group called Student Youth, in a high school in Milan and has the name since 1969. Its central belief is that the Christian event, God becoming human in Jesus, can be lived as a communion and is an genuine liberation for the human being. The organisation is present in about seventy countries throughout the world.

There is no type of membership card, but only the free participation of persons. The basic instrument for the formation of members is the School of Community, a weekly catechesis which strives to raise awareness of questions such as: Why The Church?

For the last three years their public face in Ireland has been the Stations of the Cross on Good Friday in the Phoenix Park led by the Archbishop of Dublin Diarmuid Martin. Their members are mostly professional people, interested in issues of education, the Church and society. Many are Italian who have come to work in Ireland.

4. Focolare
The Focolare Movement was founded by Chiara Lubich in Trent, northern Italy, during the disturbances of World War II. Its ideal is the unity of the human race as a single family, a communion of diversities and seeks to promote this through prayer, dialogue and social action across generations, social classes, cultures and peoples.

The term Focolare Movement (focolare means "fireplace") was applied since its beginnings, by the people of Trent because of the "fire" of Gospel love, which animated Chiara Lubich and her first companions. She describes those beginnings:

While in the air-raid shelter - Trent, 1944 - we came upon that page of the Gospel which speaks of the Testament of Jesus: "May they all be one, Father, as you and I are one". These words seem to light up one by one. That "everyone" expanded our horizon. That project for unity was to be the goal of our life.

Focalare arrived in Ireland in 1971 and now has nearly 500 people committed to its ideal of unity. Another 5,000 people from all around the country share in its spirituality through the Word of Life, a commentary for bringing the Gospel into everyday life.

Members can be found in Dublin, Kildare, Meath, Cavan, Kilkenny, Limerick, Galway, Cork, Belfast and many other places. They include young people, families, priests, sisters, members of different churches and non-believers. It has a centre at Curryhills, Prosperous, Co Kildare.

Chiara Lubich is a highly influential figure internationally. She spoke to the Synods of Bishops in 1985 and 1987 on lay spirituality. On the eve of Pentecost 1998, in St Peter's Square, she along with Andrea Riccardi (Sant'Egidio), Jean Vanier (l'Arche), Kiko Arguello (Neo-Catechumenate) presented her experience on the occasion of the First Meeting of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities with Pope John Paul II, who recognised in them a hope for the Church and for humanity.

She has also been a promoter of collaboration between the movements in the Catholic Church and with movements from other churches and other religions.

5. L’Arche group of communities
A group that tries to give those with disabilities of any kind their proper dignity and place in the Church and in society.

It was a Dominican priest Père Thomas Philippe who helped Jean Vanier 'begin something' with people with learning disabilities, about 40 years ago in France. Jean, originally an officer in the Royal Navy, had become an academic in Canada, but he felt increasingly called to a different life. He met two men called Raphael Simi and Philippe Seux who were living in a large institution near Paris - the only home they'd known for many years. Jean invited them to come and make a home with him in Trosly. He knew he could not help everyone, but that by helping a few, together they might be a sign to others.

Today there are 114 communities of L'Arche in 28 countries responding to the needs of people with developmental disabilities to find a creative place in society. The name refers to the ark of Noah, the Old Testament symbol of a place of safety and refuge for those who are at risk.

The belief is in the value of a shared life, a simple lifestyle and the spirit of the Gospels. The communities of L'Arche seek to be in solidarity with the poor and marginalised of the the world and with all those who struggle for justice. Originally founded in a Roman Catholic environment, the communities today are ecumenical and interfaith in their focus.

  • L'Arche communities are places of hope. They create communities which welcome people with a mental handicap, in this way seeking to respond to the distress of those often rejected and to give them a place in society.
  • L’Arche develops and shows the particular gifts of people with a mental handicap in the communities and who call others to share their lives. Home life is at the heart of a L’Arche community. They live, work, pray and celebrate together, sharing their joys and their suffering and forgiving each other, as in a family, giving priority to relationships.
  • By choosing to live relationships in community as a sign of hope and love, L’Arche hopes to change the wider society.


6. Neo-Catechumenal Way
Founded in 1964 by a Spanish painter and student of Pablo Picasso, Kiko Arguello. Arguello had become an atheist, but in a conversion experience like that of Charles De Foucauld, he saw the poor as suffering the passion of Christ, and went to live with them in the Palomeras Altas slum on the outskirts of Madrid Here the poor were gypsies and quinquis (white nomads) as well as illiterate people, tramps, thieves, prostitutes, and young delinquents.

Carmen Hernandez, a chemistry graduate with an interest in liturgy and inspired by the renewal of Vatican II, met Kiko Argüello in this setting. With Kiko’s artistic temperament and previous experience as a catechist in the Cursillos movement, they made a synthesis which became the neo-catechumenal way. It is a process of evangelisation of Catholic adults who have lost interest in the faith.

The poor of the slum responded to the seed which Kiko and Carmen sowed among them and formed a vibrant community which soon came to the notice of the Archbishop of Madrid. Their method was to apply to those who had been baptised and lapsed the spiritual and ascetical programme used for adult cathecumens in the process of preparation for baptism. They also developed distinctive liturgical variations in the Mass designed to build up the strength of the individuals and the community in their faith.

