It was almost a convoy that travelled from Sydney to Melbourne on 9 June to help celebrate the 40th anniversary of the Neocatechumenal Way in Australia. For the occasion, Archbishop Denis Hart welcomed Neocatechumenal communities and representatives from around the country in St Patrick’s Cathedral.
The Neocatechumenal Way is one of the numerous new ways or movements in the Church, which focuses on giving Catholics an adult – as opposed to a merely nominal – faith.
It forms communities in parishes focused on Scripture, prayer and praise of God and which engage in a long-term program of catechesis in the Christian faith.
“I thank you … for allowing the Word of God to touch and burn in your hearts, so that the privilege of bringing God’s living word to people shines from you beautifully and humbly, and brings life to the world,” Archbishop Hart told the 600 or so people in attendance. It was a moment of joy and gratitude to God: his Word proclaimed and made flesh by a small team of catechists has borne fruit in the 80 Neocatechumenal communities around Australia.
It is only 50 years since God entrusted to Spanish layman Kiko Arguello and his collaborator, Carmen Hernandez, a charism which has grown like a tree to reach all peoples. It has brought to a world where faith was disappearing the chance to discover again the wealth and riches of our baptism.
What began among the poorest of the poor in the slums of Madrid has proved to be a life-saver for people from every background.
“What I know of the Way is the wonderful relationships, the wonderful love, the challenges of family and fraternity,” Archbishop Hart said.
“It is an opportunity to find rich meaning in our daily lives, to rediscover the Sacraments and conversion, and to rediscover and live the meaning of our baptism.”
This process or, as it is sometimes called by members of Neocatechumenal communities, an itinerary, has reached some 40 Australian parishes over the last four decades.
In recent years we have seen the crisis of vocations, the breaking down of the family structure, and the underlying lack of faith formation necessary for the Church to bear fruit.
The 40 years of the Neocatechumenal Way in Australia represent a significant proportion of the Church’s history in Australia, focusing as it does on bringing the power of the Risen Christ to ordinary people in parishes.
But the proclamation of the kerygma – the Good News – can bring people out of impossible situations, such as the traps of vice and slavery to sin and restore them to their baptismal life.
Experience shows that this bold proclamation brings a radical response in both young and old.
“The thing that I have always thought powerful and remarkable about the Neocatechumenal Way is the ability of God’s word to inflame our hearts so that we proclaim it always and everywhere,” Archbishop Hart said.
Like the early Church we give free what we have received gratis. Today this is still our strength. The Redemptoris Mater Seminaries in Perth and Sydney, a fruit of the Way, live entirely on Providence, on God who provides.
The teams of catechists who evangelise in the parishes are not paid. We live in the same precariousness as Christ, who assured our salvation by his Blood freely shed for us – which makes any thought of remuneration for the Gospel totally out of place.
“The work is not complete,” Archbishop Hart concluded, “because [the Lord] invites you and me to further conversion and to present the riches of the Gospel to the people of our time.”
We look forward to the next 40 years of adventure which the Lord has prepared for us.
Fr Anthony Trafford is one of the national ‘Responsibles’ for the Neocatechumenal Way in Australia