Pope Francis Inspires at 50th Neo Catechumenate

Pope Francis waves to the Philippine contingent, an arms length away from his passing vehicle. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

Written and photographed

By Jude Thaddeus L. Bautista

“Mission is giving what we have received. Mission is fulfilling God’s mandate, which we have listened to and on which I would like to reflect with you: ‘Therefore go and make disciples of all nations’ (Mt 28: 19). Go. The mission demands that we leave. But in life, there is a strong temptation to remain, not to take risks, to be content with having the situation under control. It is easier to stay at home, surrounded by those who love us, but it is not Jesus’ way.”

There was unity and camaraderie in one faith between people coming from 135 countries. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

Pope Francis gave this inspiring exhortation on the occasion of the 50th Anniversary of the Neo Catechumenal Way, May 5, 2018, University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, a large grassy field at the suburbs of Rome, Italy.

Pope Francis waves to thousands of pilgrims from his passing vehicle. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

150,000 people attended the event from 135 countries. Every nation from Sri Lanka, South Africa, to Fiji, Guam, to Croatia and the Philippines, many others were represented. The Philippine contingent numbered at least 400.

Paco / St. Peter Parish group carries the Philippine flag. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

The Holy Father continues, “He sends us out: “Go”. He does not use half measures. He does not authorize reduced transfers or reimbursed trips, but he says to His disciples, to all his disciples one word only: “Go!”. Go: a powerful call that resonates in every corner of Christian life; a clear invitation always to be outbound, pilgrims in the world in the search for the brother who still does not know the joy of God’s love.”

For the full transcript of Pope Francis’ message click on this link. 

There was unity and camaraderie in one faith between people coming from 135 countries. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary happened at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

Neo Catechumenate defined

The Neocatechumenal Way, also known as the Neocatechumenate, NCW or, colloquially, The Way, is a charism within the Catholic Church dedicated to Christian formation. It was formed in Madrid in 1964 by Kiko Argüello and Carmen Hernández.

Taking its inspiration from the catechumenate of the early Catholic Church by which converts from paganism were prepared for baptism, it provides post-baptismal formation to adults who are already members of the Church or to those far from the Church who have been attracted by the testimony of Christian life of love and unity in the communities (cf. Jn 13:35; 17:21), as proposed in the Rite of Christian Initiation of Adults (RCIA). From the official wiki site: Neo Catechumenal Way.

There was unity and camaraderie in one faith between people coming from 135 countries. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

The growth and popularity of the movement is owed to the intention of bringing Christ ‘to the people’ or helping them see the Lord in their lives. The Pope’s message above is a reflection of the teaching and missionary aspect of the movement. From the very beginning, the Way attracts a broad range of people from all walks of life. As it does not discriminate, often spreading the word to those who are marginalized by society.

Pope Francis shakes the hand of Kiko Arguello. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

Beginnings

Dr. Rolly Cua, is a Filipino Neo Catechist who has been in The Way for 39 years. In an interview he relates the roots of the movement from its founders: Kiko Arguello, Carmen Hernandez and later on Fr. Mario Pezzi, “Kiko and Carmen are Spanish, they started in Madrid and Fr. Mario is Italian. He is a Combonian priest who has been given to the Neo to help out in this team. Kiko is a painter and is an artist who is rich they have means. Yet there was something lacking in his life. So he started to read Charles De Foucauld, St Therese of Lesieux. He turned away from his money, he got his guitar, his bible and he lived in the shantytowns in Palomeras, Altas in Madrid. (1963)”

Neo initiators in the early days from left: Kiko Arguello, Carmen Hernandez and Fr. Mario Pezzi.

The 1960s was a time of change in the Catholic Church and the Vatican II in 1964 sought to make, the mass more relevant to the people and the times. Prior to this the mass was held in Latin. Kiko Arguello in a sense was already doing the practical application of what the church had already wanted in theory.

A painting by Kiko Arguello was used a giant backdrop. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

He added, “They started to look for something that’s more alive, more relevant to the people. And what they did theoretically, Kiko was already doing in practice. He was in the shantytowns and he was living with people who were sinners. The prostitute of the town, everyone knows she’s a prostitute; the drug addicts were there, the robbers. He just lived with them.”

Fr. Paolo Benetton conceptualized a highly successful pilgrimage tour and guided a group of 90 from various parishes in the Philippines. Valle Caffarella, Rome Italy, May 2, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

Living with the Poor

From Kiko Arguello’s own words, “When a person lives among the poor either they lose faith and becomes a guerilla warrior ‘Che Guevara’ style, or they go quietly in front of Christ and is sanctified. I am grateful to the Lord for the mercy he has had on me. There I saw Christ crucified and so when I returned from Africa I met Carmen’s sister, and I thought it was necessary to go to the social ‘catacombs’ and preach the gospel to these people, help them, give them a word of consolation. And so we formed a group that was dedicated to homosexuals, prostitutes and other undesirables.”

