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Acknowledgements James O’Halloran & Fr Ray Thomas
Some of the first small faith groups (which I will refer to as “cells”) originated in Latin America where today there are estimated to be 150 000. Both Pope John Paul II and Pope Paul VI were strong supporters and encouraged the formation of such groups.
The emergence of these cells was caused mainly by a shortage of priests, a need for people to relate to each other and persecution of the church. Today we sit with the same problems and cannot be complacent in not forming a network of believers to support one another and assisting the church to carry out its work for the Lord.
CHARACTERISTICS OF A CELL
It will be pertinent at this stage to examine the characteristics of these faith groups in order to get a better understanding of what needs to be done to create such a community. It is a small community
From this year R C I A will be split into 2 groups.
1. RCIA - This is for those who are not Baptised, not catholic and would like to be received into full Communion with the Catholic Church. This is not for Catholics. Starting in early June.
2. Know your Catholic Faith - This is for all those Baptised Catholic but who have not yet received the further Sacrament. Also for those Catholics who wish to know more about their faith. Staring late January 2012.
The cell is the fundamental unit of biology, endowed with life and with the potential to generate new life by the process of multiplication or splitting. The Small Faith Groups or Cells are made up of people who are held together by the bonds of faith love and hope and must aim to evangelise and to make disciples. This is done by drawing new people into the Group or Cell and then when the numbers reach a certain level being able to multiply or split, giving birth to a daughter Group or Cell. This needs to seen as fundamental to the nature and life of any group.
It is equally important that the leaders of such Groups or Cells are taken care of as much as they take care of others. It is also essential that they are linked to one another as leaders and to the priests of the parish. It is hoped that this will become a reality in the not too distant future in this parish.
In the R.C.I.A. model of formation, one of the keys is the insertion into the community of those who are journeying to full membership with the Church. To achieve this, they are presented to the community and are given a sponsor to accompany them, to advise them and to pray for them. This is sometimes done for those parents who present their children for baptism. If this is considered to be an important pastoral approach, then it would be valuable to extend this to all parishioners.
The aim is to get all parishioners connected to one another where each person has someone who journeys with them and they in turn journey with someone else. In this journeying process, each person has someone who will take an interest in them, form a personal relationship with them, be an inspiration to them, care for them and be a prayer partner.
The idea needs to be presented to the community and to be developed from there. We could start with the R.C.I.A. process, parents bringing their children for baptism, those preparing to receive sacraments, those in small faith groups and in the different groups and organisations of the parish.