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Lay ecclesial movements crucial

Groups take progressive, forward-looking stance for a rapidly changing world

Lay ecclesial movements crucial
Father Jacob Theckanath, Bangkok

December 22, 2011

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An active dialogue between the Church and the world is urgently needed.  Certain ecclesial movements can be an accessible and effective doorway. These movements have a special call and charism. For instance, the Worldwide Marriage Encounter and Couples for Christ movements have family related ministries and specialize in helping families cope with modern life. The Jesus Youth movement takes care of youths and young families very effectively, while the Focolare movement focuses on unity based on reflection of the Word of God. Each has a special sense of mission, and each is strong in a specific area of ministry work. Each of these movements’ charism adds to the mission of the Church and can be effective in New Evangelization. They are alive and active in the Church and, at the same time, are very aware of the issues and challenges facing the world. With active individuals and dynamic fellowships they are very near to places where “things happen” in society. This allows many possibilities for carrying out the mission of the Church in a fast changing world. Complex cultural transformations advances in the media and technology, poverty and marginalization, and fluid political scenarios -- all call for novel approaches to Christian engagement in and ecclesial movements can play a pivotal role in this. Narrow forms of spirituality manifested in the form of extremism, fanaticism and intolerance raise questions of greater Catholicism and, in turn, challenge the movements to a greater degree. The “lay character” of these movements is a great strength, and this strength can be increased by more collaboration among them. These issues were central to discussions at a meeting of 14 ecclesial movements from across Asia in Pattaya late last month. Delegates reflected on the role of lay ecclesial movements in the context of modern challenges in Asia. Though the socio-cultural and economic situation of each Asian country is different, they found that some challenges are common. For example, while increasing affluence and economic well-being throughout Asia is providing people with better standards of living and facilities, it is also making people oblivious of deeper personal and spiritual realities, which in turn make them lead a life that lacks a sense of depth and inner challenge. They find themselves at a total loss in the face of some confusion and disappointment in life. Media and migration are posing special challenges. The revolution in communications, while connecting people far and wide, often derails relationships within the families and with neighbors.  And as people are constantly on the move for work, education and other reasons, families face new challenges. Families everywhere are under considerable strain and often have nowhere to turn to. Even families in Catholic communities find themselves somewhat lost and uncared for. Even pastors and community leaders find it difficult to offer help. Youth guidance is another hot issue. Everywhere, families and communities are getting confused about what kind of guidance and support to offer young people. Motivated youths offer exemplary leadership, but offering suitable guidance to youths in general in the face of a fast changing world is difficult. No doubt lay ecclesial movements can be of great assistance in meeting these challenges. These movements are also a way in which the Church can court the rapidly-changing world. These movements are also very relevant in discussions for the forthcoming XIII Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which the Pope has decided to convoke in October 2012 with the topic: The New Evangelization for the Transmission of the Christian Faith. END   Father Jacob Theckanath is executive secretary of the Office of Evangelization of the Federation of Asian Bishops’ Conferences (FABC-OE)
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