Many bishops have not liked their being different, but are also nervous that the Way may become a sect. They have seemed, until recently, to have been in a fairly constant creative tension with the Vatican offices.

On June 13, 2008, however, Cardinal Stanislaw Rylko, president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity, published a decree containing the definitive approval of their statutes and handed the decree of approval and a final draft of the statutes to Kiko Arguello and Carmen Hernandez, initiators of the Neo-Catechumenal Way, and to the Italian priest Fr. Mario Pezzi.

The process of approval was prolonged because it involved the areas of responsibility of five separate Vatican dicasteries: the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Congregation for Divine Worship and the Discipline of the Sacraments, the Congregation for the Clergy, and the Congregation for Catholic Education, all of which gave careful examination to the statutes, alongside the Pontifical Council for the Laity which co-ordinated and concluded the process. This now gives the Way 'formal legal recognition'.

At present, I can find no evidence that the Way exists in Ireland.

Have a look at:

7. Parish Cells Movement
Parish cell groups are small faith groups of between four and twelve people who meet every fortnight in the homes of a participant. The elements of the meeting comprise a few hymns and an opening prayer, reflection on a scriptural passage, sharing about where one may have seen God’s influence since the previous meeting, a brief talk (or tape where a number of groups meet in the same parish) explaining an aspect of faith, discussion of what’s said, prayers of intercession and healing.

The aim is bring faith into the events of life and find its implications for the home, neighbourhood, work, recreation and parish. It gives a grounding in faith, the language to talk about it and a way to share spirituality without feeling ashamed of it..

The movement has much in common with the basic Christian communities that changed the life of the Church in South America from an array of largely superstitious practices to committed social Christian communities.

Michael Hurley, parish priest of Leixlip, introduced the movement to Ireland in 1990. He is the author of Transforming Your Parish, published by Columba Press 1998.

8. Sant'Egidio Community
The Community of Sant'Egidio began in Rome in 1968, in the period after Vatican II at the initiative of a young man, who was then less than twenty, Andrea Riccardi. He gathered a group of high-school students, like himself, to listen to and put the Gospel into practice. The small group immediately began going to slums on the outskirts of Rome, then crowded with poor people, and do an afternoon school for children. Today it is a movement of more than 50,000 members dedicated to evangelisation and charity, in more than 70 countries throughout the world. A large number of persons is also reached by the various activities of service that the community performs.

The community has as its centre the Roman Church of Sant'Egidio in Trastevere, from which it takes its name. Here it maintains a continuous presence of prayer and welcome for the poor and for pilgrims. The different communities spread throughout the world share the St Egidio spirituality and principles:

  • prayer is central to the overall direction of community life;
  • communicating the gospel, the heart of the life of the community, which extends to all those who seek and ask for a meaning for their life;
  • solidarity with the poor, lived as a voluntary and free service, in the evangelical spirit of a Church that is the "Church for all and particularly the poor" (Pope John XXIII);
  • ecumenism, lived as a friendship, prayer and search for unity among Christians of the whole world;
  • dialogue recommended by Vatican II as a way of peace and co-operation among the religions, and also a way of life and as a means of resolving conflicts.

In Dublin a small group of up to 30 young women and men meets in St Paul’s Church, Smithfield, Arran Quay, Dublin 7 after the 8 pm Mass on Sunday evening and at 8.30 pm on Wednesday.

9. Youth 2000 & Pure-in-heart
Youth 2000 is an independent, international initiative that helps young adults aged 16-35 plug back into God at the heart of the Roman Catholic Church. It seems to have had its origin in World Youth Day 1989 in Santiago de Compostela when Pope John Paul II challenged young people to evangelise young people.

Emphasis is on celebration of the Mass and adoration of the Eucharist; then on active evangelisation and the organisation of retreats and spiritual events for young people. It is young people who are at the heart of the initiative, and they offer what they have received to others of their generation.

Youth 2000 are happy with the official teaching of the Church. They draw on the Scriptures, the Catechism of the Catholic Church and what the Pope says. Mary and the Rosary are prominent. They promote the new Luminous Mysteries - Jesus’ Baptism, Cana, Proclamation of the Kingdom, Transfiguration and Institution of the Eucharist as a charter for living.

The seem able to bring traditional forms of worship alive to young people in a way they can relate to. Its prayer festivals resound with live music, with a dedicated music ministry and contemporary Christian songs. Their style is down-to-earth, liturgically sound and highly participative – its services are not performances – everyone’s involved.

It encourages young people to take time out time in prayer and rediscover the power of the sacrament of Reconciliation (or Confession) and the value of penance (in the form of prayer, fasting and almsgiving.

It has been described as a ‘Hymn Gym’, where young people get a spiritual work-out. Often people turn up to events a bit spiritually adrift but find that they come back re-energised for the faith. Often this leads on to participation in parish life and in issues of social justice.

In early 2000 Sean Ascough took on some leadership responsibilities. In 2004 it set up its first national office in Clarendon Street in Dublin. See

An offshoot of Youth2000 Ireland is the Pure in Heart Community dedicated to promoting the true beauty of human sexuality and encouraging a responsible attitude to sex amongst the youth. Its aim is to educate, inspire and empower young people to enjoy a healthy lifestyle by living the virtue of chastity. How? by speaking on dating, relationships, and sexuality.



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(Source: CIN)