Community evenings in Lent focus on compassion and mission

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The overall theme of this year's community evenings, "Together," has been inspired by the ecumenical vigil with Pope Francis in St. Peter's Square last September, where participants prayed for the first general assembly of the Synod on Synodality

Community evenings in Lent focus on compassion and mission

By Stefanie Bross

The Lay Centre’s weekly community evenings through Lent have been focused on the themes of compassion and mission, starting with Ash Wednesday, Feb. 14. Cardinal José Tolentino de Mendonça, prefect of the Dicastery for Culture and Education, presided over the evening Mass. He was joined by Father Andreas Lind, S.J., professor of philosophy at the Pontifical Gregorian University and formator at the Jesuits’ San Saba community in Rome.

The Portuguese cardinal is also a distinguished poet, theologian and scholar. He invited the students to consider the transformative power of art, literature and culture in shaping the human experience and fostering a deeper connection to the divine. He emphasized the importance of engaging with contemporary society while remaining rooted in timeless truths. He encouraged the residents to be missionaries of beauty.

Claudio Betti and Elizabeth Boyle (picture), members of the Community of Sant’Egidio, visited with the resident community Feb. 21. Drawing from the rich wellspring of the Sant’Egidio lay movement, they shared insights on service and compassion. Boyle’s firsthand accounts of her work in conflict mediation and diplomacy underscored the transformative potential of dialogue and solidarity in the pursuit of peace. The Mass was presided by Father Peter Lah, S.J., dean of the faculty of social sciences at the Pontifical Gregorian University.

Father Thomas Joseph White, O.P., rector of the Pontifical University of St. Thomas Aquinas (Angelicum), presided over the Mass Feb. 28 and stayed for a short exchange with the students. During that informal moment, he spoke about Christian faith and the opportunities of dialogue with non-believers, as well as the need to preach the Gospel tirelessly.

A week before Lent began, on Feb. 7, the student community welcomed Bishop Lesanuchristos Matheos Semahun of Bahir Dar-Dessie, Ethiopia. Yaried, a Lay Centre resident from Bahir Dar-Dessie, introduced his bishop to the community. Bishop Matheos shared profound insights garnered from years of missionary work among tribes who had never heard the name of Jesus. His words, infused with deep sincerity and urgency for peace in Ethiopia, resonated with residents. 

Earlier in the year, the community received Father Piotr Janas, O.P., vice dean of the faculty of social sciences at the Angelicum, who shared reflections on Catholic social teaching, particularly the intersection of work, leadership, and spirituality in business. Father Piotr began the evening Jan. 17 speaking about his personal journey, which took him through the worlds of business consultancy and telecommunications before discovering his call with the Dominicans.

At the heart of the discussion was an exploration of the methodology behind Catholic social teaching, summed up in the triad of “Seeing - Judging - Acting.” He emphasized the holistic ministry of Jesus, highlighting his teachings and his acts of healing and service as guiding examples for modern discipleship. He stressed that the Church’s social teachings provide guiding principles rather than strict directives, which encourage critical engagement with social issues.

  • The following week, The Lay Centre community participated in several events for the Week of Prayer for Christian Unity. As in past years, the Centro Pro Unione and The Lay Centre hosted a joint event to start the week Jan. 18. The theme was "Synodality at your fingertips."

Father Fabio Baggio, C.S. (picture), undersecretary of the Dicastery for the Promotion of Integral Human Development, presided over the Mass Jan. 24. Father Baggio, renowned for his work in migration studies, shed light on the mission of the dicastery and its crucial role in synthesizing pastoral reflections from various fields to address contemporary challenges. His insights echoed the pope’s unwavering support for the marginalized.

On Jan. 31, in the midst of final exams, Father Edmund Power, O.S.B., delved into Benedictine spirituality. He spoke about the Benedictine values of prayer, work and community and highlighted the enduring relevance of ancient monastic traditions in modern life.

Photos: Evelyn Blacklock

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