The new, vital, charismatic Missionaries of God's Love have become on 8 February 2014, Australia's first community in many years to be formally recognised by the Vatican as a Religious Institute of Diocesan Right.
They were founded in Canberra by Father Ken Barker in 1986. Over succeeding years they have become one of the glowing "points-of-light" in an Australian Church which has its challenges!
The Roman authorities may grant this status when a new "Public Association of Christ's Faithful" has over 40 members of whom one-half must be in Perpetual Vows. At the moment, the Missionaries have 20 ordained members and another 37 young brothers under temporary vows and so they qualify for this new acceptance by the Vatican.
In an impressive ceremony in a packed St Christopher's Cathedral in Manuka, the Archbishop of Canberra-Goulburn, Christopher Prowse, presided over the inauguration Mass on behalf of the Pontifical Congregation of Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life.
Sharing the enthusiasm of the moment, Archbishop Prowse told the congregation: "The Missionaries of God's Love are a sign of the great fruits of the charismatic and new ecclesial movements in the contemporary Church. They bring great hope and joy not only in our diocese but throughout Australia and beyond."
The MGLs are the first Australian Religious Institute to emerge from the charismatic renewal.
The Institute's 20 priests stood before the massive Cathedral congregation and publicly professed their perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and mission. In their wake, the 37 consecrated brothers renewed their initial vows.
Father Ken Barker, Founder and Moderator, offered some cautionary advice: "Let us not think today that in any way we have made it. We have only just begun. We have been given a precious gift today, not for ourselves but to give joyfully to others. We are only the earthenware jars that hold this treasure.
"We walk as humble servants of the Lord and have done nothing to deserve this gift. However, it is an important moment for us, as our charism has been recognised by the Church. But with the gift comes great responsibility and so we have to seek the Lord more in these coming days in order to be faithful to our charism but also to serving the Church - the People of God."
The MGLs have defied the steep decline in vocations seen elsewhere among other religious orders in Australia. Today they have the youngest average age of any Catholic religious institute in the country.
What is attracting young men to the Missionaries of God's Love? Father Ken believes that some men are drawn because the MGLs are distinctive, having their roots in the experience of the outpouring of the Holy Spirit in the worldwide "New Pentecost" after Vatican II. "We have a strong vision under the grace of the New Evangelisation proclaimed by recent Popes, especially in working with young people."
The life of the Missionaries is firmly counter-cultural and makes serious demands on its members. The normal day in an MGL formation house commences with two hours of prayer embracing the Divine Office, the Mass, and an hour of adoration before the Blessed Sacrament. Later in the day, the brothers gather for Evening and Night prayer.
The centrepiece of MGL spirituality is the daily hour of adoration. "We seek to be 'contemplatives in action' explains Father Barker. "Our love for Jesus in the Eucharist gives us the fire for mission."
There is a Eucharistic Centre based in St Benedict's Parish, Narrabundah (ACT), where there are many hours of rostered adoration each week. St Benedict's Parish is also the gathering place for three youth ministries geared towards different age groups which the MGLs conduct in association with the Disciples of Jesus Covenant Community.
There is also the St Martin de Porres community in Darwin which is an urban aboriginal mission and recently the MGLs have taken care of the Catholic Youth Chaplaincy for the Top End.
There is also a mission in Manila in the Philippines where the Missionaries work in squatter settlements to build Christian communities and in 2014, they are launching a new initiative in Flores in Indonesia.
They are also involved in evangelising young people through Summer Schools of Evangelisation conducted by the Disciples of Jesus in four different locations around Australia each year.
The MGLs are partners in the Asia-Pacific School of Evangelisation which trains young men and women as evangelists and sends them on cross-cultural missions in the Asia-Pacific Region.
Some years ago, Father Ken inspired a group of young men to found the Young Men of God movement which is now active in a number of dioceses on the east coast of Australia. The YMG National Conference is an impressive annual event.
More recently the Missionaries have assisted the Catholic Schools Youth Ministry Association which was established in Canberra by Peter Woods, Director of Mission and Identity at St Edmund's College, Manuka, in 2007. The current Director of the CSYMA is Sr Therese Mills.
The mention of Sr Therese Mills as a pioneer member of the MGL Sisters, serves as a reminder that the Missionaries have a sister institute for women. The Sisters have their formation house in the Canberra suburb of Garran and are established in Melbourne and Darwin.
With all this development, the Missionaries of God's Love have endless financial needs. They can be assisted by sending contributions to Missionaries of God's Love, 8 Nuyts Street, Red Hill, ACT, 2603.