Universal brotherhood has never been more vital

That's how the light gets in: summer gathering in Dungarvan will underline fraternity and finding meaning in suffering.

MariapolisThat’s How the Light Gets in is the somewhat ambiguous title of this year’s summer gathering of the Focolare movement which takes place in Dungarvan from the 5th to the 9th July 2017 and which is expected to attract over 300 people. It is the fourth time the gathering has been held in the town.

“That’s how the light gets in is the second half of a phrase well known to some, from Leonard Cohen’s Anthem: ‘There is a crack, a crack in everything. That’s how the light gets in’,” explains Co-Director of Focolare David Hickey. “Our gathering this year will focus in particular on facing the harsh challenges we all meet in our lives today and how to transform them, our shortcomings, worries and pains – the cracks, into something positive – into light.”

Presbyterian minister, Rev. Ken Newell, will address the gathering on Friday morning at the Fusion Hall, which will be the hub for the morning sessions. Rev. Newell’s friendship and bridge building with Catholic priest, Fr Gerry Reynolds triggered a ground-breaking initiative during the Troubles which contributed to the IRA and Loyalist ceasefires of 1994. For their work, Rev Newell and Fr Reynolds were awarded the Pax Christi International Peace Prize and in 2004, Rev Newell received an OBE for his work towards peace.

Saturday’s programme will focus on the Family and in particular the World Meeting of Families which is to be held in Ireland in August 2018.

The four day event is open to all, including visitors who wish to just drop in for a short period of time. “Daily visitors are very welcome,” says Marian Byrne, from the organising committee.”From 10.45 – 1.00 pm each day, we will be in Fusion Hall, Dungarvan. During the afternoons, people should come to our reception at the Gold Coast Hotel and may join activities from there.”

During the mornings there will be exciting parallel programs for children and young people.

Rev. Ken Newell
Rev. Ken Newell

Against the backdrop of recent terrorist attacks and anti-immigrant sentiment, Catherine Burke from Dungarvan, Co Director of Focolare, believes Jesus’ prayer “Father may they all be one” is more important than ever.  “Universal brotherhood has never been more vital, ” she says.  “At our gathering we want to bear witness that unity really is possible. We’ll be sharing some of our own first hand experiences in regard to welcoming refugees and our discovery that God is waiting for us in every encounter, no matter how difficult.”

Garret Hayes from the organising committee agrees: “The movement towards universal brotherhood has been challenged but not diminished by recent events, as is evidenced in the outpourings that have been seen in the various disasters recently in the UK. The number of protests in the US against the far right and reaffirming the right of all people regardless of nationality, colour or religion to live side by side shows that people are looking for unity within their diversity.”

Bishop Alphonsus Cullinan from Waterford will celebrate the opening mass at 9.30am at St Mary’s church on Thursday 6th July. Bishop of Limerick, Brendan Leahy will also be present at the event and address the young people on the topic “The wonder of thinking” on Friday afternoon. An Interchurch peace vigil will take place on Friday night at 8.30pm at Ballinroad church.

The Focolare summer gathering, or Mariapolis is described by its organisers as a “moment of family with people of all ages and backgrounds making connections and discovering that it is possible to live as brothers and sisters no matter how different we are.”

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