Chemin Neuf Community
|Chemin Neuf Community|
|Orientation||Catholic with Ecumenical vocation|
|Primary schools||2 (Kinshasa & Moundou)|
|Secondary schools||1 (Gagnoa)|
The Chemin Neuf Community (French: Communauté du Chemin Neuf) is a Catholic community with an Ecumenical vocation. Formed from a charismatic prayer group in 1973, it has 2,000 permanent members in 30 countries, and 12,000 people serving in the community missions. Its main founder is the Jesuit father, Laurent Fabre[fr].
The community takes its name from the first meeting place, based in Lyon, 49 Montée du Chemin-Neuf[fr]. A product of the Charismatic Renewal, the community claims to belong equally to an Ignatian spirituality. It brings together priests, lay celibates (men and women) as well as non-celibates and couples with or without children.
The community directs its actions around the principle of unity: unity of Christians (ecumenism), unity of men (notably between different cultures and nations), unity of couples and of families.
Pentecostalism, a new branch of Christianity focusing on the welcoming of the Holy Spirit, evolved in the USA after 1900 (In Topeka and then in Azusa Street Revival, Los Angeles). Its spectacular manifestations (speaking in tongues, prophecy, healings, etc.) rapidly provoked rejection from other churches (Protestant or Catholic). In 1967, some Catholic students from Duquesne University in Pittsburgh, during the course of a bible study week-end, received the Baptism in the holy spirit. After this experience, prayer groups and communities began to expand in the Catholic church in the USA and throughout the rest of the world.
Origins of the community
The community was named after the first meeting in Lyon, Montée du Chemin Neuf (meaning "Ascent of the new road"). It was founded in the Charismatic Renewal and remains heavily marked by Ignatian spirituality. The community focuses its action on the principle of unity: unity of Christians, unity of men, unity of couples and families. It regularly organises retreats for couples, families and / or engaged couples ("Cana"), for divorcees ("Cana Espérance"), for divorcees who have remarried ("Cana Samarie"), an international evangelization (Net for God / Fraternité Œcuménique Internationale (FOI)), as well as an evangelization in the neighbourhood (evangelization in the street, the Alpha course), sessions for young people, theological, philosophical and artistic training, and retreats following the Spiritual Exercises of Ignatius of Loyola.
In 1971, the Jesuit Laurent Fabre[fr], seminarist at the time, met Mike Cawdrey, an American Jesuit student who was familiar with the American Charismatic Renewal, at the Diocesan Seminary in Lyon. He convinced him, together with Bertrand Lepesant (who was later to become the founder of the Communauté du Puits de Jacob[fr]) to spend two days in prayer asking for the presence of the Holy Spirit in Le Touvet. Two young American Protestants, just back from Taizé and about to leave for a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, were also invited. At the end of this week-end, the two French men received the Baptism with the Holy Spirit. After this experience, they founded a charismatic prayer group located in Montée du Chemin-Neuf[fr] · .
In the summer of 1973, Laurent Fabre, accompanied by Bertrand Lepesant, left for the United States to meet with American Charismatics. On their return, they organised a week-end attended by sixty people; seven of them celibates, four men and three women between 22 and 32 years of age, from amongst whom Laurent Fabre decided to form a lifelong community. In the beginning, they favoured a name taken from the Bible, but the members of the new foundation quickly realised that in the eyes of their visitors, due to their geographical location they known as the “Chemin Neuf”. Couples quickly joined this community which added to the mix of men and women, the mix between couples and consecrated celibates. Apart from Laurent Fabre, this first community also included Jacqueline Coutellier, who had been thinking about joining the Carmelites but who has since been committed to the life of the Chemin Neuf · .
By September 1978, the Chemin Neuf had 30 adult members, living in private homes or in the three community houses at that time (two in Lyon and one in Beaujolais): about twenty children lived in the community without being part of it.
Development of the Community
In 1980, a cycle of theological training, biblical and community based (lasting for three months) was established in Les Pothieres, a house of the Community near Anse. It continued here another thirty years and, due to its success, spread to three locations (one in France, one in Spain and one in the Ivory Coast). Also in 1980 the first course for couples (Cana session) was launched which, in 2016, is the most popular Chemin Neuf course.
At the beginning of the 1980s, the Community was invited to come to the Paris area, to the Cenacle de Tigery, a few miles south of Paris, and to the student house based in the rue Madame in the 6th Arrondissement in Paris. The Community also began to grow on an international level, welcoming its first non-French members (Polish, German and Madagascan) and setting up a base in Brazzaville in the Congo. In 1982, the Chemin Neuf had about forty adult members. Also in 1980 the first course for couples (Cana session) was launched which, in 2016, is the most popular Chemin Neuf course.
