Monday, May 12, 2014

Bishop Kevin Vann: Neocatechumenal Way came to be blessed before launching the Great Mission in the public squares of Southern California

From all across the Diocese of Orange, from the Diocese of San Bernardino and the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the brothers and sisters of the Neocatechumenal Way came to be blessed before launching the Great Mission in the public squares of Southern California last Sunday.

“We gather on this joyful third Sunday of the resurrection of the Lord—we walk with the Lord and with Peter and with the Apostles on the road to Emmaus,” said Bishop Kevin Vann, who blessed the communities and presided at Morning Prayer for them at Christ Cathedral May 4.

“We take his message wherever we are sent.”

Members of the neocatechumenate community are volunteering during the five Sundays of the Easter season to reach out to people in a public area—perhaps the parking lot of a shopping center, perhaps in a park—and invite them to a 75-minute gathering including prayer, testimony from people walking the Way, a group dialogue, and catechesis.

It can be nerve-wracking to approach strangers with an evangelistic mission, neocatechumenates admit, but their involvement in the Neocatechumenal Way prepared them for the Great Mission.

The Way—a process of ever-deepening catechesis—is made up of individuals in small communities who “walk” together, gathering weekly for a celebration of the Word and the Eucharist, and monthly for a convivence (or day retreat). Together the group moves from phase to phase, and in each phase, they add to their Christian activities—praying from the breviary each morning, for example, saying the rosary every day, and going door-to-door in pairs to share their experience of Christ.

The communities are important, but it’s growth in faith and in relationship with the Lord that keeps neocatechumenates active in the Way. Norma Castro, a parishioner at St. Anne in Santa Ana, was going through a family crisis and thinking of leaving the church when a priest told her about the Way. That was five years ago, and Castro says her outlook has completely changed.

“It’s kind of like an internal joy, from the inside out,” she explained before the prayer service started Sunday.

“Everything that’s going on in your life, it doesn’t even matter, because God has this love for [you].”

Formed in Madrid in 1964, the Neocatechumenal Way received Vatican approval in 2008, and has been an active presence in the Diocese of Orange for decades. Many parishes have neocatechumenal communities—seven of them launched 14 missions this Easter season—but the largest is St. Barbara. The Santa Ana parish has five English communities, two Vietnamese, and about 19 Spanish, says Ed Sumner, who has been part of the charism at St. Barbara with his wife Kathy since 1978.

“It’s probably the most [communities of any parish] in the United States,” he says, “and it’s the only parish that has neocatechumenate communities in three languages.”

Recently returned from a trip to the Holy Land, where he attended a Bishops’ Convivence, Bishop Vann commissioned the neocatechumenal teams to share the Good News at all times, but especially during this Great Mission.

“Our hearts [are] burning with fore for the love of our Lord Jesus Christ. We take that message to all who we meet,” he said in his homily.

“That’s not something to keep, but something to share. Faith is not meant to stay inside, but outside.”

By Elisabeth Deffner

Orange County Catholic

May 4, 2014

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