THE Church rejoiced in Canberra on Saturday, February 8, at the inauguration of the Missionaries of God’s Love as a religious institute.
The order’s 20 priests and numerous brothers stood before a packed St Christopher’s Cathedral to publicly profess their perpetual vows of poverty, chastity, obedience and mission.
A similar number of consecrated brothers renewed their initial vows.
It has been a dream come true for founder and moderator Fr Ken Barker, who was full of gratitude and joy on the inauguration day.
“We were very blessed to have so many come from all over Australia to this unique, unrepeatable event in the history of the Missionaries,” he said.
Fr Barker, who founded the missionaries in 1986, said the day was not about the MGLs, but truly about the entire “people of God” gathering and rejoicing in this “new work”.
Receiving the status as a religious institute from the Holy See has not occurred many times for orders started in Australia.
Fr Barker said the main feeling among the missionaries was gratitude for reaching this important milestone but also a great sense of responsibility.
“We are a weak and broken lot, but with God’s mercy and grace have been given this great responsibility to serve the Church,” he said.
On the Monday following the inauguration in Canberra, the MGL brotherhood spent time together after Mass, sharing memories of the “good old days” and speaking about the future of the order.
Fr Barker said he dreamed of a high “quality of men surrendered to God” to join the order as it started its new beginning.
“Quality means that they live by the spirit, always listening, open and eager to know what God is saying,” he said. “We want men who have a deep humility of God, and know the mercy of God and can speak it with power and grace.
“We dream to have many vocations so we can do what we’ve set out to do, but also to expand into other missions in Australia and beyond.”
While the order has grown slowly over the past 28 years, Fr Barker said it was a good sign for the missionaries.
“Slow growth is good because it can be solid, whereas when it grows too fast it can become weedy,” Fr Barker said.
To receive recognition as a religious institute, an order must have 40 members, and half must be in perpetual vows.
The next step for the MGLs is being recognised as a pontifical institution, which requires 100 members, 50 in perpetual vows, and a wide international spread.
The MGLs have mission houses in Canberra, Melbourne, Darwin, Manila, and just recently started a new house in Indonesia.