What we do

Collaboration of Lay People
and Redemptorists

Since the 1700s when Father Alphonsus Liguori walked the streets of Naples, Redemptorist missionaries and lay apostles have prayed together and worked shoulder-to-shoulder in the mission. Yet in our day, the Lord is doing something new.

Across the world, laity and Redemptorists are joining forces in new ways to preach the Good News and care for the poor.

·        In Colombia, Redemptorists and lay catechists live in simple shacks beside the poorest families in order to truly understand their struggles as they minister to their needs.

·        In Ireland, spirited lay youth and adventurous senior Redemptorists have teamed up to preach missions in Belfast, bringing hope to neighborhoods ravaged by violence.

·        In the Philippines, lay and Redemptorist itinerant missionaries leave home and friends for months at a time in order to form Christian communities in isolated villages.

·        In Canada, married and single adults have formed mission teams with Redemptorists to reach out to abandoned Catholics in remote areas of the country.

·        In the United States, Redemptorists and young adult volunteers reach out together to hundreds of people who are homeless or hungry in the city of Philadelphia, the Caribbean islands, and Appalachia.

·        In Italy, Redemptorists and youth have formed pastoral teams to minister to youth confronting neglect, abuse and addiction.

·        In Africa, Redemptorists and lay catechists have organized evening meetings to answer the spiritual questions of people longing for hope and light.

These are just a few examples of the dynamic new collaboration in our shared mission of evangelization. In the words of a Brazilian Redemptorist, “It is the seed of a new model of Church, a seed that was sown by the founder of the Redemptorist Congregation.”

The Legacy of Saint Alphonsus

Alphonsus Liguori was inclusive, practical, and creative in ministry. He was willing to take risks and try new things in order to reach people on the outer edges of society.

His first priority was to bring the Good News to those who were rejected and forgotten by the institutional Church, people without hope or help. Just as Jesus did not sit in synagogues waiting for the people to come to him, Alphonsus did not limit himself to traditional places or forms of ministry. He left comfort and security behind in order “to search out and to save what was lost.” (Luke 19:10).

A concrete example of Alphonsus’ creativity and inclusiveness is his relationship with laity. The founder of the Redemptorists was ahead of his time in this area:

·  The Evening Chapels

Alphonsus engaged lay people as co-workers in ministry in the poorest neighborhoods of Naples, in a Christian community-building movement that came to be known as the “Evening Chapels.” Together with a dedicated layman named Pietro, he trained ordinary working lay people to become catechists, preachers and community leaders.

The Evening Chapels were a huge success, influencing thousands of people. They were described as “centers for conversion” and “greenhouses for saints.” Most important, they continued to thrive long after Alphonsus stopped being involved with them because the local lay people, not Alphonsus and his fellow priests, were in charge.

Lay people were “the backbone” of this great work. Alphonsus saw himself as merely the assistant to the lay leaders, who had the real authority and credibility among the members of the community since they were living the same struggles in the city.

·  School of Formation for Women

Alphonsus recognized the leadership potential of women in an era when lay women had a limited place and little power in the institutional Church. He started a school of formation for women and chose a woman to be the director of the school.

Unfortunately, the school did not last because the women, who were poor, had to work all day and care for their children at night. Still, the women gained confidence and a sense of personal mission thanks to his attention and efforts.

·  Daily Meditation Together

Alphonsus insisted that the members of the Redemptorist community pray regularly with the laity. Twice a day, the Redemptorists would walk into the Church together and make their meditation together with lay people. This was not a common practice among religious and laity in the eighteenth century; it was a daring idea that renewed spiritual practice in local communities.

Our Heritage and Our Hope

Today, the Redemptorists are joyfully reclaiming this practice of creative collaboration with the laity.

In 1991 the Redemptorist General Chapter dedicated an entire section of the Final Document to “Collaboration with Laity on a Basis of Partnership” and introduced the new category of “Lay Missionary of the Most Holy Redeemer as an active co-worker and participant in the apostolic life of the Redemptorist Congregation.” This same document urged Redemptorist communities “to open themselves up to the laity, so that they may have a greater share in our experiences of life, work and spirituality."(XXI General Chapter, Final Document, No. 60)

Lay leaders now serve on international and regional committees that study and promote effective Redemptorist-lay ministry. Together, we are developing inclusive formation and training programs. Together, we are finding new ways to share our spirituality through regular times of prayer and fellowship in community.

A multi-cultural mix of men and women of all ages and backgrounds are joining forces in the Redemptorist mission: this diversity is a great strength, testifying to the vitality of the Redemptorist charism today.

A lay woman from Dominica gives voice to the spirit of hope in our collaborative ministry:

“When the Redemptorists came to our island, like a volcano we went from dormant to active. They have helped me to be a leader to myself and to my people. I love being part of this family, a family open to changes, a family who goes forward. I thank God for St. Alphonsus. I think he must be glad to know that his works continue.”

Fr. Joseph Tobin, C.Ss.R.
Superior General of the Congregation

“We are all called to announce the Good News to the most abandoned poor according to the inspiration of Saint Alphonsus Liguori. Collaboration among Redemptorists and laity is neither a search for “helpers” to assist a diminishing number of professed nor a vindication of rights on behalf of a long neglected laity. Lay ministry is rooted in a renewed appreciation for Christian vocation assumed in baptism and, as such, is no longer an exception but rather the rule, at least in most of the seventy-seven countries where our Congregation serves. What is more, I believe the question is not simply how laity can be empowered to minister in the third millennium of Christianity; it is also what significance the consecrated life may have in a Church in which the laity has an increasingly prominent role. The Second Vatican Council not only underscores the value of the lay vocation; it also speaks of the consecrated life as a way of life that is essential to the Church. Dialogue among Redemptorists and lay people should help the professed members of the Congregation to better understand our own vocation.”