Thursday, July 31, 2014

Apostles for Today

August - Prayer and reflection

New Evangelisation and
the Universal Call to Holiness

Ireland, like many other Western countries that once had strong and vibrant Christian communities, is now in need of evangelisation. The Universal Church has put New Evangelisation at the core of her concerns and actions. Pope Francis states, ‘In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded’ (Evangelii Gaudium 23). In stating this, the Pope is giving strong and clear leadership to our Church regarding evangelisation. He is not allowing us to stay in our own comfort zone and leave large sections of society untouched by the Gospel. It is also important to note what the Holy Father said in relation to Church: ‘Being Church means being God’s people, in accordance with the great plan of his fatherly love. [...] It means proclaiming and bringing God’s salvation into our world, which often goes astray and needs to be encouraged, given hope and strengthened on the way. The Church must be a place of mercy freely given, where everyone can feel welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged to live the good life of the Gospel’ (Evangelii Gaudium 114). What a beautiful and wonderful vision is contained in those words. The task of all missionary disciples, but in particular, members of the Union of Catholic Apostolate, is to help everyone we encounter to experience and be part of the community that is this Church. However, if this vision is to be realised, a transformation must take place so that authentic humility and contemplation will be the outstanding attributes of God’s people.

It is also important to acknowledge, at all times, that our transformation or conversion can only happen with the help of the Holy Spirit. It is by the grace of God that we respond to the love that God has lavished upon us. We are called to proclaim the Word and to sow seeds, but it is the Spirit who acts once the seed is sown (Mk 4:26-29). To quote Pope Francis, ‘God’s word is unpredictable in its power. [...] The Church has to accept this unruly freedom of the word, which accomplishes what it wills in ways that surpass our calculations and ways of thinking’ (Evangelii Gaudium 22). In order to allow God to surprise us and to be open to his work, in ourselves and in others, we need to prepare our own hearts by becoming closer to Jesus and to his Word.

We must not allow the sheer enormity of the task to paralyse us into inaction. Rather, all big ideas are accomplished by a series of small steps right down to the power of one of these. I believe that this is how God’s plan for us is worked out over time. The mission of the Universal Church is also the mission of the local and domestic Church. The task of evangelisation is not confined to bishops, priests and religious. It is the work of the whole church, the whole People of God.

The Universal Call to Holiness

Our God is a good and generous God as we see in the parable of the Labourers in the Vineyard (Mt 20:3-4): “Going out about the third hour he saw others standing idle in the marketplace and said to them ‘You go into my vineyard too’. This call is as vibrant today as it was 2,000 years ago, and was re-echoed by Vatican Council II and again in Christifideles Laici. It is addressed not only to the clergy and religious but to every baptised person. Each one of us receives from God a vocation and a mission to enter into collaboration for the good of the Church and of the whole world. In founding the Union of Catholic Apostolate, St. Vincent Pallotti realised the necessity of a structure to facilitate such collaboration in order to revive faith and re-kindle charity in our Church and in the world.

The first reaction of many lay people, myself included, when asked to become involved in evangelisation is to say, ‘I am not worthy or I am not holy enough to do this work’. But Jesus came to heal sinners and we are all sinners. We are all human; we disappoint ourselves and others in many areas of life; we often fail to reach our potential; yet God always offers us another chance.

Reflecting on the life of St. Peter helps illumine God’s work in us and offers great encouragement to all. Peter was a layman whose first reaction to God’s call was, ‘Leave me, Lord; I am a sinful man’. But Jesus said ‘Do not be afraid’ (Lk 5:8-10). Peter shows his determination when he attempts to walk on water, but immediately falls back once more into fear (Mt 14:8-32). Later on, Jesus tells him that he is an obstacle to God’s plan of salvation, because he fails to understand that suffering is part of Christ’s mission (Mt 16:23). Peter is also challenged by the infinite mercy of God and the call to imitate him in his boundless forgiveness (Mt 18:21-22) as he tries to get to grips with the far-reaching implications of being a follower of Jesus.

