5. The Mission and life of Lay Associates of the Holy Family
The Founder of the Holy family Association, before he established the branch of Apostolic Sisters, dedicated and committed himself to work with the youth. People, religion, social life and the economy were badly affected by the French revolution and in particular there was an urgent need to revive the Faith.
In order to develop the life of faith among the people, he dedcided to share the ‘charism’ he received from God. He was called by God to spread faith and love and to unite the scattered people through the Eucharistic mystery. Fr. Pierre Bienvenu Noailles was called to achieve the spiritual perfection in the formula “God Alone” and to establish a Church in unity. The Founder and the people who worked with him, fulfilled the worldly needs and spiritual needs of the people of his time, while propagating Faith among them. He conducted religious classes with his seminary students when he was a sub-deacon. He identified the importance and indispensable role of lay people in evangelization. He was very firm, that all Christian commitment should be found in Christ only. Thereby when he went to St. Eulalie parish immediately he made arrangements to conduct religious classes for elders. This was welcomed by all. This work was extended to other areas too. He expected to reap the same benefits achieved in Paris, to happen in Bordeaux as well. This became a reality on 21st November 1819. He categorized the people according to their age and status and prepared rules for them. He received permission from the Church authorities to legalize the religious classes. His younger sister Fanny was in the Novitiate at that time. Fr. Bienvenu was united with the whole group through some spiritual activities and prayers. The call to the lay people by the Holy Family is a call from God. God invites all Christians to live their baptismal consecration to the full. They are called to live the life of the Holy Family and the first Christians. They follow the spirit of faith, brotherly love, poverty, patience, humility and simplicity and live the spirit lived by the Holy Family of Nazareth. In their life they are nourished by the Eucharist and the Word of God. A member is committed to live the Christian way of life in his own particular spheres of activity, in their daily family life and working place. There were 2500 Lay Associates during the time of our Founder. Some young women who followed religious classes became nuns and became the founding members of the Association.
Jaffna Holy Family Lay Associates
In 1977, in Jaffna, three Sisters started the Holy Family Lay Associates in the Contemplative Sisters house at Manipay with 7 lay people. They gave them the fundamental knowledge, the purpose, and the spirit to form the Group of Lay Associates. Later in several parishes the Sisters animated those who wished to join this Group. Special handouts on the spirituality of Holy Family and rules for the members are sent periodically by the General Council in Rome. The Sisters helped the Groups formed in different areas to function and to live up to their call. They continue to encourage and empower them. At present there is an Asian leader, Sri Lankan National Leader, and Zonal leaders who are responsible for the Lay Associates. They are elected according to the structure specified in their Statutes of the Lay associates.
These Lay Associates meet monthly to share their faith and ensure their concern, care and to strengthen the unity among the members. There is a book of guidelines, called, “A Way of Life” it is the statutes for the members, to live their lives in keeping with the Holy Family Charisma and spirituality. The members follow these statutes as far as possible. There are about 650 Lay Associates in the Jaffna Province. There are 16 zones comprising 43 areas. In these areas their mission is to extend and promote their particular vocation in greater depth and to be a witness to Christian charity among the people. They strengthen their relationship among the members of the Family of Bienvenu Noailles and live in complementary with the other vocations of Holy Family. Through their Annual Retreat, annual get – together, Family feasts, picnics and family celebrations they experience their sense of belonging to this great Family. They also publish a magazine called “Uravin Palam” which is a useful booklet for all. The Lay Associates are functioning in Parishes in Colombo, Talawakelle, Mattakelle, Haputale, Battiacaloa, Trincomalee, Mannar, Vavuniya and Jaffna peninsula. May God bless the Church to prosper on the earth through their committed life and services! Glory to God Alone!
Holy Family Provincialte,