Initiator Carmen Hernandez who passed away in 2016 was honored during the event. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

“Carmen’s sister was part of an association, called ‘Villa Teresiata’, which was dedicated to recovering prostitutes. They went to prostitutes’ homes and offered them to those that wanted a job. This was very good work. In the end I realized that in that group they did everything more as a ‘hobby’. I told Carmen’s sister: ‘I am going to live with the poor’. Charles de Foucauld gave me the formula; to live in silence, as Jesus of Nazareth, at the foot of Jesus Christ in the midst of all those people. I met a Social Worker that showed me an area of Palomeras Altas with a wooden shack, a refuge for dogs. I was told, ‘Go there and don’t worry’.

Black and white photo of shantytown in Rome circa 1960s where Kiko Arguello first preached The Way. Valle Caffarella, Rome Italy, May 2, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

There everything sort of began. I wanted to live in the shack as Charles de Foucald; in contemplation as one in front of the Eucharist, at the foot of the only real presence of Christ. I wanted to be at the foot of Christ crucified, in the midst of the poorest and most miserable people.”

Source: History of the Neo Catechumenal Way.

Kiko Arguello; The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

Who is God For You?

Dr Cua continued, “Carmen on the other hand is the brain she finished chemistry and she was organizing people to do missionary work in Bulgaria, India. Then she heard about Kiko. So she attended and she saw Kiko with all these outcasts. She was so shocked that they were celebrating. They would break a word from the bible and he would ask what does this word tell you? What does this mean for you? Or who is God for you?”

Carmen began to change how she thought of what a Christian community is, “Being the criminals, they would say he is nobody for me. They’re very, very honest. In front of their sins they cannot keep a façade. When Carmen saw this she was shocked because she was thinking a Christian community should be holy people, priests and people who have studied. But she saw in the community of Kiko something tangible, something real. And the scum of the earth who touched her heart also. I’m already tearful.”

Dr. Rolly Cua shows black and white photo of shantytown in Rome circa 1960s where Kiko Arguello first preached The Way. Valle Caffarella, Rome Italy, May 2, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

Madrid to Rome and the World

From Spain both Kiko and Carmen brought the Neo Catechumenal Way to the slums of Rome. Today the former slum area has been converted to a lush green park called Valle Della Caffarella. They were rejected from that area but Kiko was persistent because he received a vision from the Virgin Mary in Madrid. This vision is translated into a painting by Kiko, which has become an iconic presence during the Neo’s Eucharistic celebrations.

Kiko Arguello’s painting of the Holy Mother is seen in every celebration of the Neo. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

What used to be a shantytown is now a lush green park called Valle Della Caffarella in Rome, May 2, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

Humility, Simplicity and Praise

Kiko believed that growth depended on having a consistent, group of people to walk the way. Dr Cua goes on, “People have to form small communities who will live in humility, simplicity and praise. That’s how Neo Catechumenate stages are done. Humility first, simplicity and praise. With that rejection they went to San Francesca Cabrini, then Canadian martyrs and the Nativity. Those were the 3 first communities in Rome. Its equal to Mary the Queen, Lourdes and St Francis in Manila. This is what happened in the very start.”

Our group was 90 people strong from the Parishes of Mary The Queen, Binondo, Paco, Cavite City, Rosario, Indang. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

50th Year Milestone

And in 1968 the Roman Catholic Church officially recognized the Neo Catechumenal Way and this was the year that marks the 50th anniversary today in 2018.

There was unity and camaraderie in one faith between people coming from 135 countries. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

The decades have seen tremendous growth from that time, “These were the seeds. Now we have everything in bloom. Now we have all the 5 continents, anywhere you go you can ask about the Neo Cathechumenate. Of course there are difficulties. Our celebrations are a little long, there’s sharing of the people because the people are participative. This is the basic story, when they went to Rome they met Fr. Mario to join this team.”

from left: Pope John Pail II with Neo Catechumenate Initiators Kiko Arguello, Fr. Mario Pezzi and seated Carmen Hernandez

Carmen Hernandez passed away at age 85 (July 19, 2016) she was replaced by Maria Ascensión Romero on February 2017. Romero was an itinerant missionary for years in Saint Petersburg, From: Neo’s Kiko Arguello Announces Replacement for Carmen Hernandez.

from left: Ascensión Romero, Kiko Arguello and Fr. Mario Pezzi. Photo from: https://www.romereports.com/en/2018/02/13/woman-completes-team-that-coordinates-neocatechumenal-way/

Parish Based

For people interested to experience The Way, it is important to know that it is parish based. Go to the Parish near your home or you are actively participating in (wherever this may be). Find out when the Neo Catechists are ‘announcing’ to start a community or program.