Finally, all of Peter’s human weaknesses and emotions come to the surface in Mt 26: 33-69. His great courage and loyalty are shown during the arrest of Jesus. His failures and weakness are demonstrated by his inability to stay awake and pray in the Garden and above all by his denial of Jesus in order to save himself. These are all very human and natural traits. Yet God used his weakness and past failures to transform Peter. In responding to the Universal Call to Holiness each one of us ought to be inspired by the extraordinary transformation of Peter, through the power of God, into the great leader and martyr that he became.
If new evangelisation is to be realised it will not be through mere words, but by the quality of our witness in our local faith communities and parishes. The process of evangelisation will happen quickly if every person we encounter in our daily lives and work feels welcomed, loved, forgiven and encouraged as Pope Francis recommends. Our task locally is to help people to become aware or more aware of God’s presence in our world. A world where many people have lost a sense of mystery - where God and religion are being pushed out. A real awakening to a sense of the sacred is necessary if new evangelisation is to succeed. A greater awareness or sense of God’s presence is needed if people are to respond to the universal call to holiness and act on their vocation.

I have often spent time with young people exploring four lines of a poem by Elizabeth Barrett Browning:

 ‘Earth's crammed with heaven,
And every common bush afire with God,
But only he who sees takes off his shoes;
The rest sit round and pluck blackberries’

My two and half year old granddaughter’s world is full of mystery and wonder which she has no difficulty in embracing wholeheartedly. What happens to us as we get older? Do we lose our sense of mystery? Do we settle for knowing how things work without ever asking why? Do we lose that sense that there is always ‘more’? If we do, we have become berry-pickers and we are in urgent need of being awakened to a sense of having come from God and of returning to God. Richard Rohr says that we ‘cannot attain the presence of God because we are already totally in the presence of God. What is absent is awareness’ (‘Everything Belongs’). In trying to bring about an awakening to the Spirit or a greater awareness of God’s presence we may discover that actions speak louder than words. How we relate to each other may well hold the key.

This focus on relationships is important because it is through relationships that God’s love, mercy, joy and forgiveness will be encountered and experienced. This is the real challenge that Christ puts before all of his followers. ‘It is easier to immerse ourselves in doing a thousand things or getting involved in various causes, especially if we can connect them to the Gospel, than to attend to relationships; because relating to people demands a certain degree of trust, openness and vulnerability, which can cause some discomfort’ (From a talk given by Rev. Ruth Patterson). Yet this is precisely what we will have to do in order to be missionary disciples. Jesus gave us a perfect template in the way he revealed the Kingdom of God through word, action and table fellowship.

In John 4:5-30, the encounter between Jesus and the Samaritan woman at the well is a very good example of the Master at work. Jesus is humble and asks for a drink of water. He spends time with her, they discuss her life, he listens and he offers something of great value. It is in the dialogue that she recognises who he is. After the encounter with Jesus, the woman immediately becomes a missionary and, as a result, many Samaritans came to believe in him because of her testimony. If we are to be effective in evangelising our neighbour, we will first of all ourselves need to have encountered the risen Lord in a deeply personal and life-changing way.

If our communities, parishes and homes are truly places where God’s loving presence can be encountered, where his Word is broken open and shared, where his actions are experienced and his table fellowship is offered and real, then we can say we are wholeheartedly engaged with New Evangelisation and beginning to make the vision behind the Universal Call to Holiness a reality.

Questions for personal and/or group reflection:

·       Can you remember a particular time in your life when you experienced God’s call to holiness in a more deeply personal way than before?
·       How has your experience of God’s call changed over the years? And your  response to that call?
·       What communities of faith have helped you to nourish and deepen and respond to that call in relationship with others? Your family? Your parish and diocesan family? The Union of Catholic Apostolate? Other groups? The Universal Church?
·        In what ways are you, in your local UAC group or another faith community, involved in discerning the signs of the times and the needs of those around you and in responding to them as apostles of the Infinite Love of God through concrete practical initiatives?


