New movements: Part IV.
We have changed the title of our series from "Lay Associations" to "New Movements". We ask our readers' indulgence about these general titles which should be understood in a flexible way. Some movements may not be quite so new, some associations may not be "movements ", others may not be lay associations.
Our series began with Opus Dei under the title "Lay Associations" when, in fact, Opus Dei is not a lay association. It is a personal Prelature and, canonically, therefore not an association of laity though it was founded to serve them. It has over 2000 priest members.
El Shaddai -- Almighty God
By Fr. Leonard A. Kennedy, C.S.B.
This movement began in the Philippines in 1984. "El Shaddai" is a biblical Hebrew expression meaning "Almighty God." A well-to-do Philippine real estate owner, Mariano ("Mike") Z. Velarde, 38 years old, was to undergo critical heart surgery in 1978. He was, however, cured without surgery in what he and his doctors thought could only be a miracle. Along with other evidence that God was calling him to do something special, he started an organization that is now a member of the Catholic Charismatic Movement of the Philippines. Its purpose is to share faith in Jesus and have its members experience its light and joy. Its spiritual director is a Philippine bishop.
Already it has spread to twenty countries, including Canada in 1990 and the United States in 1991. In Canada there are about 5,000 members, in Edmonton, Montreal, Toronto, Vancouver, and Winnipeg. El Shaddai has TV and radio programs in the Philippines and Hong Kong, and a Sunday morning radio program in Southern California. It sends out 200,000 copies of its quarterly publication free, and also free pamphlets, books, and audio and video tapes of its TV and radio programs.
It sponsors weekly prayer meetings and occasional large rallies, stressing the importance of Scripture and of personal testimonies dealing with conversion, or with healing from broken relationships, physical ailments, drugs, alcoholism, smoking, or adultery. It is especially dedicated to evangelizing the unchurched.
It has many volunteer workers, who must be baptized Catholics of orthodox faith and of excellent moral character, and who have been members for at least three years.
Members are asked to support financially the cost of running TV and radio programs and the cost of publications, as well as the living costs, transportation, and health benefits for support staff and volunteer preachers. Half of the donations are spent on parish-based projects and on the training and development of volunteer workers. In addition, needy persons in the Philippines receive free medical checkups and, for a minimal fee, medical tests, optical and dental care, and medicines, administered by medical-dental doctors and personnel. There is also free legal consultation by volunteer lawyers, together with burial assistance and relief assistance in case of fire, flood, earthquake, or storms.
The spiritual benefits to members are peace in their hearts, and thus in their families, and thus in the wider society. Members discover or reinforce the awareness that God is always present to them and that they are in His loving care.
More information in Canada may be obtained from Miss Ely A. Agullano, Secretary-Treasurer of the Movement, 19 Ranee Avenue, Toronto, M6A 1M7, phone 416-256-2060, fax 416-653-7704.
By Fr. Leonard Kennedy
Founded only in 1998, Witness is an organization which at present is based only in Toronto. It focuses on catechesis and evangelization, which it believes is the greatest need in our modern society. It wants to help all Catholics to know their faith, to defend it, and to spread it, in accordance, of course, with the authentic teaching of the Church.
It also informs the Catholic faithful of their rights and responsibilities as Catholics. It combats practices which run counter to the Church's teaching and might endanger faith and morals. It encourages suitable educational and informational materials and techniques, working always in the spirit of Christian charity and humility. And it encourages prayer, without which no initiative, however well organized, can succeed.
Witness has regular meetings and also six mailings a year.
For further information, contact Jim Duffy, Chairman, 900 Dufferin Street, P.O. Box 24018, Toronto, ON, M64 4H6, tel. 416-604-9886, fax 416-604-7293.
Pain de Vie
By Mary Marrocco
The Pain de Vie (in English, Bread of Life) Apostolate is small, persistent, dedicated, and mostly unnoticed. It struggles every day to hear and live the Gospel, not in outer space, not in the far reaches of Africa, but in the city in which we live. At the level of food and drink and the daily obstacles, sorrows, and delights of life, Bread of Life is lived out.
