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Crow told her parents she thought she might have a religious vocation and plugged into discernment retreats in her local diocese. She visited convents and researched different religious communities and finally decided to live out her vocation as a consecrated woman with the lay movement Regnum Christi.
Crow made promises of poverty, chastity, and obedience, and gave up her possessions. The only item she owns now is a crucifix.
When she needs shoes or clothes the Regnum Christi leadership purchases them for her. She travels from her Regnum Christi community in Oxford, Michigan to Ohio, Indiana, and Kentucky, working to establish Regnum Christi-sponsored clubs for teenage girls.
Throughout the day she follows the movementâ€
For Crow, 26, this lay movement, sponsored by the Legion of Christ, a religious order of priests, felt like a natural way of life.
Moving on in
Crow belongs to one of the churchâ€
While the movements vary widely in structure, membership requirements, and charisms, most share some common characteristics. Each has a specific itinerary of formation and prayer, and each has a particular outreach such as evangelization, care for the poor, or international conflict resolution. They have grassroots beginnings, mostly European origins, and often conservative theological underpinnings. Most arose outside the bounds of a mainstream parish. In a few cases, controversy surrounds some movementsâ€
The close relationship the movements enjoyed with John Paul II was no coincidence, says University of Toledo professor of religious studies Richard Gaillardetz.
â€œA leitmotif in his pontificate was the new evangelizationâ€”not only the traditional evangelization of individuals but of the culture,â€� Gaillardetz says. â€œIt reflected the spirit of Vatican II, which emphasized reading the signs of the times and dialogue between the church in the world. At their best, the movements are faithful to this vision.â€�
Historically many lay Catholics have aligned themselves with religious orders as oblates or affiliatesâ€”for example, as secular Carmelites or Paulist associatesâ€”but since these groups function as an offshoot of a canonical religious body with its own rule, constitutions, and spirituality, they differ from a lay movement.
â€œThe new movements grow from the ground up; they are almost all lay in orientation,â€� says Michael Downey, the cardinalâ€
Downey says that although lay movements share some common characteristics, itâ€
Come join us
While joining a movement like Regnum Christi is a highly structured process rooted in rubrics and extensive formation, joining other movements is simply a matter of showing up for the groupâ€
â€œYou are part of the movement just being with us,â€� says Paola Piscitelli, a Santâ€
Community members in six different U.S. metropolitan areas from Boston to Minneapolis pray together and form long-term friendships with elderly people, most of whom live in nursing homes in low-income areas. The evening vespers service in each city is modeled after the nightly evening prayer in Rome, where the Santâ€
For Boston College graduate student Sarah Moses, a nine-year Santâ€
Moses joined after learning of the movementâ€
How has a community with no statutes, no membership cards, and no formal governing structure emerged as a recognized international arbiter of peace? Members say itâ€
A place to call home
While the movements unite their members on a global level through shared prayer and similar ministries, members say a sense of community on a local level was the reason they sought out a movement in the first place.
James Kovacs, a 30-year-old attorney in Chicago, tried a variety of groups before deciding on Communion and Liberation (CL), a movement of small faith communities that reflect upon the spiritual writings of their Italian founder, Father Luigi Giussani. Ironically Kovacs sought out the communal support of a lay movement just as he was preparing to leave Catholicism behind and join an evangelical church instead.
â€œFor whatever reason, I decided to learn more about what I was leaving,â€� he says. â€œIn that process I was exposed to the need for a really supportive community in trying to live out the faith.â€�
Kovacs, who looked into both Opus Dei and Regnum Christi before settling on CL, says a sense of community is often lacking in some parishes, which is why he turned to a movement for support.
Sharon Mollerus, a CL member in Duluth, Minnesota, belongs to a parish but enjoys the closeness in her CL community of 15 people.
â€œA community has to have a certain intimacy,â€� Mollerus says. â€œEven in parishes groups like this form. But when there are thousands of people involved, you canâ€
The merging of movements and parishes doesnâ€
â€œThe reaction of people was very skeptical,â€� Piscitelli says. â€œThey thought, â€˜Itâ€
â€œIn Italy belonging to the church was never identified as belonging to a parish, and there are fewer options there,â€� she says.
â€œIn a sense St. Francis started a movement that didnâ€
Holier than thou?
Though the leadership and members of most movements say they do not intend to establish a â€œchurch within the church,â€� they may inadvertently have that effect, say some observers.
This gives short shrift to the diversity within the Catholic population. â€œSt. Paul said that those who are strong in faith have a special obligation to the weak,â€� he says. â€œNot that they should separate out and become a super-Christian community.â€�
While elitism certainly exists as a potential pitfall, what can be perhaps more damaging is the undermining of the traditional structures of parishes, dioceses, and campus ministry programs. In this regard, the group that has stirred the most controversy is the Legion of Christ and its lay movement, Regnum Christi.