       Come Holy Spirit, burn away our selfishness and fill us with your love.

Come Holy Spirit, burn away our anxiety and fill us with your peace.
Come Holy Spirit, burn away our jealousy and fill us with your generosity.
Come Holy Spirit, burn away our anger and fill us with your forgiveness.
Come Holy Spirit, burn away our unbelief and fill us with a faith in Christ that transforms our lives.

Come Holy Spirit, burn away all that prevents us from hearing your call in the cry of the poor and from pouring out our lives in generous service of those who yearn for us to be for them living witnesses and missionary disciples of your Word, of your justice and peace, of your mercy and forgiveness, of your tenderness and compassion, of your goodness and truth, of your joy and simplicity, of your love. Amen. 
(Adapted from a prayer given to me by the late Kevin Devlin RIP)

                                                              Pat Maguire,
                                                              Dublin, Ireland
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, Roma, Italia

May-June-July 2014

Dear sisters and brothers in the Union,

       we are happy to present to you in this extended issue of the newsletter a sharing about the Siuyu Rehabilitation Centre, Siuyu, Tanzania, prepared by Fr. Tommy Ryan SAC and collaborators, along with other news from the Union.


         The village of Siuyu is found in the rural semi-desert district of Singida, Tanzania, one of the poorest areas of the country. In 2007, Fr. Tommy Ryan SAC, an Irish Pallottine, opened the Siuyu Rehabilitation Centre, and continues to be its director. The centre is run by the UAC, and was built largely through fund-raising by family in Ireland and some friends in the USA. Its main aim is to help those with intellectual special needs to have access to primary school education and education in the wider sense, giving them the opportunity to mix socially with others, to learn everyday tasks and to develop the "skills" necessary for life to the extent that their potential allows, one of the few centres in Tanzania which does this. The Centre also accepts those with physical special needs in order to afford them similar opportunities which they too would otherwise not receive. There are two Pallottine Missionary Sisters involved full-time with the children: Sr. Rozy Ombay SAC, the Occupational Therapist, who is responsible for the day to day running of the Centre and receives the children, interviews the parents, and does physiotherapy and some occupational therapy with some of the resident children and physiotherapy with some non-resident pre-school children who come for exercises, and Sr. Paskalina Boniface, SAC, who takes care of food etc. and the general administration. There is also a matron, a store keeper, a woman who works with Sr. Rozy in physiotherapy and occupational therapy a few times a week, and a helper for the teachers who assists in preparing the children for school, accompanying them to and from school and during school hours. A group of 6 women work from morning to evening Monday to Friday and another of 5 on Saturday and Sunday to prepare the children for school, clean, cook, wash clothes, etc. One girl with special needs sews and takes care of the clothes, especially of the small children, and a local man comes for several hours each week to repair the wheelchairs. There are 4 watchmen who, taking alternate weeks by day or by night, each work two weeks a month, also cutting firewood as a voluntary contribution. Each night 2 women and 2 men come to sleep, as there are four dormitories, two for the bigger boys and one for the bigger girls, and one more for the smaller boys and girls together. All of the workers are largely voluntary, getting a small 'thank you' at end of each month that they work, and all but three are members of the Union of Catholic Apostolate.
         There are 65 children currently resident in the centre, all of whom go to the local government schools each day. 14 have only physical special needs and 4 have mild learning difficulties, with 2 of these going to the local secondary school and the other 16 to the local government primary school, all of them participating in ordinary classes for the full school day. The other 47 are intellectually disabled and go to the same local primary school for just three and a half hours each day for special classes with special government teachers. The children are divided into four groups depending on their ability.
