Today is a massive day in the life of Australia’s Missionaries of God’s Love.

At 11:00 this morning, at a Solemn Mass Solemn Mass at St Christopher’s Cathedral in Canberra, Archbishop Prowse inaugurated the MGLs as a Religious Institute of Diocesan Right.

Such inauguration is a major step in the development of a religious congregation. Here’s a snapshot:

1. God inspires a founder (or co-founders) to establish a new institute of consecrated life, with a unique charism which can enrich the Church.

2. The founder(s) assembles a number of aspirants who discern a call to join this new mission.

3. A diocesan bishop sanctions the group, and informs the Holy See. In its embryonic form, the new group is canonically recognised as an ‘association of the Christian faithful.’ An association needs to have its own statutes, governance, and rules of life, all approved by the bishop.

4. As the group expands, members may take private vows, and assume some sort of habit. The association may seek permission to establish itself in additional dioceses, but the group maintains a particular relationship with the bishop of the original diocese.

5. After at least ten years of stability and sustainable growth, an association may be approved as an institute of diocesan right. This brings additional canonical rights and autonomy.

6. If the group’s stability and growth is sustained, it may seek to become an institute of pontifical right, which brings even greater autonomy.

(I’m no canon lawyer. Corrections are welcome!)

Here’s a different sort of snapshot which is more particular to the MGLs:

The MGLs’ major formation house is in Melbourne, so I studied with many MGL brothers, and MGL sisters, during my own priestly formation. The MGLs were consistently cheerful and supernaturally-minded. (This sometimes contrasted with my own critical spirit and tendency to complain!)

On one occasion I accepted an invitation from the brothers to Saturday evening dinner, only to learn that the Saturday evening meal, at least, depended solely on Providence. I may be mistaken, but from what I recall, if there were no donations forthcoming, they went without. This seldom occurred however. Food would be found, often at the last minute. This discovery gave me new insight into the MGLs’ optimism and faith.

I don’t know Fr Ken Barker very well, but I have heard him speak, and I’ve read his books, and there are occasions when I’ve gone to him for confession. He speaks and conducts himself with compelling authority. This quality is hard to describe. It’s something you can recognise, I think, only after a personal encounter. I’m privileged to know several people who possess this authority, and Fr Ken is one of them.

God bless the MGLs on this auspicious day. God bless Australia.