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The Columba Community Celebrates 40 Years of Ministry

Anniversaries are times of looking back and looking forward. What hope and excitement we had when Columba House was opened and blessed at an ecumenical gathering on 9th June 1981. It is important to record that the Community was blessed by a word of life shared from the Spirit,

"Listen to the prayer and entreaty of your servant, Yahweh my God; listen to the cry and to the prayer your servant makes to you. Day and night watch over this house, over this place in which you have promised to make a home for your name…May your eyes be open and your ears attentive to the prayer offered in this place." 2 Chronicles 6

We can testify that God has honoured this word, listened to our prayers and we have been privileged to see His hand at work in the ordinary and extraordinary events of our Community life.

As founder of the Community, Fr Neal Carlin, has kept us faithful to the original vision and call to build Basic Christian Community and to be people committed to prayer, reconciliation and evangelisation. Over the years these pillars have been the banner statements we have lived by and developed in all our centres – St Anthony's Retreat Centre, White Oaks Rehabilitation Centre and the Iosas Centre and Celtic Prayer Garden.

God has lavishly provided for us in the people He has sent to us, in the places He has given to us and most importantly in how He has revealed the depth of His love and graciousness to us. How privileged we are to have been invited to serve and to be part of His great plan for building the Kingdom of love, peace and justice where the poor and those on the margins are welcomed and experience the warmth of His embrace through their brothers and sisters. In serving the prisoners, living reconciliation at the height of the Troubles, serving those in the grip and darkness of addiction we have been accompanied by generous people who have given their time, talents, finance and most importantly prayer. In our ministry the people we have been privileged to support, have challenged and encouraged us to return to prayer, the source from which anything good comes.

The Lord has taught us about depending on Him, listening in prayer for the prompting of the Holy Spirit, being fed by the Eucharist, breaking the Word and reading the signs of the times. We have been blessed by the Baptism in the Spirit experience and have grown in the use of the gifts, freely given by the Spirit to build up the Body of Christ. We have learned that the prophetic road is often lonely, misunderstood and sometimes harshly judged by others. In our life as Community these were the times when we experienced the Lord's hand powerfully upon us. His hand is above all the hands that would try to shape our lives and He will never be outdone in generosity when in sincerity we seek to do His will. He has taught us that when we fail His mercy is always available and that the "deep interior joy" and trust in Him, as the Rule of Columba states, will lead us into the freedom of the children of God as promised in scripture.

We have always been a Community of about 20 people with an Auxiliary Community of about 100 and a larger, friends of the Community group. We take our prayer of commitment on Holy Thursday, promising to pray daily with the scriptures, offer our time in service of others and we tithe to support the works of the Community. Over the years people have come and gone as their circumstances have changed. We have been enriched and learned from every person the Lord has sent to us.

As a Community of 40 years we look to our patron Saint, Columba, as we celebrate the 1500th anniversary of his birth. The last words he was reputed to have written were from Psalm 34

"Those who seek the Lord shall want for no manner of good thing." What confidence this gives us for the future!

We pray with expectant faith that in the next stage of our development, as we continue to seek the Lord, He will open up new pathways that will allow us to serve in His name. We pray that He will use us to assist new and emerging communities, fired by the Spirit, bringing renewal and healing in our land.

Father we believe, Jesus we believe, Spirit we believe. Amen.

Homily - World Day of Peace - Bishop McKeown

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