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From lockdown to community

The Faber Companions are a group of young laymen who live and pray together in community, immersing themselves in the traditions of St Ignatius of Loyola, the founder of the Jesuits. They came together in Dublin in 2018 under the direction of Myles O’Reilly SJ.

They had just launched their new programme of Ignatian spirituality ministry when lockdown struck. But undeterred they decided to carry out their work online. Community member Dan Broderick explains how.

Online with the Spirit

For the duration of Lent, our lay community had begun a Saturday morning Lenten series for young people. The intention behind the series was simple: one part teaching, one part sharing. After gathering in the Faber house in Leinster Road, Rathmines, for a coffee and a pastry, a group of 10-15 young adults would discuss a prepared topic in a comfortable environment.

The first week revolved around a discussion on the sacrament of the Eucharist and its significance in our lives and the life of the Church.

In a lecture prepared by community member Fergus Higgins, the gathered young people tuned in to ‘insights from an already tended garden’. Fergus focussed on the Eucharist through the lens of scholars, Catholic theologians, and artists. After his talk, there was time for reflection which was followed by a Q&A session.

The following Saturday, James Aherne (also a Faber Companion), followed up with a chapter reading from Brian McLaren’s We Make the Road by Walking. He read the chapter aloud, with facilitated time throughout the reading for journaling, reflecting, and sharing.

The discussion which followed was rich and centered around the theme of ‘tradition’ and its importance as a cornerstone in a life of faith. It was noted that tradition was not simply a stagnant pool of wisdom but rather something organic. It grows.

The Lenten series was off to a strong start with attendance growing and feedback very positive. Shane Jenkins, Director of Teach Bhríde (attached to the University Church) commented that it was ‘quickly becoming the best part of the week.’

Then the Corona Virus restrictions came into place. Like most people in Ireland, the group was initially thrown out of kilter by the restrictions.

How could community take place if people could not congregate together? How were we to build a ministry with a closed front door? The same conundrum faced congregations and parishes around the country. Nevertheless, it’s been said that necessity is the mother of all invention. Like many parishes around the country, the Faber Companions turned to technology for its solutions. Zoom, Skype, and teleconferencing were resourced for the ministry, and little did we realise what a benefit this would bring.

On the third Saturday of Lent, the group congregated virtually. In a session facilitated by Faber companion Jason Hogan web cameras were set up, computer microphones activated and the series ran as scheduled.

Not only that but because we could accommodate a large number of participants attendance actually grew. In switching to the digital format, the series reached many more people, with participants joining locally and from abroad.

It’s also true that quarantined life has created a new hunger for Christian community. Across the country, we’re realising the blessing that many of us had taken for granted namely fellowship. As a result, the Faber companions decided to meet twice weekly for a teleconference and facilitated chapter reading every Wednesday evening and Saturday morning. We’ve seen in lots of cases that the quarantine has inspired innovation and creativity. That’s certainly what we experienced and we contiue to do so.

For more information on the service of the Faber Companions and how to take part, please contact [email protected]