|Francis Cardinal George, OMI, archbishop of Chicago|
Different groups have been coming together in the past month
to mark my tenth anniversary as Archbishop of Chicago. Each
gathering has had a different spirit and each has brought
its own joys. When we think of gathering the Catholics
of Cook and Lake counties, what comes to mind are
the priests, the religious men and women, the parishes, friends
and benefactors. Another group, one that might not be so
immediately before the mind of many Catholics, will be gathering
on June 14: Lay Ecclesial Movements and New Communities.
names of some of these groups may be familiar: the
Legion of Mary, the Blue Army of Our Lady of
Fatima, the Cursillo movement, the Charismatic movement. Others have names
that are probably less recognizable: Schoenstatt, Communion and Liberation, Focolare,
Couples for Christ. Whether familiar or not, these Movements and
Communities, some begun in this country and some in Europe,
are present throughout the entire Church. Pope Benedict XVI recently
referred to them as “a gift of the Holy Spirit
to the Church.”
Many of the groups have their origins
in the Second Vatican Council, although some precede the Council
by a decade or two. All of them exist to
help members become more actively involved in the practice of
their faith in the Church. All of them witness to
Christ in different ways in the world. They continue in
a long historical line of special groups in the Church:
Monastic Orders and Religious Communities, Sodalities, Third Orders, burial societies,
Holy Name societies, and hundreds more over many centuries of
the Church’s existence.
These recent foundations are called Lay Movements
because their members are largely, and sometimes exclusively, laity. They
have canonical recognition through the Pontifical Council for the Laity.
Although some members of some Lay Movements, such as Regnum
Christi and Focolare, make private vows similar to the vows
taken by men and women religious, most members of all
the groups are women and men who go about their
daily lives the same way as any other Catholic.
why become a member? Why join a Lay Ecclesial Movement?
Because, while God calls everyone to holiness, there are paths
to sanctity that fit some people and other paths that
fit other people. Members of Lay Ecclesial Movements live their
baptismal call to discipleship through a specific spiritual lens called
a “charism” and have distinctive practices of life and ways
of prayer proper to each Movement or Community. A member
of the Charismatic Renewal, for example, might belong to a
regular prayer group that makes the gift of the Holy
Spirit’s action immediately evident or might be part of a
prayer service team that intercedes powerfully for the needs of
others. A member of Regnum Christi might be a mother
of a large family who also evangelizes by teaching baptismal
preparation classes at her parish. The members of the Neo-
Catechumenal Way embark on a long process of personal conversion
in order to bring the graces that are ours through
baptism to inactive Catholics and to the still unbaptized.
Vigil of Pentecost each year is the occasion for the
members of these more recently founded Movements and Communities to
gather with the Pope in St. Peter’s Square. Hundreds of
thousands come from all over the world to pray with
the successor of Peter. In the Archdiocese of Chicago, we
are blessed to have a dozen of the Lay Movements
and New Communities. Their names and relevant contact information can
be found on the Archdiocesan website.
Since the Jubilee
Year 2000, I have been gathering annually with the Lay
Movements here, and I am looking forward to our gathering
to celebrate my tenth anniversary. I always come from these
meetings with a profound sense of gratitude for the spiritual
riches available in the Church.
Pope Benedict, like Pope John
Paul II before him, has remarked that a bishop can
rely on the Lay Movements not only when he needs
an organized group to help with the Church’s mission but
also when the bishop has personal needs, whether spiritual or
corporal. I found this to be true last summer when
I was operated on for bladder cancer. When members of
all the Lay Ecclesial Movements were asked by the staff
at our pastoral Center to help with a prayer vigil
on the day of my surgery, they traveled to Holy
Name Cathedral, some in the middle of the night, to
pray for me and for the needs of the Archdiocese.
If you are looking to experience your faith more fully
or want to become part of a small faith-formation community,
look into the different Lay Ecclesial Movements in the Archdiocese.
The Lord has a way to holiness for everyone. The
Lay Movements are a special spiritual home for many. I
thank God for them and their members in the Archdiocese
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Francis Cardinal George,
Archbishop of Chicago
Reprinted with permission of The Catholic New World, the newspaper of the Archdiocese of Chicago.