“The Congregation of the Resurrection announces and gives witness to the Paschal Mystery. Convinced of God’s unconditional love for us, we herald the liberation and salvation of each person and society as a passage from death to life in which every situation of evil and injustice will be overcome….We assist the laity in their own efforts to become prophets to the world and to transform it by providing them with a deeper experience of the Paschal dynamic in their lives.”
“The religious will help the laity to discover the power of the Holy Spirit working in the sacraments of Christian Initiation, and in this way introduce them to responsibility for the mission of the Church. They will acknowledge the dignity of the role of the laity in the life of the Church, listening to their voice with fraternal concern and taking into account their desires, points of view, experience and competence. The religious recognize that the laity have a specific ministry in the service of the Church and therefore will give them a free hand and encourage their initiative. They will provide opportunities for the religious education and continuing formation of the laity.”
Constitution of the Congregation of the Resurrection of Our Lord Jesus Christ, paragraphs 1, 196.
There is a growing movement among religious communities to develop associations with lay groups in support of their ministry. Bogdan Janski, a lay man was a true visionary about the role of laity in Christian life and spirituality. The Congregation of the Resurrection was founded by Bogdan Janski and the original adherents were part of a lay movement to work for social justice among the very poor and marginalized Polish community in Paris in the 1830s in Paris. A small core of men lived together in community. Another related group of laymen lived in society with their families and were known as the External Brethren. The External Brethren worked, prayed and shared in the life of the Congregation. Priests became part of the Community within a short time.
This origin of the Congregation of the Resurrection emphasizes the importance of the vocation of the laity in “resurrecting society.” The Constitution of the Congregation of the Resurrection calls the professed members of the community to work side by side with the laity. In the 19th Century there were groups of External Brethren that worked with the Community in Europe. In the 20th Century lay associations were formed in Poland under the name “Friends of the Congregation of the Resurrection.”
In the USA Province, the first lay association to form was created in 2005 at Resurrection Catholic Church in Woodstock, Illinois. The new lay association known as the “Friends of the Congregation of the Resurrection” laid the foundation for the parish to become a personal parish based on the spirituality of the Congregation. They have adopted the charism of the Congregation as their own, and trusting in the unconditional love of God, committed to continually seek their own personal conversion and the resurrection of society. The Friends seek to support the Congregation, to join them in prayer and to participate in its celebrations. The Friends are continually working to learn more about Resurrectionist spirituality and to discover more ways to work side by side with the community. Mindful of the vision of Bogdan Janski, they know that the resurrection of society can be, and perhaps given the small numbers of vocations must be, the shared responsibility of the laity.
Vision Statement of the Friends of the Congregation of the Resurrection
Our vision is to create a Christian community as envisioned by the cofounder of the Congregation of the Resurrection, Bogdan Janski. Janski sought to create a community where the professed religious form the center of a larger Resurrectionist family working together collaboratively to live out the mission of the Congregation of the Resurrection.
History of the role of the Laity in the Congregation of the Resurrection
It is no historical coincidence that the Congregation of the Resurrection was co founded by a lay man. Bogdan Janski. With great vision, Janski conceived of a community, where the laity and professed lived and worked side by side in bearing witness to the unconditional and transforming power of Jesus Christ. As he initially conceived of this community, he determined there would be different forms of the order. He recorded his vision in his diary:
“Do not limit the life of the Brotherhood to one form of order, but rather through different forms, all closely united with each other, work together for the purpose of introducing Christian principles into politics, education, literature, science, art, industry, culture, and the whole of public and private life.” (Diary p. 857)
Founded in Paris in 1836, the Congregation began as a community devoted to working with ethnic exiles who were estranged from their homelands. In 1842, on Easter Sunday, the first vows of the Order were professed. The initial houses of the order had three distinct adherents: the clerical members, lay members living a common life together in the house, and lay members living apart with families but attending regular meetings and spiritual exercises.
From its inception, the Congregation embraced the laity. Early in the history of the Congregation, a Rule for the External Brethren was established which invited both professed secular priests and lay men to be part of the community, not based upon vows, but based upon a free will choice. The Rule imposed a life style that could accommodate both the discipline of a life lived for Christ and the secular life in the world, including married life. A similar arm of the Immaculate Conception Sisters existed for lay women.
Although the External Brethren did not survive as a viable group into the twentieth century, the concept of this inclusive religious community resonates with the People of God in the Church as expressed by the Second Vatican Council. The Council’s vision of a shared responsibility for the Church and the “priesthood” of all the Church is a modern day incarnation of Bogdan Janski’s original vision.
In the 1970’s the Polish Province of the Congregation of the Resurrection, formulated a private association known as the Friends of the Congregation of the Resurrection. This group, unlike the External Brethren, was to include women. This association has never fully materialized in the United States until the formation of this organization.
The mission of the Friends of the Congregation of the Resurrection reflects the mission of Resurrection Catholic Church and the Charism of the Congregation of the Resurrection. We are united with the Congregation of the Resurrection in seeking to be a parish community that models the first Christian community where “the community of believers were of one heart and one mind.” (Acts 4:32) We are called to be a prayerful loving community, formed by the Holy Spirit, striving to be a sign of the gospel values of Jesus Christ of justice, truth and love. In every facet of our community life, we bear witness to the infinite love of the Father and the power of the Resurrection.
Prayer and our celebration of the Eucharist are central to our shared community life. Our personal prayer and communal celebration of the Eucharist create opportunities for us to experience the fullness of Christ’s Resurrection. Our spiritual encounter with the Risen Christ renews us, bringing the Holy Spirit to life within us. Together we experience the Holy Spirit moving us to be God’s instruments in revealing the Good News of God’s infinite love.
We recognize that we enjoy material and spiritual riches given freely to us by a loving and compassionate God. Our riches, however, are given to us by grace and they are not ours to keep, rather they are to be shared. We know that we are called to serve one another always, to minister to each other in community and to use our resources to support and care for the needs of all our neighbors. We know that we are citizens of a world community that is increasingly polarized between the rich and poor, the powerful and the powerless. Now more than ever, being true to our core values of justice, truth and love is necessary to be servants of God in a troubled world.
We journey in faith together, steadfast in our commitment to our Parish, the Congregation and the Church as we grow in love and devotion to God and seek to build a world where all can know the hope, joy and peace of Christ’s Resurrection.
For more information about the Friends, please contact the Liaison of the Friends of the Congregation – Mrs. Sara Cook at firstname.lastname@example.org .