         A disability of any sort anywhere in the world is a hardship, but in a poor, semi-arid, rural Tanzanian community, where daily subsistence through physical labour is already a struggle and social services of any sort are extremely rare, a child with special needs is often considered an overwhelming burden, both physically and socially. But at the rehabilitation centre, the children and, equally importantly, their families, now get support they wouldn’t have believed possible only a few years ago. No school fees are demanded, as it would be unthinkable for most families to use scarce resources on a child with special needs. The parents are asked to make a small contribution, such as a bag of maize or charcoal, or a few shillings to the centre every year so that they are not completely detached from the rearing of their children, but many are either not able or decide not to. Every child that it is judged will benefit through being in the Centre is accepted irrespective of this, and irrespective of religion or tribe. Despite the lack of funding and the overpopulation of the centre, the over-riding impression is of the happiness on the children’s faces, their perseverance in walking and their determination to be integrated with the local school. It is also inspiring to see the more able children looking after those with more serious conditions by pushing them around in their wheelchairs and helping them with other activities.
         Fr. Tommy asked some of those involved in the Centre to share their impressions:
         Mama Lucy, Mama Filo, and Mama Mbuja, three lay UAC members who work in the centre, noted the importance for the life of the Union in Siuyu of having one concrete apostolate involving all of the UAC members there. It keeps the group together and active in a type of apostolate that is very much in keeping with the teaching of Pallotti. It also enables some of the members to meet together each day for prayer, while all come together for Mass with the children on the last Saturday of each month and also for the Novenas of St. Vincent and of Our Lady Queen of Apostles, the centre’s Patron. They also find working alongside the Pallottine Fathers and Sisters an enriching experience which helps them to learn more about St. Vincent’s teaching.
         Srs. Rozy and Paskalina are both very happy in this apostolate, cooperating with the Pallottine laity and priests in developing the children’s quality of life. Planning together and working together is something very positive, and it is an inspiration to see how enthusiastic many of the lay members are and how willing to sacrifice so much of their time for the welfare of the children when much of the work is voluntary.     
         The children themselves also greatly appreciate what the centre offers them. Hashimu, who is 16, is in 7th class, having been here from 1st class, and is due to finish primary school, to which he travels in a wheelchair, in a few months. Although his hands are bent, so that he writes only with great difficulty, he still manages to excel in his class, coming second out of 210 students in a recent exam! He said that if it weren't for the centre he would have remained at home without any primary school education. Beatus is 15 and in 2nd class - he has learning difficulties. He says he is very happy here. Both remark that they eat well and are cared for with love. Prisca is 16 and in 6th class, and also goes to school in a wheelchair. She says that she would most likely stay at home without school if she weren't here, that she is very happy here and that the workers are like the Good Shepherd in the Gospel, knowing and loving their sheep and able to call each one by name.
         Fr. Tommy, who worked in San Silvestro in Capite in Rome before coming to East Africa 29 years ago, speaks of how the witness of these children with special needs, with whom he has been working fulltime since the Centre opened 7 years ago, touches him in a deeply personal way: “I am handicapped at this stage myself, walking with two sticks but with no pain. Coming towards the end of my life and having difficulty walking, it is very good psychologically for me to be living with some very handicapped children who will never walk but who smile so much that I can't complain. As all the children go home on holidays twice each year people sometimes say to me, ' you must be so relieved to get a rest now', when, in fact, the opposite is true - all of us here are counting the days until they return. It's like a graveyard without them. For myself I am happiest when I am sitting, talking and laughing with the children, which is nearly all the time now. It is for me 'heaven on earth'.
         In order to help ensure the ongoing financial viability of the Centre, a number of self-reliant projects have been established, with further ones planned; however, even if all were in place, we will always remain reliant to a great extent on the goodwill of people to enable us to continue to serve the children of this area who have special needs. Further information on the Centre can be found at and the Centre can be contacted directly through the email address For some beautiful photos put to music, see


