WelCom News
A newspaper for the Wellington and Palmerston North Catholic Dioceses

Pilgrimage to Waikanae for Faith and Light’s 40th

Locals mark 40 years of world movement for those with disabilities

Kieran Fenn fms
2 May 2011

Around 80 members of Australian and New Zealand Faith and Light groups gathered at El Rancho in Waikanae on April 1 in pilgrimage to celebrate a movement that came into being 40 years ago. Jean Vanier and Marie Helene Mathieu started the movement in 1971 following a pilgrimage to Lourdes, France, in 1971 response to a request from two mentally disabled children, Taddée and Loïc, and their parents.

altThe impulse behind the project was to help the mentally and physically disabled and their families to find their rightful place in the Church and in society. Communities comprising people suffering from mental and physical disabilities, with their relatives and friends, sprang into being.

What began at Easter 1971 with 12,000 pilgrims including 4,000 disabled people arriving at Lourdes from 15 countries, has now become a worldwide movement. The Easter message of bringing life to others, especially God’s littlest ones, is a living experience of receiving back more than one can imagine.

Now ecumenical
Faith and Light started as Catholic, but is today rooted in different Christian traditions. A moving ecumenical service marked the Sunday [April 3] worship of the group, along with a selection of the Stations of the Cross and a deeply spiritual Taize prayer. The reverence and spirituality of those for whom Faith and Light was founded shone through in the simplicity of their response to a God who knows and loves them.

Faith and Light comprises 1,452 communities in 78 countries of Africa, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, North America, Oceania and South America. All are celebrating in international fiestas the movement’s 40th year.

Our Shalom group gathers at Our Lady of the Rosary in Waiwhetu, on the afternoon, 1.30 to 3.30, of the second Sunday of the month. It is something I look forward to. We have prayer, singing, biblical dramas, (perhaps my most important biblical work, and certainly my most enjoyable!) and other activities. It is awe-inspiring to be part of the life of the parents and caregivers for our special people.

I want to show that our Church cares for them and in their love and service of Christ’s little ones is the most perfect expression of the ministry to which Jesus calls us. If ever Christ’s words ring true that the least in the eyes of so much of the world shall be first, it is in Faith and Light. It is a vision of Church in which the Marist ideals of no to power, no to prestige, and no to positions are lived out.

I felt so much at home among those for whom their vision of Church is in the simplicity of love and service.

A pilgrim is on a sacred journey, in which God is encountered through places, people, and situations. In the unconditional love of Adrian, Alain, John, Janelle, Sam, Mat, Warren, Bernadette, Madeleine, Caroline and so many more of those for whom Faith and Light was founded, your goodness and beauty are shining lights, as are core team members and parents from both our countries, we are Faith and Light together for one another.

Image: Keith Honey is missioned to go forth and be a messenger of joy. National president Mary de Leijer (wheelchair) and the national chaplain Nora Cochrane, left, from Perth.