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430 Families set off as missionaries


Antoine Mekary | ALETEIA

Kathleen N. Hattrup - published on 06/28/22

A Catholic lay group has the practice of sending whole families as missionaries to places affected by secularization or where the Church is small.

Pope Francis sent 430 families off as missionaries, including families from Ukraine.

The families are members of the NeoCatechumenal Way, a Catholic lay group that focuses on forming Christian communities who go through a multi-year process of formation similar to what the first Christians would have lived.

Some 5,500 members of the association from the five continents, including families from war-torn Ukraine, accompanied by their bishop, as well as Neocatechumenal families from the Diocese of Rome met with the Pope on Monday, June 27, just after the 10th World Meeting of Families had closed.

The Pope encouraged them by blessing the crosses that will accompany them on their missions around the world and stressed in an impromptu speech the importance of “preaching Jesus Christ with the strength of the Spirit in the Church and with the Church.”

“The Gospel of Jesus adapts to different cultures but is still the same,” he said.

The Way engages families who through their witness and life serve to establish the presence of the Catholic Church in countries where the Church is absent or a very small minority, or to revive and strengthen the presence of Catholic communities in secularized areas. Families are sent at the request of local bishops.

The Gospel in your hearts

The initiator of the Neocatechumenal Way, Kiko Argüello, gave a brief speech to the Pope in which he introduced the families who had come from at least 50 countries. Present were families from Kazakhstan, Iceland, France, Jamaica and Ethiopia.

“Go forward with the power of the Spirit, carrying the Gospel in your hearts and hands,” said the Argentine Pontiff, who entered Paul VI Hall walking with a cane.

He asked these families and missionaries for “docility and obedience to Jesus Christ in his Church” and to “the Spirit who sends you.”

The Pope also emphasized the role of the bishop as head of the local churches. Missionary families must “always go forward with the bishop,” he insisted.

Of the 430 families that the Pope blessed, 273 have already been in mission for a few years but had not been able to receive the sending off of Pope Francis in Rome because of the pandemic, details a communiqué of the Neocatechumenal Way.

Kiko Argüello, in his speech, had a special mention for the missionary families in Ukraine who had to leave because of the war. Also, those normally present in China could not return because of Covid-19 and sanitary restrictions.

However, he indicated that a group of seminarians from the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Macau, China, will return in the next few days.

Beatification cause of Hernandez

The founder of the Neocatechumenal Way finally announced that the Diocese of Madrid will soon close the diocesan phase of the cause of beatification of Carmen Hernandez, who initiated the community with him in the 1960s and who died in 2016.

The Neocatechumenal Way is an “itinerary of Christian formation” born in the disadvantaged outskirts of Madrid. It is present in 134 countries and has 21,300 communities.

Pope Francis
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