was held from May 23-27, 2014 at the International Centre for Pallottine Formation ("Cenacle") in Rome. Many different issues were addressed, including the following:
1)      The implications of the Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis for the Union and ways to help make it a real instrument of spiritual, pastoral, missionary renewal for all members and collaborators of the Union and beyond through using it as a basis for study and reflection sessions and encouraging all to read it personally.
2)      Making the structures of the Union more effective:
a.      at the General level - the proposal to seek a fulltime President, the strengthening of General Secretariat with new members and through greater collaboration in the work of translation.
b.      at the national level - discussion regarding whether the Core Communities might be in a position to offer a member full-time for the work of the Union at the national level; discussion on the role of a member elected to the GCC or appointed National Formation Promoter vis-à-vis the NCC in their country.
3)      The spiritual work of mercy chosen as the common project of the entire Union for the year: promote reconciliation particularly in families - e.g. through listening centres, liturgies of reconciliation, practical seminars on healthy family relationships, visits to families to celebrate simple liturgies of the Word of God with personal sharing.
4)      the role of the three Core Communities and their members in the Union.
5)      the functions of the International Formation and Financial Commissions.
6)      Further planning of the upcoming international meetings of the Union in 2015: The First International Meeting of Lay Communities and the General Assembly in Grottaferrata in January and the General Congress in Brazil in July.
7)      Development of clearer reporting and greater transparency in financial matters in the life of the Union at every level.
8)      Further clarifications in the development of a common declaration on the protection of minors and vulnerable adults for the entire Union.
9)      The proposal to reconstitute a Local Council or Pastoral Team to plan activities in SS. Salvatore in Onda, the spiritual centre of the entire Union, coordinated by the Rector of the church with the representation of the different components of the Union.


       With the entire Universal Church, the Pallottine Family rejoiced in a particular way on the occasion of the canonisation of Popes John XXIII and John Paul II. Both new saints have a particular link with our Family. John XXIII encountered the figure of Pallotti for the first time in 1903 as a 22 year old student of the Roman Seminary, when he participated in the conclusion of the Octave of the Epiphany in the basilica of Sant’Andrea della Valle, recording his impressions in his “Journal of a Soul”: “I thought of the vocation of the Gentiles, the Christian missions spread throughout the world, the truly catholic, that is, universal, Church”. Shortly after the closure of the first session of the Second Vatican Council and about 4 and a half months before his death, he canonised Pallotti on January 20th, 1963, recalling once again “the profound impression received” in this first encounter with Pallotti which “made clear the universal aspect of the Church”. He said of Pallotti that he was “an innovator of new ways whereby people could come to know the love of God”. John Paul II knew the Pallottines from an early age: Wadowice, his native city, was the cradle of the Polish Pallottines, and he had frequent contact with them in his youth and especially during his priestly and episcopal ministries. He spent a few months in the General House of the Society when he first came to Rome as a young priest and, during the Second Vatican Council, together with Fr. Wilhelm Möhler, the then Rector General of the Society, was one of the drafters of the Decree on the Apostolate of the Laity (Apostolicam Actuositatem). In his homily in SS. Salvatore in Onda on June 22nd, 1986, he exhorted the Pallottine Family as follows: “continue to multiply your efforts so that what Vincent Pallotti prophetically announced, and the Second Vatican Council authoritatively confirmed, may become a happy reality, and all Christians become authentic apostles of Christ in the Church and in the world!”


       In thanksgiving for the proclamation of the Decree of the heroic virtues of the Servant of God, Elisabetta Sanna, Cardinal Angelo Amato, Prefect of the Congregation for the Causes of Saints, led a Eucharist in the church of SS. Salvatore in Onda on June 7th, the Feast of Mary Queen of Apostles, Patroness of the Union. In his homily, he said that “our prayer to Mary our Queen should have a triple effect on each of us: strengthen our hope in God’s help, promote our sanctification, and revitalise our apostolic and missionary drive. This was borne out in Venerable Elisabetta Sanna - wife, mother and widow - who, although affected by painful disability to her arm and her hands from childhood, became heroic in her imitation of the Blessed Virgin, to whom she addressed countless Rosaries in this Church. Infectious in humility and in the motherly mercy of Mary and wisely guided by St Vincent Pallotti, Elisabetta became an apostle of goodness to the needy." At the conclusion of the homily the Cardinal officially handed over two original copies, in Latin, of the decree of Virtues, to the Rector General Fr Jacob Nampudakam and to the Procurator General Fr Jan Korycki. To all he added: continue to pray for the grace of beatification, and not only for beatification, but also for the grace of canonisation. The Liturgy was accompanied, with great appreciation, by two choirs: the male Sardinian Codrongianos choir and the choir of the Union. Presently, subsequent to the proclamation of the heroicity of the virtues of the Servant of God, the applicant has prepared a book that records a healing through her intercession, which has already been delivered to the Congregation for the Causes of Saints for a prior evaluation. Following on from this the book shall be evaluated by the Vatican commissions: medical, theological and those of the Cardinals and Bishops. We hope that all proceeds positively and that we can soon celebrate the desired beatification.