Prayer, life with the poor, the nourishment of the Eucharist, and commitment to children, are the charisms of our community. In Toronto we are a small group of "Companions," who share the charisms and work of Bread of Life while remaining in our own homes and ways of life. For each of us, therefore, our commitment takes a unique shape, but all of us share concretely in the charisms and work.
Our local community is part of a larger body, the international community of Bread of Life. It began in France in 1976 with a young couple, Pascal and Marie-Annick Pingault. They were wanderers who had turned away from the Catholic faith and sought the Truth in political ideologies, drugs, and eastern philosophies. Finally, through the grace of repentance, they turned towards Jesus; their lives were profoundly changed, and they knew they had to share it. They started to live like the early apostles, together with others, faithful to communion, prayer, service, and life with the poor.
Pascal, now the father of seven children, is Superior of the community. He received a vision of the community: "I saw a numerous people, with all vocations gathered in one body at the heart of the Universal Church. They lived together in the same places, in the continual presence of the Lamb who revealed himself to me."
Through his personal courage and outreach, the deep commitment of his wife, and the work of many others whom he and Marie-Annick have met over the years, the community now has about 2,000 members in some 50 houses spread through 5 continents. In North America there are about 30 members, in Montreal, Quebec City, and Toronto.
There are many forms of commitment. Some members take vows of poverty, obedience, and chastity, if they choose consecrated life. Others, as in Toronto, are committed as Companions and can live outside the community. There are Companions of the Future (aged 18-25) and Children Companions. Companions renew their commitment every year. The Community also has a special mission to youth, which includes participation in World Youth Day as well as local events and programs for young people.
One of the main joys of Bread of Life is that it is not just an idea, but a way of life lived by real live persons. One such is Peter, who has lived for years on welfare and disability pensions in a tiny basement apartment in Toronto, whose life consisted of cigarettes and prostitutes, and who never had a birthday celebration before he was 60 years old. At our St John's Mission, he discovered his relationship to Christ, was baptized into the Catholic Church, and committed himself to prayer and service. Above all, at St John's he found a family, who gave him a reason to live and grow. Peter was one of the first members of Bread of Life in Toronto, and is now for us a continual source of encouragement and nourishment.
One of the favourite prayers of the Community begins with the words, "O God, send us foolish people."
Being part of the larger community connects us with the whole world: with places of deep suffering and poverty, and places of strong faith and prayer. We are supported by the life and prayer of people far away from us, who are struggling to live truly Christian lives in the world. The community also is dedicated to mutual concrete support. In our case, for instance, a community member came from France to help design and build our chapel; through his own labour and the work of neighbourhood people and volunteers, he converted a run-down two-storey rooming house into a stunning home for Christ, panelled in wood and filled with silence, beauty, and presence. A home for the poor, amid the noise and bustle of east-end Toronto: this is the lived charism of Bread of Life.
Our main work of service in Toronto is St John the Compassionate Mission, which welcomes the poor and invites them to supper (community meals, neighbourhood meals prepared and served by the neighbourhood people themselves), drop-in coffee, and companionship; and, for those who are ready to go deeper, spiritual fellowship, prayer, the life of Eucharist and liturgy. Some of the regular staff and volunteers of St John's are Companions of Bread of Life. The Mission becomes our concrete place of service and prayer, where we learn not only in theory but in the day-to-day encounters of life what it means to become bread for one another, and to be made one with Christ who is one with the poor and suffering.
Some of us are married, with children; some single; some from the neighbourhood; some from more mainstream walks of life. All of us know our need of prayer, service, communion, and the blessing that Christ's own poor carry within them.
The community welcomes lay and ordained people, and all live according to their own state. In Toronto, we have a special double commitment: to find out how families can reach out to concrete service of the larger community while at the same time caring for their own development in faith and health; and to find out how the work and charism of single people can also lead them more deeply into community life, companionship, and commitment.
The International Community of Bread of Life is a lay community of the Catholic Church. It also has a special relationship with the Orthodox Church, seeking to support its work and life with the poor in several countries.
Further information about Bread of Life is available from Mary Marrocco, St. John the Compassionate, 155 Broadview Avenue, Toronto, M4M 2E9; telephone 416-466-1357; fax 466-3517.
New movements desiring coverage in Catholic Insight, please contact Fr. Leonard Kennedy at Catholic Insight.