We've all heard the expression, "the spirit of Vatican II". It was bandied about at first in debate about how the documents of the Council were to be interpreted. Then it was used to excuse whatever was going on that felt good but might or might not have been what the Council Fathers intended.
There was much debate, dissension and heartache in the wake of Vatican II as bishops, priests and theologians tried to contain or explain or even to simply understand what the Holy Spirit had been saying to them through the Council.
Now not so well known is that while renowned scholars and theologians were debating and defining and talking a lot, a group of unknown teens at Duquesne University in America were at prayer - not in analysis, controversy or debate, but in humble prayer.
As they prayed, they experienced an outpouring of the Spirit that is now seen to be the beginnings of the Charismatic Renewal in the Catholic Church. This event occurred two years after the close of the Council and inaugurated a movement in the Church that, until quite recently, had been largely ignored by the scholars and theologians who sought so diligently for that spirit of the Council.
While they were looking in another direction for the Church's renewal this humble experience began to grow: from one prayer group in America in 1967 to 148,000 prayer groups in 235 countries today. When Pope John XXIII prayed for a new Pentecost at the opening of Vatican II, little, I think, did he or his many advisers predict that the answer to this prayer would be in thousands of individuals experiencing their own private Pentecosts.
Yet that is exactly what happened in the wake of Vatican II and continues to happen. It is estimated that by the year 2025 approximately 310 million Catholics throughout the world will have experienced what those students at Duquesne University experienced. The Spirit has come to all these people and set them on fire to evangelise.
Perhaps even more surprising is that among the fruits of the Renewal in 1985 was a humble Australian priest, Fr Ken Barker, praying with a small group of young men who were members of the Covenant Community in Canberra. They heard the call to start a charismatic brotherhood, later known as the Missionaries of God's Love.
In the same year Sr Patti Jo Crockett, a Franciscan Missionary of Mary, also received her call to start "charismatic religious life" for women in the community.
The men subsequently opened a house, a simple suburban home, and began the call to live radical poverty for the sake of the gospel. St Francis of Assisi, Il Poverello, was an inspiration and catalyst for the beginnings of MGL in this new movement of the Holy Spirit. It was his life that set Fr Ken on the search for "more."
By a coincidence, Sr Patti Jo had been a Franciscan Missionary of Mary for twenty years. Following the vows of the first MGL in December 1987, the sisters opened their first house in Canberra close to the feast of the Epiphany in 1988.
The MGL sisters have come together to live in poverty like Christ, unencumbered, for the New Evangelisation. Like other new groups in the Renewal our proclamation of the gospel is explicit. We are there first and foremost for the poor, the marginalised, the unchurched and the young. We bring Christ to them through the evangelisation of friendship, accompanying them and sharing in their pain and suffering. We hope that in meeting us they somehow meet the Lord and can experience his deep personal love for them. They often do and will come with us into the community of faith. Charismatic in flavour while also deeply contemplative, with a strong love of the Eucharist, we especially depend on our two hours of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament each day to fire our mission to God's little ones.
We have lived and worked among the poor in Elizabeth (1991-1999) and with the Indigenous in Darwin (1995-2003). We work now especially among the marginalised in Canberra and with the young in Sydney and Melbourne. Our day to day lives find us doing strange things for the Lord. We knock on random doors to bring Christ to people.
Occasionally you will see us preaching on the streets of Canberra, calling out to busy workers as they pass by, reminding them of God's love for them. Our radical mission is accompanied by the quieter work of retreats for the young and spiritual direction of anyone who seeks it.
We train youth leaders and seek to encourage the evangelisation of young people through their peers. Some of our mission work is done in collaboration with our MGL brothers and members of our lay community.
So, who are we? We live as witnesses to the radical nature of the gospel of Christ, witnesses first, not teachers. We come together with lay people to share in the New Evangelisation. We are fired anew by the Eucharist and seek to bring others into its transforming glow. We attempt to express to all those that we meet that beauty, ever ancient, ever new, that is His Church.
Who are we? We are children of the Second Vatican Council. We are co-operating in the new breath of life that the Spirit of Vatican II breathed again over the globe. We are small, 15 members, but growing and glowing with "love's urgent longings".
Yes, the Spirit of Vatican II is alive and well - it's a Spirit of truth, peace and love. It's the Holy Spirit. It's Him whom we seek to serve and to bear witness to in our secular Australia.
The MGL Sisters have houses in Canberra, Sydney and Melbourne. God is blessing us with vocations. We have recently purchased a novitiate house in Canberra and are seeking funds to secure it. If you would like to be part of this venture for the Kingdom please donate via Direct Debit: Missionaries of God's Love Sisters, Commonwealth Bank of Australia, BSB: 062 913, Account: 1074643; or cheque or money order: Missionaries of God's Love Sisters, 56 Hannaford Street, Page, ACT 2615.