The Legion of Christ and all affiliated apostolates have been banned from operating on diocesan property in both the Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis and the Diocese of Columbus, Ohio. St. Paul-Minneapolis Archbishop Harry Flynn wrote in a December 2004 Internet posting: â€œOur pastors continue to sense that a â€˜parallel churchâ€
The Columbus diocese parish bulletin announcements in November 2002 stated that the diocese did not support or endorse Regnum Christi, â€œas a result of concerns regarding some of its operating methods.â€� According to diocesan spokeswoman Robin Miller, Legion priests repeatedly ignored Columbus Bishop James Griffinâ€
Other groups have expressed concern about the Legion of Christ and Regnum Christi. In 2002 a group of 25 concerned ex-Legion priests and Regnum Christi members formed the organization ReGAIN (Religious Groups Awareness International Network, http://www.regainnetwork.org), an online resource â€œto inform and educate the public regarding policies and practices of the movement.â€� (The Legion responded with its own website, http://www.legionaryfacts.org.)
ReGAIN members accuse the religious order of underhanded and sometimes aggressive recruiting tactics and misleading fundraising. The Legion has also come under fire in recent years since nine former Legion members accused its founder, Father Marcial Maciel Delgollado, 85, of sexual abuse. (The Vatican announced last May that there would be no canonical procedure against Father Maciel.)
Not all movementsâ€
For Focolare member Rebecca Cali of Westminster, Maryland Focolare has provided a concrete way to put gospel teachings into practice.
â€œThis is where the rubber hits the road,â€� she says. â€œI understand â€˜Love your neighbor,â€
Cali acknowledges that this teaching is not new. â€œChiara would be the first to say, â€˜I didnâ€
Other members acknowledge that belonging to a movement gives them tools to put their faith into practice and that while they donâ€
Msgr. Lorenzo Albacete, the U.S. director of Communion and Liberation, agrees that most people inclined to look at a lay movement do so out of a search for something more.
â€œThey have in common the realization that something is lacking in their livesâ€”not that life is unbearable, but there is something in the heart they have to keep suppressing.â€� he says.
The teachings of CL founder Giussani provide a method for connecting Catholic teachings with everyday lives, Albacete says.
Though the new ecclesial movements have a ways to go before they work their way into the mainstream U.S. church, theyâ€
Such a high-profile gathering may energize the membership of these movements, but how they will continue to grow and change within the parish-oriented structure of the United States remains to be seen. For now, in looking at the movements in their diversity, itâ€
According to Gaillardetz, religious identity has always been an organic, living, emerging concept, and he hopes Catholics continue to embrace that.
â€œMy hope is that we understand Christian identity as immersion in this great tradition of the church,â€� he says. â€œWe recognize that a Franciscan spirituality is very different from the spirituality of Dorothy Day. We have a rich heritage, and to be Catholic means to be inclusive of the many ways of living out the gospel of Christ.â€�
Movers and Shakers [sidebars to original article]
Communion and Liberation
Founded: 1954, in Milan under the name GioventÃ¹ Studentesca (Student Youth); the name â€œCommunion and Liberationâ€� first appeared in 1969.
Founder: Father Luigi Giussani (1922-2005).
Worldwide membership: A presence in 75 countries, approximately 2,000 members in the U.S.
Charisms: Focuses on education to Christian maturity; collaboration in the mission of the church in all the spheres of contemporary life.
Challenges: Some say members tend to idolize the Middle Ages as a time when the faithful best unified faith and daily life.
Founded: 1943, in the midst of World War II.
Founder: Chiara Lubich (1920- ).
Worldwide membership: 87,000 (membership ranges from committed lifestyle in small communities to collaboration in various activities).
Charisms: Ecumenism and unity; recognizing Jesusâ€
Challenges: Some observers complain that an excessive cult of personality surrounds Lubich; some fear the thousands of non-Catholic and non-Christian Focolare members will gain ecclesial influence.
Legion of Christ/Regnum Christi
Founded: 1941, in Mexico City.
Founder: Mexican-born Father Marcial Maciel (1920- ).
Worldwide membership: 30,000 members in 20 countries including 600 priests, 2,500 seminarians, 1,000 consecrated laypeople.
Charisms: A Christ-centered spiritualityâ€”seeking to know Christ in the gospel, Eucharist, and the cross.
Challenges: Recent sexual abuse allegations have tarnished Macielâ€
Founded: 1968, in Rome.
Founder: Andrea Riccardi (1950- ).
Worldwide membership: 50,000.
Charisms: Prayer, international conflict resolution, communicating the gospel, solidarity with the poor, ecumenism, dialogue.
Challenges: The movement experienced criticism from Algerian bishops and the Vatican Secretary of State in the late 1990s for what some say was inadequate handling of conflict resolution in Algeria.