People from different countries and languages danced together. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

Rolly explains “No attendance being checked, no money being asked, you start the Cathechesis 15 nights, ending with a short retreat one and a half days. After that you can start, if you want to walk if you realize what God is asking you in your life, it can help. Of course the Neo Cathechumenate is not the only way. There are many other groups also which are formative. The Fuocolare are formative. The others are more service oriented but there are groups which are formative. Somebody looking for their faith should look for a formative group that fits them.”

Pope Francis; The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

Pope Francis: “Go!”

From Kiko’s question ‘Who is God for you?’ lies the strength of the Neo as well. People’s real life sharing can be the most powerful message and reflection that becomes relevant to everyone who hears it. No wonder The Way has spread around the world easily. Pope Francis recognizes this in his message during the anniversary,

Pope Francis; The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

“Here lies the strength of proclamation, so that the world may believe. What counts is not convincing arguments, but the life that attracts; not the ability to impose oneself, but the courage to serve. And you have in your ‘DNA’ this vocation to proclaim, living as a family, following the example of the Holy Family: in humility, simplicity, and praise. You bring this family atmosphere into so many desolate and unconcerned places. Let yourselves be recognized as the friends of Jesus. Call everyone your friends and be friends to all.

‘Go and make disciples of all peoples’. And when Jesus says everyone, He seems to want to emphasize that in His heart there is room for every people. Nobody is excluded.”

Pope Francis; The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

Epilogue: The Neo meeting with the Pope and our pilgrimage in general was a once in a lifetime opportunity. I would like to thank the people who made it possible. Thelma Gecolea for your encouragement and support, My brother George and his wife Hazel who sent us a stroller that was used and appreciated by my father, eldest brother Timmy and wife Joy, (both my brothers) who provided financial support to me and my parents.

I would like to extend my deepest gratitude to everyone in our travel group, all of whom assisted my parents and me during the trip. I thank everyone for their patience when we walked slowly (in the aisles) or occupied the public C.R. too long and so many other unintended inconveniences.

Apart from everyone’s patience and assistance I’d also like to thank especially Dr. Rolly Cua, Allen King, Ghita, Brother Froilan. Thank you for making this trip easier for our family. Most of all thank you to Fr. Paolo Benetton for making the trip cost efficient and yet so spiritually impactful with so many destinations along with your insights. Hopefully you don’t have too many nightmares of Pinoys demanding C.R. in every stop. Salamat po! Grazie Mille!—Jude Bautista

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Ascensión Romero; The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

Philippine flag; The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

Fr Paolo with the Cavite group from the Philippines. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

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Pope Francis waves to the Philippine contingent, an arms length away from his passing vehicle. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

There was unity and camaraderie in one faith between people coming from 135 countries. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

Members of the Italian Neo Catechumenate (in Rome) welcomed Filipino Neo members with open arms and cake! Viale Manlio Germozzi, Rome, May 2, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

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Fr Mario Pezzi; The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

Initiator Carmen Hernandez who passed away in 2016 was honored during the event. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event.

People from different countries and languages danced together. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

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Pope Francis; The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

There was unity and camaraderie in one faith between people coming from 135 countries. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

Philippine flag; The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

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Fr. Paolo Benetton conceptualized a highly successful pilgrimage tour and guided a group of 90 from various parishes in the Philippines. Valle Caffarella, Rome Italy, May 2, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

There was unity and camaraderie in one faith between people coming from 135 countries. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

What used to be a shantytown is now a lush green park called Valle Della Caffarella in Rome, May 2, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

WordPress:

http://judebsports.wordpress.com/ , http://judebfood.wordpress.com/ , https://judebphoto.wordpress.com/ , http://judebgallery.wordpress.com/ , http://judebautista.wordpress.com/

There was unity and camaraderie in one faith between people coming from 135 countries. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

Pope Francis waves to the Philippine contingent, an arms length away from his passing vehicle. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

There was unity and camaraderie in one faith between people coming from 135 countries. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

tumblr:

http://judebautista.tumblr.com/

There was unity and camaraderie in one faith between people coming from 135 countries. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

Pope Francis shakes the hand of Fr Mario Pezzi. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

flickr:

http://www.flickr.com/photos/14686025@N00/

Pope Francis; The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

There was unity and camaraderie in one faith between people coming from 135 countries. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

150,000 people from 135 countries attended the celebration. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

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Fr. Richard and Fr. Paolo with the St. Peter group from the Philippines. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

There was unity and camaraderie in one faith between people coming from 135 countries. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

Guitarists from different countries sing the same songs. In this case it was in Spanish. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

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Sri Lankan flag; The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo by Jude Bautista

There was unity and camaraderie in one faith between people coming from 135 countries. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

Neo co founder Kiko Arguello is not only a painter but also a musician, composer and arranger who expanded his compositions for the guitar to whole orchestras. The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

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Pope Francis; The 50th Neo Catechumenal Anniversary was held at the University of Rome Tor Vergata Grounds, Rome Italy, May 5, 2018. Photo from official Vatican Youtube video of event: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EX_hSTbC0So

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