       The latest Symposium organised by the Pallotti Institute took place in Konstantin from May 24-25 on the special occasion of the 20th anniversary of the establishment of the Konstantin house as a Centre for Missionary Animation (CMA) in service of missions and missionaries. Accordingly, the symposium reflected on various aspects of the missionary life, work and charism of St. Vincent Pallotti. There were over 200 participants from Poland, Ukraine, Belarus, Slovakia and Africa, representing various components of the Pallottine family: the majority were lay followers and friends of St. Vincent, together with many representatives of the Core Communities, including the Major Superiors, those responsible for Pallottine Missions, missionaries, seminarians, novices, sisters, brothers and priests. Specific topics addressed included the following: Fr. Jarosław Rozanski OMI, Professor of Missiology, spoke about “Missionary signs of the times in the nineteenth century”, presenting the originality of St. Vincent’s missionary thinking in the wider context of the Church and world of his time, with particular reference to the missionary impulse in the former. Then Fr. Stanislaw Stawicki SAC spoke of the missionary dreams of Pallotti and their implementation, mentioning that rather than becoming discouraged by dreams not implemented, Pallotti was encouraged to create new and infinite dreams, finishing with a presentation on Pallottine missions in Africa. Archbishop Henryk Hoser SAC spoke about “Missionary aspects of Evangelii Gaudium”, sharing his personal reading of the document and clearly underlining the call of all members of the Church to witness to the Gospel with joy. Mr. Ed Martin Przeciszewski (Catholic Information Agency) spoke about “Missionary signs of the times today”, addressing challenges posed by modernity, outlining today's equivalents of the Areopagus and showing the special role of the laity in taking up the missionary task of the Church. There was a roundtable discussion on the theme Pallottine apostolate without borders which also examined borders yet to be crossed, chaired by Fr. George Limanówka SAC (Salvati Foundation), with the participation of invited guests Sr. Orencja Zak SAC (Cameroon), Sr. Marta Litawa SAC (Rwanda), Mirela Knopek (volunteer, Uganda and Peru), Fr. Stanislaw Stawicki SAC (long-time missionary in Africa), some African Pallottine priests, a Slovakian Pallottine novice, Fr. Alexandre Pietrzyk SAC (the French Regional Rector), and some Ukrainian and Belorussian UAC members. The Sunday Eucharist, the central ceremony of the 20th anniversary of the Centre led by Bishop Aloysius Orszulik, was celebrated in the recently redesigned Queen of Apostles Chapel.

Ireland: On June 7th, one person made the Act of Apostolic Commitment at the Annual Pallottine Pilgrimage to Knock, the National Shrine, for the Feast of Mary Queen of Apostles
Poland: On 7th June, members of the Pallottine family, mostly from northern Poland, met together in Gdańsk to celebrate the Feast of Mary Queen of Apostles. The celebrations began with a Mass led by Fr. Marek Chmielniak SAC, Polish NCC President, during which 4 new members joined the Union. This was followed by a time of agape in a spirit of unity and joy.

