Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
23 Nov 2012
23 Nov 2012
Last weekend the Sisters of the Missionaries of God's Love (MGL) gathered in Canberra for a Mass to celebrate their jubilee year and to mark 25 years since the founding of one of Australia's youngest and most dynamic religious congregations.
"The first of us took our vows on 13 December 1987 and this is usually the date we remember each year. But as this is our Jubilee year and an important anniversary not only for us but for the MGL Congregation of Priests and Brothers as well as our Disciples of Jesus community and all our friends and supporters, we decided with everyone so busy in the lead up to Christmas to hold the celebration mass earlier in November so everyone could be there," Sister Patti Jo Crockett said.
The Jubilee Mass was held at St Benedict's Church, Narrbundah, Canberra last Saturday and was celebrated by the Australian founder of the Missionaries of God's Love, Father Ken Barker.
Ordained in 1974, Fr Ken spent two years as an assistant parish priest before travelling to the US where he obtained his Ph.D in religious education at the Catholic University of America in Washington DC. It was during his time in the US that Fr Ken first felt the impact of the fast-growing charismatic renewal movement.
Returning to Australia where he was appointed assistant priest to St Christopher's Cathedral in Canberra, as well as Diocesan Youth Minister, Fr Ken discovered the charismatic renewal movement was also emerging in Australia.
After joining the Disciples of the Jesus Covenant, a charismatic movement in the ACT, Fr Ken was approached independently by three members of the community telling him they wished to become priests.
Fr Ken prayed on this matter for more than a year and says it gradually became clear to him that the Lord wanted him to form a brotherhood to live a life of poverty as Jesus had, to help the poor and to evangelise young people. The brotherhood would have a special love for the Virgin Mary and be dedicated to the heart of Christ and in 1986 the Missionaries of God's Love came into being.
Based in a suburban house in Canberra, the movement grew and by the following year, an MGL sisterhood was also established. With the same vows of poverty and dedication to the heart of Jesus, the Sisterhood's mission was also focussed not only on helping the poor, but on evangelisation with a strong involvement with young people and youth groups.
The Sisters work closely with young adult and high school ministries, offer pastoral care and spiritual direction, support and work alongside Australia's Indigenous peoples and operate an outreach program for people living on the margins and in government housing complexes.
"The evangelisation spirit of our movement is central and we have always been strong and bold in our approach, moving out to where people are rather than waiting for them to come to us," Sister Patti Jo explains.
She says early on Fr Ken recognised the need for evangelisation and from the start the sisters, like their priests and brothers of MGL, were very active in reaching out to people as part of their ministry.
"Much of what we do is what we call evangelisation by friendship," she says adding that in this way the Sisters and members of the Disciples of Jesus make friends with young people and by helping them tune into a relationship with God, bring them the great gift of faith and the joy of a faith-filled life.
With their focus on helping and being involved with young people, the MGL Sisters have played a key role at World Youth Day gatherings not only in Sydney in 2008 but at Madrid last year. There are also plans for a contingent of sisters to attend next year's WYD in Rio.
At a time when many of the older more traditional orders and congregations are no longer attracting vocations from young people seeking a religious life and commitment to Christ, MGL continues to grow. The brotherhood has more than 15 priests with more than 25 in formation while the MGL sisters now have 14 who have taken their vows with two novices currently in training along with three pre-novitiates. A further two will join the congregation early next year.
Sr Patti Jo describes the increasing number of young women wishing to follow their heart and God's call as "a great blessing."
At present the Sisters have a Mission House at Quaker's Hill in Sydney, a Formation House in Canberra as well as an Extended Formation House in Melbourne.
"It never ceases to amaze me how unexpected, mysterious yet gracious is God's ways of bringing about His purposes," says Sr Patti Jo and in celebrating the congregation's Jubilee Year, recalls the quarter of a century of "lived experience of the rich with which God has gifted us as Missionaries of God's Love.
"Above all we want to honour the creative work of the Holy Spirit, drawing, calling, shaping us in a particular gracing for the work of the kingdom of God, in and for our world today."
To find out more about the Missionaries of God's Love and their work, the Community of the Disciples of Jesus and both the brotherhood and sisterhood, log on to www.mglvocation.org
SHARED FROM ARCHDIOCESE OF SYDNEY