Washington Archbishop Wilton Gregory met July 24 with the Association of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities of the Archdiocese as part of his ongoing mission to get to know the people and groups of his new flock. 

The Association of Ecclesial Movements and New Communities in the Archdiocese of Washington is a collection of Catholic organizations representing the different charisms of the local Church in the work of evangelization. Thirteen member groups – all canonically recognized and approved and composed predominantly of lay people seeking to use their gifts to build up the Church – were present.

While working in solidarity as an association, each community has its own apostolate, which range from marriage and family issues, life issues, service to the poor and vulnerable, and other various devotions. 

“The Ecclesial Movements and New Communities really are a fruit of the Holy Spirit,” said Raymond Glennon, association chair and member of the Mother of God community. “But St. John Paul II brought the movements together really for the first time at Pentecost in 1998. At that point, he reminded the movement, reminded all of us, that while each movement is different, they are all united in the same Holy Spirit.” 

Pope St. John Paul II in 1998 called the ecclesial movements part of the “springtime in the Church.” In 2005, the movements in the Archdiocese of Washington were gathered together into the association it is today. Among other activities, the association annually helps coordinate and sponsor the Adult and Family Rally and Mass for Life, put on by the archdiocesan Department of Life Issues every January. 

Archbishop Gregory was able to hear from members of each community about their ministries, which included groups such as Couples for Christ, the Focolare Movement, Houses of Adoration, Schoenstatt, Worldwide Marriage Encounter, and others.

The archbishop said he was familiar with some of the communities from his service in the Archdioceses of Chicago and Atlanta. 

“I have some experience, some encounters with the ecclesial movements,” he said. “What I don’t have is the experience that is here in the Archdiocese of Washington, where you come together in a fraternity. Where you meet each other and support each other and pray with and for each other, and collaborate with each other.” 

Luke Smith, a representative from L’Arche Greater Washington DC, spoke of L’Arche’s work “to be a sign of God’s love for every single person, and the recognition that we need every single person” through providing residential communities for people with developmental disabilities and those who assist.

Archbishop Gregory spoke of his respect for the movements that work to support the vocation of marriage. 

“The sacrament, in my humble opinion, that is under the greatest stress is marriage, because it is increasingly an undervalued way of life in our American cultural context,” he said. 

While also acknowledging the struggles of the communities to integrate into parishes and to grow and remain organized within the Church, Archbishop Gregory was thankful for the efforts of each group and their “different expressions of the spiritual life of our Church.”

Though Archbishop Gregory said he might not be able to attend many of the association’s gatherings “until I perfect bilocation,” he asked the groups, in their various capacities, to pray and to promote a more civil conversation in the Church. 

“I’m not speaking politically,” he said. “We as Catholics, as people of faith, really have to insist that we speak to one another and about one another in a more civil manner.”