7. Opening of Diocesan Enquiry for the Beatification and Canonisation of the Servant of God Mother Anna Sardiello, Foundress of the Eucharistic Sisters of St. Vincent Pallotti, a Community of the Union.
       At 6pm on July 22 in the Cathedral of Capua, Campania, Italy, Archbishop Salvatore Visco led a concelebrated Eucharist for this event, accompanied by two other bishops, various priests, deacons, religious, seminarians and lay people. Representing the wider Pallottine family, those who intended included Sr. Ivete Garlet CSAC, Superior General of the Congregation of the Sisters of the Catholic Apostolate and two General Councillors, Sr. Stella Marotta CSAC and Sr. Venícia Meurer CSAC, the Italian Provincial Superior Sr. Sara Carfagna CSAC, Fr. Martin Manus SAC of the General Council of the Society and Fr. Rory Hanly SAC, General Secretary of the Union. 

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

Apostles for Today - July 2014
The New Evangelisation and the Parish

       For most of us in the Pallottine family, we came to know our faith and the person of St. Vincent Pallotti in the parish. It is in the parish that we are first introduced to the beauty and wonder of the sacraments, especially in the celebration of the Eucharist. Who among us does not have fond memories of singing in church as a child, or for those of us who entered the Church as an adult, the reverence in the ritual of the Mass in our home parishes? It is in the parish that we learn in a more formal way about the person of Jesus and the tenets of our faith, whether through attending a catechetical programme, a Catholic school or the RCIA (Rite of Christian Initiation for Adults). It is through the parish that we prepare for and celebrate the sacraments. Traditionally, and it is still this way in many places today, the parish is also where we centre not only our spiritual lives, but also our social lives, beyond Sunday or daily Mass. And for those of us in the UAC, it is most likely that our involvement began in the parish.

       As we continue to explore what the New Evangelisation means for us as members of the Pallottine community, it is appropriate to explore what it means to be parish and how all three are interrelated.

       Pope Francis reminds us that the “parish is not an outdated institution; precisely because it possesses great flexibility, it can assume quite different contours depending on the openness and missionary creativity of the pastor and the community. While certainly not the only institution which evangelises, if the parish proves capable of self-renewal and constant adaptivity, it continues to be ‘the Church living in the midst of the homes of her sons and daughters’. This presumes that it really is in contact with the homes and the lives of its people, and does not become a useless structure out of touch with people or a self-absorbed group made up of a chosen few. The parish is the presence of the Church in a given territory, an environment for hearing God’s word, for growth in the Christian life, for dialogue, proclamation, charitable outreach, worship and celebration. In all its activities the parish encourages and trains its members to be evangelisers. It is a community of communities, a sanctuary where the thirsty come to drink in the midst of their journey, and a centre of constant missionary outreach. We must admit, though, that the call to review and renew our parishes has not yet sufficed to bring them nearer to people, to make them environments of living communion and participation, and to make them completely mission-oriented” (Evangelii Gaudium 28).

       Too often, the parish is seen as out dated and stodgy, not a place of innovation and joy but one of rules and “how it’s always been”. It is easy for parishioners, often without realising it, to create their own “in crowd”, with specific ways of doing things and a specific vocabulary, which to the newcomer can become a real deterrent to participation. On the other hand, at their best, parishes truly are in the lives of their people – in their joys and celebrations as well as their sorrows and struggles. These parishes are places where creativity is allowed to flourish; where “because we’ve always done it that way” does not apply and where “outsiders” are welcomed with open doors and hearts.

       These vibrant parishes are natural places of evangelisation, without even trying. They live by the quote attributed to St. Francis of Assisi of “preaching the Gospel always, when necessary using words” or, as St. Vincent Pallotti tells us, of “leading a life which is the Gospel in practice.” (OOCC XIII, 455). Members of these parishes are excited about their faith and their community and that excitement is naturally infectious. Visitors want to know why members of the parish are so happy to be there – and how they too can be a part of it! These parishioners are gentle and loving to newcomers, looking for ways to plug them in to the mission of the Church according to each person’s gifts and abilities.

