The mission of the community of Zion
One hundred twenty five volunteers from all the corners of the world will speak of Jesus in the streets near the Olympic village and will invite passers-by to the Adoration of the Most Holy Sacrament. Volunteers are preparing for their mission in the school of Saint Bonaventura, a few kilometers’ distance from the village, (from August 1-4). In their headquarters, where they will return in the evening, Fr Simon Penhalagan and other members of the Zion Community, a charismatic movement for the promotion of evangelization, are setting up a kitchen, a living-room and a stage with five coloured rings with music to relax at dusk, along with theatrical performance, dance and concerts. The ‘Joshua Camp’ is open to everyone - said Fr Penhalagan - but everyone sleeps on mats on the floor, in the classrooms, most participants are less than twenty years old. The founder of our community, Pat Lynch, said that Church mission means sharing our faith, as Paul VI wrote in ‘Evangelii nuntiandi’ and John Paul II in ‘Redemptoris Missio’ and as said by Benedict XVI during his apostolic visit to England in 2010”. “Here we are preparing for our mission in the streets of London, along with practical activities for children and adolescents - continues Fr Penhalagan. We also plan to hold a festival open to everyone on Sunday August 11. Every day, Mass will be celebrated by a bishop”. Fr Penhalagan said, “we will go to the churches of St. Catherine in Bow, St. Francis in Stratford and St. Patrick in Soho. Ongoing celebration of the Most Holy Sacrament is scheduled from 9 to 18 hrs in all the churches”. For the priest of the community of Zion “our faith is to share the love of God with other people and we do so in different forms and ways according to what best fulfils our purpose. Thus in the coming weeks it will take place through hospitality and prayers”. Nick Miller is studying civil engineering in Nottingham, he’s 23. He did one year of volunteering with the Zion community: “Faith gives me happiness and motivation and the ‘Joshua camp’ will provide the unique opportunity to enrich myself with the faith of young people from different Countries. For the first I will speak about Jesus to people I will meet on the street, and I look forward to it”. Allegra Mutanda is 35. She was baptized in Piacenza, Italy, when she was a girl. She is originally from Congo and she came to England to continue her studies: “The Olympics are a unique opportunity. I am sure that God will bestow his grace and blessings. I think it will be hard to draw near people whom we don’t know Jesus, but when God asks you to do something he is also giving you the strength”.
Finnish youth and Franciscan fathers together
In the yard of the Catholic Church of Saint Francis of Assisi, just outside the Olympic village, a few volunteers coming from Finland, and members of the Protestant organisation “Youth With A Mission”, are asking friars about their Catholic vocation. The spirit of the Olympic Games is also that one, a new dialogue between different Christian faiths, and the will to reach people who have left Christ together. In this parish, attended by about one thousand people every Sunday, the group of young people from Finland collaborates with friars coming from Portugal, Argentina, Singapore, Republic of Mauritius, France, and Colombia, as well as the community of Palestrina, near Rome. Youth wearing shirts with the writing “More than gold”, the ecumenical charity organisation preparing evangelisation activities all over the United Kingdom, and friars wearing brown frocks go out together, in the streets around the Olympic village. “We are not preaching our politics by imposing Christianity”, said Alice Lamula, Finnish volunteer, who is here together with her husband, “we are trying to let passers-by feel that we love them, and that our love comes from Jesus. Then we invite them to Mass, or to the hospitality tent for a drink. The parish has actually set up that tent to welcome visitors coming to Stratford for competitions”.
“In the underground, the people are curious about our clothes and ask us questions. It is also a way to witness Christ”, said Father Anthony Cho, parish priest. “On the occasion of the opening ceremony of the Games - he went on - we set up a feast: the people from different communities brought food and each of us supported the team of the other, watching the Olympic games on a big screen”. According to Father Cho, the Olympic Games are a very good chance to improve relationships within this multicultural community, in which parishioners come from different parts of the world: Eastern Europe, Malaysia, Singapore and the Caribbean. “Until August 10th, we exhibit the Holy Sacrament from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m., with four evenings dedicated to Taize prayers. On the last day of the Olympic Games, Sunday 12 August - he concluded - the bishop of Brentwood, Msgr. Thomas McMahon, is celebrating a thanksgiving Mass”.