By Anne Smyth, Chairperson of Board of Management, Dominican Lectio Centre
The Dominican Lectio Divina Centre in St Catherine’s, Newry, County Down, Northern Ireland, stands as an active and humble witness to the life’s work and teaching of Fr Michel de Verteuil CSSp in the promotion of Lectio Divina.
Fr Michel’s presentation of this ancient practice with its particular emphasis on incarnation is at the heart of our ministry here in the Dominican Lectio Centre.
In the early nineties I had the great privilege of attending, with my friend Sr Terese, some of Fr Michel’s Lectio lectures here in Ireland and this marked the beginning of my lectio journey.
It was also around that time that Fr Joe Ralph OP was posted to the Irish Dominican province in Trinidad and Tobago. Fr Michel became Fr Joe’s mentor, friend and guide.
Fr Michel’s passion for this way of reading, praying, and reflecting on scripture so inspired Fr Joe that on returning to Ireland he began to sow the seeds of this teaching by setting up Lectio Divina communities. This is how those precious green shoots from Fr Michel’s work were transplanted to the soil of Newry and continue to flourish and develop here.
The feast of St Dominic, August 8, 2016 marked the 800th Jubilee of the founding of the Dominican Order of Preachers. In the presence of Bishop John McAreavey of Dromore, Fr Gregory Carroll OP, Provincial of the Irish Dominicans, distinguished guests and a large congregation present in St Catherine’s Church, we celebrated the opening of the much awaited Lectio Divina Centre. It was a most memorable and joyous occasion for all of us at which Fr Michel was fondly remembered. Fr Michel died January 2014.
Today, three years later, with Fr Joe as Director, there are now 14 communities meeting in the Centre following the principles and method of Lectio Divina as presented by Fr Michel.
The Centre writes and produces booklets for each session, containing scriptural texts, historical situations and guidelines for meditation. Formation of our Lectio Guides, who lead the communities, is an integral part of the work of the Centre. Our lectio website has been an invaluable resource for many on the lectio journey: lectio.newrydominican.com.
The centre also offers day retreats ‘Journeying with the Word of God’ spread throughout the year. Recently the centre has offered a number of school retreats to secondary school children, and seeks to offer ongoing support and nourishment to Religious Education teachers in both primary and secondary schools.
The Lectio outreach programme also seeks to support other parishes as they establish communities around the Word in their own environs and this has become an important part of the mission of the centre.
On the last Thursday of January each year, the Dominican Lectio Communities come together for the Anniversary Mass of Thanksgiving for the life and work of Fr Michel. It was celebrated this year by Fr Brendan Clifford OP, a close friend of Fr Michel’s, and friend of the Lectio Centre.
The ongoing work of the Lectio Divina movement in the Dominican Lectio Centre is a cause of thanksgiving and great joy as we continue to face the challenges of growth and expansion and finding new and creative ways of facilitating this encounter with the Word.
We remember the words of Fr Michel: “When I meet and read about the many men and women who are engaged in the pastoral biblical apostolate, I feel confident that the will of the Vatican Council expressed in Dei Verbum will prevail and that Bible reading will indeed become the soul of theology and the inspiration of the whole of Christian living. I am happy to have been, in a small way, part of this historical movement.”
Thank you, Fr Michel!