       By its very definition, a parish is relational. Just as there are many parts in the Body of Christ universal, so it is becoming this way at the local parish level as well. While in the past, one could count on a parish to embody the culture of the people in the neighbourhood, bringing with them their languages and traditions as well as their similar socio economic statuses, now we find parishes bringing diverse cultures and sometimes even languages together in one place, both figuratively and literally. With that comes various ways of living out one's spirituality. The one commonality is faith. This in itself can be a challenge – or an opportunity - depending on one’s perspective.

       St. Vincent Pallotti reminds us that “the most difficult task in community living is to maintain charity” (OOCC III, 236). While sharing a worship space with a “stranger” might be uncomfortable for some, it is in Jesus’ command to love our neighbour (and what better definition of neighbour than a fellow parishioner!) that we must abide. Our most effective evangelisation is the love we show for others, especially when the “other” seems very different from what we are used to. This charity forces us outside of our comfort zone, urging us to learn about our neighbour and to truly share in his or her life. But if we cannot do that at the parish level, how are we going to do it in the “outside world”.

       The New Evangelisation calls on us, as a people of God, to find new ways to share the same Gospel message we have always been taught – God’s infinite love. Some of us might bemoan the fact that society has turned its back on God, that there is not an interest in coming to church. But could it be that when the people about whom we worry so much have actually come, we have turned them away, sometimes literally? Are we lacking mercy in our judgment of others when they don’t understand how we do things or when we disapprove of choices they have made in their life? Are we meeting people where they are right now, and inviting them to come (again) to meet the person of Christ through us? Again, St. Vincent Pallotti advises us: “Since the acts of courtesy and so-called etiquette, done with a Christian motivation, can be considered and are like acts of charity, then we should bear all the defects of others with patience, following the rules of Christian etiquette” (OOCC III, 236).

       The “new ways” of the New Evangelisation might mean, again, coming out of our comfort zone also as far as technology in our parishes is concerned. Technology should not be looked on as an “extra” or, even less, as a distraction. Through technology, parishes have the power to reach people we may have thought lost before by, again, meeting them where they are. This might mean we have to learn a new language or way of doing things, but the benefits of this way of evangelising is that all people of faith can do it; often with tools which we already have in our pockets!

       Pope Francis continues this discussion of the New Evangelisation and the parish by singling out organizations like the UAC: “Other Church institutions, basic communities and small communities, movements, and forms of association are a source of enrichment for the Church, raised up by the Spirit for evangelising different areas and sectors. Frequently they bring a new evangelising fervour and a new capacity for dialogue with the world whereby the Church is renewed. But it will prove beneficial for them not to lose contact with the rich reality of the local parish and to participate readily in the overall pastoral activity of the particular Church. This kind of integration will prevent them from concentrating only on part of the Gospel or the Church, or becoming nomads without roots” (EG 29). (Emphasis added by authors of reflection.)

       As members of the UAC, we are in a unique position to live our call from our founder and to do so in the life of the parish. St. Vincent Pallotti reminds us that the Union “is founded and instituted upon love in order to promote in all the faithful... the most perfect and actualised practice of the works of love” (OOCC I, 105). When we do this in the parish setting, when we truly practice love in all its ways, we are being true to who we are as people of faith.

Reflection questions:
·       What role do you play in your local parish? How can you more effectively share your gifts in your parish?
·       What do you think St. Vincent Pallotti would say is the role of the UAC in the parish setting? How active is your local UAC in parish life? How does your local UAC use technology for evangelisation?
·       What unique charism of the UAC can be shared with a parish? How should the UAC promote this charism in our parishes?

God of Infinite Love, who has gifted us in so many ways, we ask for the continued guidance of your Spirit to spread your Word and to be your servants in our families, in our communities, in our parishes and in the world. Help us to be your voice of love and mercy, to be welcoming to all people, especially to the stranger among us, and help us to bring the light of your Son, Jesus Christ, to all people. We ask all this through the intercession of your servant, St. Vincent Pallotti. Amen.

                                              Maureen and John Rohamel,
                                              Milwaukee, USA
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico

Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, Roma, Italia