Landmark Year for the Missionaries of God's Love

Catholic Communications, Sydney Archdiocese,
21 Nov 2014

Many of the MGL priests gather at the first Mass of the newly ordained

More than 29 priests and brothers of the Missionaries of God's Love (MGL) have gathered at St Benedict's Narrabundah, Canberra for their fourth convocation and the first to be held since the community was officially recognised by the Vatican as a religious institution earlier this year.

The week-long convocation, which is held every four years, marks the end of a landmark 12 months for MGL.

In February, the Archbishop of Canberra and Goulburn, the Most Rev Christopher Prowse presided over MGL's Inauguration Mass at St Christopher's Cathedral, Canberra when he described the "Missionaries of God's Love as a sign of one of the great fruits of the charismatic and new ecclesial movements in the Church today."

Founded just 29 years ago by Father Ken Barker, MGL is one of a very few religious congregations established in Australia by Australians to be recognised by the Pontifical Congregation of Religious Institutes and Societies of Apostolic Life.  The best known of these is the Sisters of St Joseph of the Sacred Heart, the congregation founded by Fr Julian Tenison-Woods and St Mary of the Cross MacKillop which was given formal recognition and approval by the Vatican in 1874, exactly 140 years ago.

Father Ken Barker founder and Moderator of the Missionaries of God's Love

As a member of Canberra's MGL community put it, recognition by the Vatican is a "very big deal not only for MGL but for the Catholic Church in Australia."

Which is why the Mass of Installation of Fr Ken Barker on Wednesday this week after his re-election for a further four years as Moderator of MGL is being widely celebrated and marks the first time the leader and founder of MGL has been formally installed.

The Mass of Installation was held at St Benedict's Church, Nurrabundah and was celebrated by Archbishop Prowse and attended by MGL's priests and brothers who re-elected their leader on Saturday, the first day of the convocation.

Held from 17 to 24 November, those attending the MGL convocation are also celebrating last week's ordinations of MGL priest, Fr Izak Belyanan and the Diaconate Ordinations of MGL's Lenin Thenarmirtham and Isuru Dinesh.

The three were ordained at St Christopher's Cathedral, Canberra by the Archbishop of Canberra & Goulburn, the Most Rev Christopher Prowse on Friday last week, 14 November and is one of the many highlights in what has been a momentous year for MGL which has also included the establishment of MGL's first mission in Indonesia.

Archbishop Christopher Prowse with Fr Ken Barker and other Missionaries of God's Love priests at the Mass of Installation this week

The congregation already operates missions among the poor of North Quezon city in the Philippines and in Darwin where chaplains minister to Indigenous communities across the Top End.

The beginnings of MGL began back in 1986 when Fr Ken returned to Australia after studying at the Catholic University of America where he graduated with a Doctorate in Theology.

His return coincided with the emergence of Australia's Catholic Charismatic Renewal. He had witnessed the Charismatic Renewal in Churches in the US and admits he was impacted by this and in particular by the way charismatic renewal and the commitment to God was being lived out in  people's daily lives whether they were single, married or consecrated.

Fr Ken says he realised then that this was the way he wanted to be involved with the Church and with God, but it wasn't until three young men from the Disciples of Jesus Covenant Community approached him, telling him they wanted to become priests but did not wish to leave the Community.

Fr Ken Barker MGL prays over newly ordained priest Fr Izak Belyanan

Fr Ken suggested he and the three would-be priests pray about their situation. For 12 months the four men prayed together before the Blessed Sacrament seeking direction from the Lord and his plans for them.

Gradually, Fr Ken says it became clear to him - and the others - that the Lord wanted him to form a brotherhood to evangelise young people, preach the Gospel with passion and joy, and to help and live amongst the poor.

Led by Fr Ken, and retaining close links with the Disciples of Jesus Covenant Community, MGL has continued to grow.

At a time when many traditional priestly and religious congregations are experiencing a decline in   vocations for the priesthood, MGL is not only expanding with more and more young men becoming seminarians at its John Paul II Formation House, but today there is also a MGL Sisterhood.

During this week's convocation, Fr Ken and MGL's priests and brothers will spend their time in prayer and discussion and listen to what the Lord is saying about the direction they should take over the next four years.

"We have only just begun," Fr Ken says of Australia's newest and youngest religious congregation and explains that the real founder of MGL is not himself but the Holy Spirit.

"None of this would have happened without the Lord. Nothing would have happened without His gift to us and to the Church. And with this gift comes great responsibility and we pray we can fulfil this responsibility by being whole hearted in our response to God and giving ourselves for the sake of the Gospel."

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