The story of the Missionaries of God's Love (MGL) is one of real hope for the Church in Australia. In a recent book, titled A Radical Way of Love, the MGL's founder Fr Ken Barker shares his story and his compelling vision for consecrated life. He believes many young people today are genuinely seeking to live a radical gospel way of life and that we can expect a new surge of vocations to consecrated life and the priesthood in the future.
The Missionaries are members of a new emerging congregation of priests and brothers which is undergoing significant growing pains. Founded in Canberra in 1986 the congregation now has thirteen priests and over thirty young men in various stages of formation. Two more will be ordained deacons this year.
The novitiate house in Canberra has eighteen in training and the seminary house in East Burwood (Bennetswood), Melbourne, has thirteen students, who do their academic studies at Catholic Theological College.
Next year, however, there will be another eight brothers arriving at the seminary house which will then be seriously overcrowded. In fact, temporary accommodation may have to be found elsewhere until a new dwelling is built.
This dilemma is not new to the MGL. In 2003 the Canberra formation house was literally bursting at the seams but a convent was obtained through the Lord's providence and the generosity of faithful people. Since then, the congregation has grown significantly.
Fr Ken Barker, who is both founder and moderator, and a man of great faith, has responded to this crisis by launching an appeal in order to raise the funds for another dwelling to accommodate a further twelve students.
The congregation's priests exude a freshness and a joy in their ministry to young people which I have experienced at first hand with my own family. They are profoundly centred in the Eucharist, with a deep commitment to Eucharistic adoration, both in their own personal lives and in their ministry.
They are orthodox, strongly loyal to the Pope, and teach the truth as expounded by the Magisterium. In their vows they consecrate themselves to the wounded heart of Jesus, broken open in love for the world, and entrust themselves daily to the Immaculate Heart of Mary.
The following are some facets of the MGL's ministry:
* conducting parishes at Narrabundah (Canberra), East Burwood (Melbourne) and Manila (Philippines) which are developing as centres of renewal and evangelisation, and drawing the young back into the life of the Church;
* involvement in evangelising young people through Summer Schools of Evangelisation conducted by the Disciples of Jesus Community in four different locations each January;
* partners in the Asia-Pacific School of Evangelisation which trains young people as evangelists and sends them on cross-cultural missions in the Asia- Pacific region;
* a key role in the biennial Light to the Nations pilgrimage held at the Redemptorist Monastery, Galong, with this year during the Easter Triduum nearly 1,000 young people gathered for the event and hundreds of them returning to the faith through the Sacrament of Reconciliation;
* active in preparations for World Youth Day with Fr Chris Ryan MGL presently accompanying the WYD Cross and Icon through every diocese in Australia as we head towards the Sydney celebration with the Pope in July 2008.
The MGL is becoming a multicultural brotherhood, drawing vocations not only from Australia and New Zealand, but also from PNG, Indonesia, Philippines, India and Africa. This cultural mix is symbolic of the Church in Australia today and the challenges facing our society.
The congregation, in fact, is an Australian foundation, but with an international membership. Its first mission is to the Church in Australia which is suffering from the emptiness of secularism and relativism with a particular concern to reach the young and the alienated who do not yet know the love of God.
On a lighter note, in August this year, the MGL, in partnership with the Archdiocese of Canberra- Goulburn, hosted the annual interseminary soccer competition in Canberra. Participants came from various seminaries: Good Shepherd (Sydney), Redemptoris Mater (Sydney and Perth), Corpus Christi (Melbourne), John Vianney (Wagga Wagga), as well as from Brisbane, Broken Bay and Parramatta.
There was stiff competition and, in the final, Redemptoris Mater beat the MGL by 1-0. The game was a wonderful opportunity for 160 seminarians to come together to celebrate the Eucharist, enjoy fellowship and build relationships. This gathering was also a sign of hope for these young men are destined to be the leaders of our Church in the future.
The MGL Appeal for a new seminary building is necessary and urgent since the Missionaries live a life of radical poverty and are entirely dependent on the Lord's providence. We have all seen parishes close down or amalgamate due to declining numbers of clergy and do not want to see any more 'priestless parishes'.
Helping the MGL to build this seminary house and supporting the formation of their students for the priesthood will have a direct impact on the number of students for the priesthood that can be formed.
Donations can be sent to MGL Building Appeal, c/- Fr Ken Barker, MGL Formation House, 6 Boake Pl, Garran, ACT 2605.
Mary Pidcock, an accountant and mother of five, is a member of the leadership team for the St Benedict's Eucharistic Centre, Narrabundah, ACT. She is Fr Ken Barker's personal assistant in financial and administrative matters.