Cardinal Albert Decourtray, archbishop of Lyon, was particularly enthusiastic to have the Community in his diocese, « the number of conversions impresses me ». By that time, the Chemin Neuf had about 250 members of which 20 were life-long members ; furthermore, five priests and two deacons had already been ordained and six seminarists were undergoing training. On Easter Sunday of 1986 in the Cathedral of Saint-Jean, together with Jean-Marc Villet, pastor of the French Reform Church, Mgr Decourtray received 19 lifelong members of the Community, amongst them five couples and three Protestant members.
The archbishop assigned some missions to the Chemin Neuf, especially those relating to communication. In 1982 Emmanuel Payen[fr], priest at La Duchère, set up Radio-Fourviere with him, which soon became known as RCF. Another member of the Chemin Neuf, Vincent de Crouy-Chanel, later became director of it. Dominique Ferry[fr], for his part, was press attache to the cardinal from 1989 to 1992. This influence of the Chemin Neuf on diocesan life was sometimes criticised but the archbishop responded that Charismatics were only available for certain missions, notably the hospital chaplaincy of Pierre Garraud to which ten people were devoted
In 1992, the apostolic section of the Communion of the Chemin Neuf was created which brought together people wishing to live the spirituality of the community without being involved in all its commitments.
From 1993 -1996 the community went through a crisis leading to the departure of certain members (of which some were life long): this crisis coincided with the publication of the books The shipwrecks of the Spirit (Les naufragés de l'esprit[fr]), which were very critical towards a number of charismatic communities. A former supporter (not a member) of the Chemin Neuf complained about sect-like practices such as brain washing and proselytism. After the publication, it was however revealed that Thierry Baffoy had made certain inaccuracies and anachronisms regarding the Chemin Neuf. Furthermore, several bishops disputed the assertions contained in the work ; Mgr Balland, then Archbishop of Lyon, stated « Wherever (the Community) is established it accepts the advice and guidance of the bishops and puts itself at the service of all without distinction or proselytism ».
In 1998, a very controversial article published by the « Centre against mental manipulation » (Centre contre les manipulations mentales) mentioned, amongst other new communities, the Chemin Neuf, before however mentioning in the footnotes that « certain religious practices even non sectarian in themselves ... are essential to the understanding of sectarian excesses which originate from the same ».
The legitamacy of these critics is however in question, notably by MIVILUDES which has not even mentioned the Chemin Neuf in its various annual reports since 2001. To be more precise, Henri Tincq[fr] believes that these criticizes are hardly appropriate concerning « The Chemin Neuf, reputed to be the wisest community, recognised by the State with the status of congregation and by the Church… ». Since 1989, the sociologist Martine Cohen stated, with regard to the Chemin Neuf. «We are not only far from a strictly charismatic legitimisation of power but the distrust towards a unique « inspiration from the Holy Spirit » has created, far beyond a usual recourse to tradition or to authorities already in place, a sort of control by the grass roots ».
The community is composed of lay and religious persons from all Christian denominations: Catholic, Anglican, Reformed, Orthodox. In 1984, it was recognised by Cardinal Alexandre Renard, and declared a Public association of the faithful by Cardinal Albert Decourtray, Archbishop of Lyon. This canonical status allowed it to teach the Christian doctrine on behalf of the Catholic Church and to promote public worship. From a civil point of view, the community was recognised as a religious congregation by a decree from the Prime Minister of France, on 23 July 1993.
In France, the community has several branches located in Lyon, Anse (Rhône), Soleymieu (Isère), Hautecombe (Savoie), Le Plantay (Abbey Notre-Dame-des-Dombes, Ain), Sablonceaux (Charente-Maritime), Tigery (Essonne), Chartres (Eure-et-Loir), Bouvines (Nord), Marseille (Bouches-du-Rhône), Levallois (Hauts-de-Seine), Paris, Villeurbanne (Rhône), Lucé-Mainvilliers (Eure-et-Loir), Lille (Nord), Reims (Marne), Sophia-Antipolis (Alpes-Maritimes), Angers (Maine-et-Loire). The community is also present in Belgium, Brazil, Burkina Faso, Burundi, Canada, Chad, Congo, Côte d'Ivoire, the Czech Republic, Egypt, Germany, Hungary, Israel, Italy, Libya, Madagascar, Martinique, Mauritius, the Netherlands, Poland, Réunion, Switzerland, and the United Kingdom.
In 2014, the Archbishop of Canterbury, Justin Welby, invited young adults from around the world to join the Community of St Anselm, a Jesus-centered community of prayer facilitated by the Chemin Neuf for one year. Ruth Gledhill of Christian Today wrote that "The year-long programme will include prayer, study, practical service and community life. Members will live a spiritual discipline compared to that of medieval monks, drawing closer to God through a daily rhythm of silence, study and prayer. At the same time they will also be immersed in the modern challenges of the global 21st century church, witnessing to the power of a pared-back disciplined faith in managing the demanding business of contemporary high-tech life."..
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