By Sarah Mac Donald - 05 March, 2016
“There is a whole world out there and I think it is very important that we don’t become holy huddles with our own people and our own groups."
A special one day conference is taking place today in Dublin aimed at nourishing and encouraging members of ecclesial movements, associations of lay faithful, apostolates and Christian organisations for the Year of Mercy.
‘Opening the Door of Mercy’ has been organised by the Council for Pastoral Renewal and Adult Faith Development of the Irish Bishops’ Conference.
Over 100 representatives of various associations and movements of the lay faithful will be addressed by the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, Professor Michael Conway of Maynooth and journalist and author, Susan Gately, who wrote the book, ‘God’s Surprise – the new movements in the Church’.
Speaking to CatholicIreland.net, Susan Gately said the conference would be attended by “an interesting mixture” including members of ecclesial movements and lay associations as well as traditional catholic organisations like St Vincent de Paul, Accord and Aid to the Church in Need.
The ecclesial movements she said included groups like the Legion of Mary, Focolare, Teams of Our Lady, Marriage Encounter, Communion and Liberation, L’Arche, Neo Catechumenal Way, Emmanuel community and the Céilí Community.
She interviewed 22 different movements and communities for her book and what amazed her was the “variety” of groups working in Ireland at their various ministries.
Three speakers are lined up today beginning with the Nuncio, Archbishop Charles Brown, who is talking about Pope Francis and the Year of Mercy.
He is followed by Professor Michael Conway of St Patrick’s College Maynooth who is talking about mercy and the under-developed heart.
In the afternoon, Susan Gately will talk about the movements and communities as oases of mercy.
“It is actually something that Pope Francis said in his document Misericordiae Vultus, he says all of our groups and associations should become oases of mercy.”
“I began to think of all the people I have met when I was writing the book and going around to the communities, and I realised that they really were oases of mercy; and as oases of mercy they are bringing people to God because people meet God through these communities and through friendship and prayer.”
She cited the centring prayer groups found all over Ireland.
“They have a whole outreach to people with addictions on how to use centring prayer to overcome their addiction. So they work with people who are sex addicts, who are drug addicts and who are alcoholics. There is a whole outreach that goes from that oases which reaches out in mercy.”
She also underlined that the motivation for the conference is not about recruiting members.
“We are all involved in groups already. I think the beautiful thing about a day like today will be the fact that we are all coming together. We are all doing the same thing in different ways – like Mother Teresa said: ‘You can’t do what I do and I can’t do what you do’ and so you have got this great tapestry of all the different groups – we are all doing different things in different ways but together we are church.”
She added, “It is really to see how we can use the Year of Mercy to let our spirit flow more.”
Of the Year of Mercy, Ms Gately, who is a member of the Focolare Movement commented, “I think it is terrific. One of the things is to have eyes of mercy that look beyond what you usually do. That is what Pope Francis is challenging us to do – to go out and do things you haven’t done before and do things in a new way.”
“There is a whole world out there and I think it is very important that we don’t become holy huddles with our own people and our own groups. We need to really go out and he is giving us that opportunity to do that through the Year of Mercy.”
To learn more about the conference or to attend see: http://www.adultfaith.ie/feature-news/63-opening-the-door-of-mercy