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Catenians build chain

An association of Catholic lay men has established its first Brisbane group. PAUL DOBBYN reports on the Catenian Association

THE tragic death of his dear friend’s 23-year-old daughter in a car accident was to remind David Taylor, world leader of the Catenians, of this Catholic organisation’s extraordinary support of its members.

Londoner David, recently in Queensland to inaugurate the City of Brisbane group of Catenians, said the support given to the young woman and her family was a perfect example of the network’s power.

“My friend’s daughter had the accident in Nottingham some hours north of London,” Mr Taylor said.

“I visited my friend to drive him up to see his seriously injured daughter in hospital there.

“My friend’s son lived about ninety miles (145km) away in the opposite direction.

“My wife contacted the young man to tell him what had happened, and she also contacted a Catenian in his area to pick him up to drive him to Nottingham as well.

“Catenians in this area visited the young woman for three days, until she died … As always group members were there for the family at her funeral.”

Mr Taylor, together with Denis Muldoon, who is the leader of the Brisbane group, met with The Catholic Leader soon after the formation of the association’s newest group in late September.

He spoke enthusiastically about what membership of the Catenians had done for him and many others as the organisation reached its centenary year.

It’s been a big year for the jolly Englishman, who was made grand president of the worldwide movement during May’s Manchester conference.

The Catenian Association is an international brotherhood of practising Catholic lay men who meet socially at least once a month.

He described the potential for the development of the network in Queensland as “enormous”.

“I pick up that Queenslanders have a different way of seeing things and life in general,” he said.

“There’s an openness here to enjoying life at a slower pace.

“Your state definitely has the most potential of anywhere I’ve visited for a long time.”

Mr Taylor said the organisation was already rapidly expanding in north Queensland, in Townsville and Cairns, with the possibility of other regions coming on board soon.

Cairns had rapidly expanded to circle status (25 members) to become one of 300 such circles around the world.

Brisbane had started with 11 members and more inquiries were being received.

The Catholic Leader asked Mr Taylor how he would sum up the Catenians’ philosophy.

Mr Taylor, who has been with the organisation for more than 22 years, said the one word that described the Catenians was “opportunity”.

“The group gives Catholic men the opportunity to enjoy the company and support of like-minded Catholics,” he said.

“It’s about strengthening Catholic family life through faith and friendship.”

He added that, as one of 98 Catenians in his home parish of St Monica’s in London, membership of the organisation had made him “a much better husband and father”.

“For many years I was so focused on building my business – selling equipment to mail houses – that I just didn’t get the importance of my faith and family life.

“Once I joined the Catenians I changed, growing through the example and mentoring of other members.”

The British-born association grew out of the vision of Bishop Casertelli, who became Bishop of Salford in 1903.

At the time there were only 1.5 million Catholics in England and Wales and they were still viewed with suspicion by many of the population.

In 1906, a Liberal Government pledging to abolish voluntary (including Catholic) schools was returned with a massive majority. Bishop Casertelli formed the Catholic Federation to fight this.

Two years later, with the active support of the Bishop of Salford, a number of the federation’s leaders became founding members of “The Chums Benevolent Association”.

In 1910, the group adopted its present title “The Catenian Association”, the name taken from “catena” – Latin for “chain”.

Today there are more than 10,000 members in Australia, Great Britain, Ireland, Malta, South Africa, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

It’s not a charitable organisation but this year it aims to raise “a quarter of a million pounds” to support Caritas in its work abroad, Mr Taylor said.

Several years ago funds raised bought two ambulances to transport critically ill children to Lourdes.

As grand president of this international association, Mr Taylor has been doing much travelling in its centenary year.

When The Catholic Leader caught up with him, he was coming to the end of a five-week visit to Australia.

Mr Taylor said that in seven days he would return home for first time in four months.

Before the end of the centenary celebrations in May next year, he plans to call into places like Jersey, Malta, Rome, Ireland and Africa, and will take part in Catenians’ triennial pilgrimage to Rome.

Mr Taylor doesn’t need to think hard when asked what he sees as the centenary highlights so far.

“The Masses have been unforgettable – attending Mass celebrated by Cardinal Cormack Murphy O’Connor at Manchester’s Bridgewater Hall, famous as the home of the Halle Orchestra and joining in receiving the Eucharist with about 2000 people.

“Then there was the opening centenary day Mass celebrated in Manchester by the Bishop of Salford at the home of the Catenian movement – that was attended by about 850.

“For one Mass in October we had to use the Anglican church of York Minster – that was the only place big enough to hold 2200 people for the Mass said by the Cardinal of Scotland.”

Indeed Masses are very much at the heart of the movement.

“Special Catenian Masses said around the world would number about 1700 annually.

“And on June 29 each year, each Catenian group holds a special Mass for vocations.”

It’s this focus on vocations and the support of the clergy that has won the organisation such strong endorsements from Church hierarchy.

“A letter of support from Parramatta’s Bishop (Kevin) Manning to Archbishop (John) Bathersby (of Brisbane) made it much easier to get the group off the ground,” Brisbane leader Denis Muldoon said.

Mr Muldoon is just as enthusiastic about the future of the Catenian Society in Queensland as Mr Taylor is.

“We’re already hearing stories about how well it is going in the north,” he said.

“We’ve heard from Military Ordinariate Bishop Max Davis that the organisation is becoming particularly popular among the defence forces, giving Catholics in the barracks the chance to meet socially.”

Mr Muldoon said that within the Australian Church the Catenian Society is starting to take off – most states have several circles, with Sydney having 10 and Perth 12.

Like Mr Taylor, he’s been inspired by the events of the centenary year. He’s also eagerly looking forward to the shared pilgrimage to Rome with other Catenians in March next year.

“I went with about sixty fellow members in 2005,” he said.

“It was a very emotional experience to visit the centre of my faith with a group of fellow Catholics – it made the experience so much richer.”

Mr Muldoon, who lives at Redcliffe, said anyone interested in joining the Catenians was welcome to contact him on (07) 3880 3119 or 0400 571 663.

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