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Posted May 12, 2006

See link on our website to Sant'Egidio Community to better learn about this Small Christian Community portrayed in this book. Several of these communities are in the U.S.

Book: Small Christian Communities Today: Capturing the New Moment
Editors: Joseph G. Healey and Jeanne Hinton
Orbis. Maryknoll, NY. 2006. Pp. 223

An Excerpt from the Foreword:

The French Dominican priest Yves Congar, who made a huge impression on me as a young priest in the late 1950s, was right then about the need for Basic Christian Communities. And he is even more right now.

Small Christian Communities (SCCs), he wrote in Lay People in the Church, are "little church cells wherein the mystery is lived directly and with great simplicity". They enable people to experience the church directly - the hierarchically structured people of God "to whose life all its members contribute and which is patterned by a give and take and a pooling of resources." For many of his contemporaries, he explained, "the church's machinery, sometimes the very institution, is a barrier obscuring her deep and living mystery, which they can find, or find again, only from below."

Congar hit on an important truth: that renewal in the church has come about, time and time again in its history, in and through the inspiration of small communities - monastic, evangelical, missionary, lay communities, communities of women - fired by the Holy Spirit. They have been enormously diverse, but they are all well described as "devoting themselves to the apostles' teaching, and to fellowship, to the breaking of bread and to the prayers.

. . . But this "new moment" of SCCs is a global moment, one that is true of the church at all points of its compass. That is why Joe Healey and Jeanne Hinton have done us all a favor in bringing together the varied, prophetic experiences of Small Christian Communities around the world, and allowed them to speak to each other. Taken together, they offer a glimpse of a church endlessly refired by the Holy Spirit, just as it was at the beginning in Jerusalem.

An Excerpt from the Book:

The communities of Sant'Egidio in Mozambique are young, vibrant, flexible, and impressively dedicated. The Sant'Egidio model - committed small communities, wholly inculturated, but tied to the universal church through the Community worldwide - suits Africa, which is increasingly an urban environment.

But it is also a model that suits Europe. A wise religious once told me that Western young people sought three things from religion. They wanted deep liturgical, contemplative prayer, and to know Christ, she said; they wanted a community of friendship; and they wanted practical justice that made real God's option for the poor, and that transformed the world around them. Her words struck home, because they were the three things I was looking for. Later I found them combined in Sant'Egidio.

I met the Community, as most people do, in Rome, in the Basilica of Santa Maria in Trastevere, at 8:30 one evening. The dome of the apse shimmers with Cavallini's gorgeous twelfth-century mosaics. A hugh icon of Christ dominate the altar. Even more remarkable is that the basilica fills with young people, most in their thirties and forties, the so-called "lost generation." Here they are, hastening with a seriousness of purpose I have only ever seen in monasteries. They chant a heart-cracking Vespers, which feels monastic yet which is modern, and which includes a Gospel reading and a reflection - one night by a layman, another night by a cardinal.

Sant'Egidio Communities around the world - they were present in sixty countries at the last count and include about forty thousand people - pray like this, at least once a week, before a copy of the same icon. The members do not live together, but in their own homes; they are mostly lay, but there are a few priests and one bishop. There are no vows or pledges; a person just gets involved and commits himself or herself to the prayer and service of the poor. The central administration is threadbare; communities are, in essence, autonomous, each with a leader - an abbatial figure, unelected, who guides the Community. Most communities have strong bonds with Rome: Easter in Trastevere brings together members from all over the world for three days of liturgies and talks; Christmas, too, is a time when people travel to take part in the celebrations at the Basilica of Santa Maria. Members are encouraged to help with the yearly gathering of religious leaders organized by Sant'Egidio and/or promote the Community's campaign against the death penalty.

But mostly what members do is spend their time crossing boundaries between religions, between cultures, between rich and poor, young and old, mentally disabled and mentally able. Whichever city they are in, the Communities have a special relationship with its poorer parts. In New York, as in London, the Community looks out for the hidden poor, the elderly who live alone in high-rise blocks, attended to materially by social services, but in human terms as abandoned as lepers in Calcutta.

Table of Contents:

Part One: Latin America 1. Pastoral commitment to BCCs in Bolivia
2. Fruits of El Salvador-Chile SCC twinning from within
3. Learning from the Cuban house churches
4. Challenge of youth to BECs: Mexico 2004
5. Analyzing the present moment: Latin American BECs in 2004

Part Two: North America
6. Development of SFCs in the Diocese of San Bernardino, CA
7. Communitas celebrating twenty years of building community
8. Imaging initiation (RCIA) in small church communities
9. Priority concerns of SCCs in American Catholicism
10. A moment of revitalization: the European collective of BCCs
11. Three European BCCs face today's challenges
12. The story of seeds in the United Kingdom
13. "At your word, Lord" renewal program of diocese of Westminster

Part Four: Africa
14. Pastoral involvement of parish-based SCCs in Dar es Salaam
15. SCC diocesan training team reaches out in Uganda
16. Small communities light up neighborhoods in Kisumu

Part Five: Asia and Oceania
17. BECs in the Philippines: renewing and transforming
18. Rerooting the faith in Asia through SCCs
19. Project linkup: a model of adult initiation in Australia
20. Action and reflection at the heart of SCCs in Australia
21. Canberra home church cluster
22. Building prophetic community in Aotearoa
23. Reenergizing international SCC twinning
24. Global communion on a face-to-face level
25. Sant'Egidio: prophets of the poor and of peace
26. Promoting SCCs via the Internet