Image by Pope’s Worldwide Prayer Network.

Pope Francis has named his prayer intention in May for the ecclesial movements and groups in the Church. He states that they are a “gift” and “treasure” to the Church, and, I believe, to the wider world. These ecclesial movements and lay associations spread the Gospel message of love, in many and various ways, and are a sign of renewal within the Church.

Pope John Paul II stated that:

Ecclesial movements… represent one of the most significant fruits of that springtime in the Church which was foretold by the Second Vatican Council… revealing the freshness of Christian experience, based on personal experience of Christ.Pope John Paul II, Message to participants in the 1st World Congress of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities, 1998

Pope Francis goes on to say that each group has their own special charism, a gift from the Holy Spirit, which helps to create and develop the different groups, which work to transform lives.

There are so many different groups within our Church community who serve to build our faith, serve our Church community, and/or serve our wider community.

Many parishes formed Basic Ecclesial Communities, others formed Family Groups. Their charism is to be together, to support and evangelise each other, to share resources and find ways to help and serve one another. Other groups may focus more on supporting each other in faith sharing, such as the Jesuit Christian Life Communities, and other orders which have lay apostolate groups.

Catholic Women’s League (CWL) and Knights of the Southern Cross work in our parish communities by political lobbying, community health, community ethics and social justice, as well as Church leadership and participation, spiritual formation and enrichment. The CWL also works to increase interfaith dialogue and ecumenism.

St Vincent de Paul Society states it was formed for the “sanctification of its members by service to the poor.” The Society has developed over the years and acts as an advocate for the poor, while still offering immediate help.

The Sisters of Saint Joseph of the Sacred Heart has been an ecclesial movement from its founding. Mary MacKillop and Julian Tenison Woods were passionate about caring for the poor and the needy, following Mary’s famous instruction to “never see a need without doing something about it.”

Josephite Companions logo.

The congregation has changed and evolved, to suit the needs of today, but still expresses its charism to serve those most in need. Many of the Sisters are involved in social justice groups, supporting those on the margins, migrants and refugees, Aboriginal communities, as well as working in parishes, school, health, and health of the planet. The lay groups, the Covenant Josephites and Josephite Companions, are carrying on the legacy of all those wonderful women who devoted their lives in the service of those in need.  The Josephite Charism includes:

  • PASTORAL CHARISMS. Focus: nurture of individuals and community…
  • COMMUNICATION CHARISMS. Focus: transforming lives through communicating truth…
  • ORGANISATIONAL CHARISMS. Focus: meeting structural needs of organisation/group…

Pope Francis exhorts us to grow in love and service to others, and the words of the old song “They will know we are Christians by our love” seems to sum up his message. He says: “Love and charity are service, helping others, serving others. There are many people who spend their lives in this way, in the service of others. … When you forget yourself and think of others, this is love!”

He further added that “volunteers are the strength of the Church” as they are “a dimension of the Church’s mission because you go there with your volunteering and maintain so many actions of the Church.” (5.12.2022)

“Parishes should be close-knit communities, without bureaucracy, people-centred — a place where the gift of the sacraments can be found. They have to become once again schools of service and generosity, with their doors always open to those who are excluded,” Pope Francis says in his video message for February 2023.

Margaret Daly
Josephite Companion and Covenant Josephite