Minsteracres welcomes the Lay Fraternity of Charles de Foucauld
by Moira Potier
This year it was the turn of the UK to host the biennial meeting of the European Delegates of the Lay Fraternity of Charles de Foucauld. The meeting is always followed by a holiday/retreat for members of the fraternities across Europe.
It is almost 20 years since such an event has been held in the UK, so it felt very important to choose the right place to welcome our brothers and sisters from the continent, and Minsteracres proved to be the perfect place in every respect.
From 11th to 24th July over 50 people from the UK, Ireland, France, Spain, Italy, Malta, Belgium North and South and Germany, plus two visitors from Russia, gathered to share a fraternal time together; to meet and get to know each other, to pray together, to share experiences of being members of Lay Fraternities, and to reflect on the theme chosen for the gathering “Build Bridges, Not Walls”. There were also talks including one on the Northern saints, a visit to Durham Cathedral and a concert by Northumberland Pipers.
One of the highlights was a talk by Archbishop Michael Fitzgerald. Before his retirement he was Papal Nuncio in Egypt and is an expert on Christian-Muslim relations. People were unanimous in their praise of Minsteracres. Two people who have attended over twelve of these gatherings said it was “the best European holiday I have been on”. This is a testimony to the profound peace people experienced, the beautiful grounds – especially the gardens, the warm welcome of the community and volunteers for whom nothing was any trouble…it would not be fair to single out anyone in particular, but Lya and Frank get a very special mention.
The Lay Fraternity is a member of the wider, international spiritual family of Charles de Foucauld, which includes Little Brothers and Sisters of Jesus, Priests’ Fraternities, as well as lay people. They follow the inspiration of Blessed Charles de Foucauld, a French priest who was killed in Algeria in 1916. In 2015 Pope Francis said this about the heart of Charles’ Christian witness “Fixing his gaze on the family of Nazareth (he)…became all things to all peoples through the apostolate of kindness”.