Sifting through some old diaries I came across the one for 2005 and found therein in the March (11th) the cryptic note: Cenacolo at Dodding Green Father Stefano and 9 lads from the Community had arrived and Cenacolo was ‘born’ in Britain. But before that day Cenacolo had been ‘born’ in the hearts of a group of men and women who had encountered the Community mainly in Italy and Medjugorje; they determined that a House should be opened in the UK. These were trail blazers who had to work so hard to bring their hope to fruition. Firstly, they had to struggle to find a House suitable for the Community. Here God’s providence was at work for, seemingly through coincidental meetings, Bishop O’Donoghue was able to offer to the Community the property at Dodding Green; this is a property with a rich Catholic history that hid priests away during the time of persecution.
The struggle then took another turn when the then trustees of the charity (Friends for a UK Cenacolo Community) had to try and persuade the local community, Town Council and eventually a Government Inspector to allow the use of Dodding Green for a Cenacolo Community. Their prayer and dogged determination won the day; their love bore the fruit of a Fraternity in Britain.
I recall my first encounter with the lads and Fr Stefano at Mass in the Kendal church. Even through it was a ‘weekday’ many people turned out to celebrate the Mass with them and to greet them.
I recall too, the first public Mass at Dodding Green with the Community, it was just over a week after they had arrived and they celebrated the Feast of St Joseph.
In those early days Fr McCormick (FrM) from the Liverpool Diocese, who was Chair of the Cenacolo Charity in the UK, used to travel to the House each Sunday to celebrate Mass with the Fraternity. Eventually the lads came to the Sunday evening Mass and often provided the music. Later on FrM was released by his bishop and came as an assistant priest to Kendal parish where he was more free to minister to the Community. Sadly this was curtailed when, because of family illness, FrM had to return to Liverpool to act as a carer. And is when the priests in Kendal became more involved with the life of the Community, celebrating Mass and hearing Confessions.
Reflecting on these event from my own perspective, I recognise the hand of God at work in all of this. God placed Cenacolo in ‘my’ parish because he knew that ‘I’ needed Cenacolo. He knew that I needed to be touched by the spirituality of Cenacolo. Like many other I have been changed by my encounter with the Community. In his mercy, God has given to me the great Joy (and not a little sorrow, too) of being associated with these lads in their ‘walk.’ Associated also with the wider family of Cenacolo.
But what goes on a Dodding Green is but the tip of the iceberg, there are so many more aspects to the life of Cenacolo in the UK. We just have to look at the many Prayer Groups up and down the land, and in particular the Listening Points. These ‘friends’ of the Community in an unobtrusive way, welcome enquirers and share their knowledge of the Community with them; the enquirers are helped to discern the path to choose. Many of those who lead the Listening Points were prime movers in establishing a Fraternity in the UK.
I reflect too, on the work of the charity’s trustees; something I never envisaged was being a trustee until I was approached one Open Day by the late John Godwin, Phillip and Bryan. I continue to be inspired by these men and women, who together with the officers: secretary & treasurer, selflessly give their time, sharing a love of the Community.
This ‘school of life’ as M. Elvira styles the Community, teaches the men the principles of the Christian life: how to forgive, how not to bare a grudge, how to put the other first. It helps them to understand the suffering in life. And if this is how the men are called to live, so too the friends of the Community, ready to rejoice in the different contributions made by all involved in this work of the Holy Spirit.
I have truly been blessed to be in the wake of the energy of love flowing from one woman’s ‘yes’ to God.