Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
August 30, 2010
Quebec's new Catholic springtime
Famille Marie-Jeunesse communities combine evangelizing, contemplation, discernment
CANADIAN CATHOLIC NEWS
The new religious movement Famille Marie-Jeunesse (FMJ) began in Quebec City with a soccer game. No one can pin down the exact date, but sometime in the early 1980s, Quebec City seminarian Real Lavoie noticed a group of young people playing a game in the churchyard.
He joined them, treated them to trips to McDonald's, and began answering their questions about God, about how to pray and how one could get to know God personally, said Jennifer Y.M. Lee, who recently made a permanent commitment to lay consecrated life.
More and more young people began to join the fun and appreciate the family ambience that soon developed, Lee said. Soon a group decided to rent a house together to share their growing commitment to God and community life.
In the 1990s, some of these young people began to say, "I'd like to consecrate my life," Lee said.
In 1996, the first wave of young people made temporary commitments to consecrated life; in 1999 five made permanent commitments.
Since then 47 men and women have made their permanent commitments. Famille Marie-Jeunesse - which means Family of Mary's Youth - is dedicated to the love of Mary the Mother of God and to the love of the Eucharist. That family ambience remains, said Lee. It combines contemplation with the mission of evangelizing youth with the Good News of Jesus Christ.
Lavoie saw four young men from his group become priests before he was ordained on May 14, 2005.
Lavoie does not take credit for the founding of Famille Marie Jeunesse, said Jean-François Pouliot, who hopes to become a priest.
THE CALL OF GOD
Instead, Lavoie has said the movement was the answer of God and Mary to the cry of young people. It is also "the answer of young people to the call of God."
Quebec's churches had emptied during the Quiet Revolution of the 1960s, changing the most Catholic province in Canada into the most post-Christian and secularist - with high rates of family breakdown, suicide and children born outside marriage.
FMJ serves the brothers and sisters who do not know God loves them, Pouliot said.
In 1998, FMJ moved into its present motherhouse, a former Franciscan monastery in Sherbrooke, Quebec.
They credit Sherbrooke Archbishop André Gaumond's welcome and support for the growth of the new movement.
At first, with only 13 members, the monastery seemed huge, but now they have outgrown it. It remains their house of formation, but they are looking for larger accommodation and have hopes that somehow the former Cistercian monastery at Oka might become theirs.
FMJ still maintains a residence in Quebec City.
There are also FMJ houses in Îsle de La Réunion, an island in the Indian Ocean, in Ciney, Belgium, and Tahiti.
FMJ has come into dioceses at the invitation of the bishops, who have been like fathers and grandfathers, said Lee. Cardinal Marc Ouellet also gave great support to the movement in Quebec.
Thirteen FMJ men have been ordained to the priesthood. Some brothers want to remain lay members in consecrated life, along with the lay sisters.
They also have about 20 extended members that include married couples with children, though they do not live in community.
Those who live in community make commitments of poverty, chastity, obedience, as well as one of abandonment to God and to joy.
Members of the community pray three to four hours a day, including an hour of Eucharistic Adoration and a slow, meditative entering into the rosary, so that one set of five mysteries takes more than an hour to pray.
The mother house also offers intense faith formation in everything from theology, Scripture study, bio-ethics and the theology of the body.
FMJ stresses teaching in accordance with the Catholic Church.
"The same thing we are learning is the same thing the pope thinks," said Lee.
FMJ offers different levels of commitment. Young people often just drop by for a meal or stay the night.
In a year, the Sherbrooke facility serves guests about 125,000 meals and hosts 3,000 to 5,000 overnighters. It holds conferences to give people a taste of life in the community and encourages people to make a one-year commitment to consecrated life.
"You do not give one year of your life," said Pouliot. "You give all of your life for one year."
The time in prayer, they say, has supernatural dividends. Lee said the rest of the time they might play sports or juggle or play music and God moves through them "to touch people" or heal memories.
The community has attracted many musicians and artists. They survive through selling their CDs, through donations, through leading missions in parishes and schools.
FMJ's website is www.marie-jeunesse.org.
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