Parish Cells Of Evangelisation

“You Help Parishes Become Families”
Reflections on our visit to Pope Francis and Rome

St. Paul VI Hall

Vatican City

5th September 2015

A Truly Wonderful Few Days.

On Friday 4th Sept. 2015, I travelled with Francis and Elizabeth from our local parish cell groups to Rome to meet with Pope Francis on Saturday 5th.. Our hotel, Archangello, was only five minutes from the Vatican, thanks to our trip co-ordinator Dan, and after a good meal we settled in to our preparation for the big day.

After an early Breakfast we set out for the St. Paul VI audience hall through the arches to the left of St. Perer’s Basicilla. After an initial thunderstorm and downpour we were inside the beautiful 6,000 seat auditorium which quickly filled up. The Folk Group from Sant’Eustorgio Parish, Milan lead the “morning prayer” with their beautiful music and song.
It was a great privilege to be a celebrant at the Mass at which Cardinal Stanislaus Rylko President of the Pontifical Council for the Laity Presided.

Soon it was 12 noon, the moment we had been waiting for.

Pope Francis entered a full Auditorium and was greeted rapturously as he enjoyed greeting people on both sides of the aisle on his way to the stage.

When everyone had sat down the Rev. Don Pigi from Milan addressed the Pope, thanking him for the recognition of the Parish Cells of Evangelisation given by the Pontifical Council for the Laity on Divine Mercy Sun. 12th Apr.2015. He said that Parish Cells of Evangelisation are outward looking, saying “70% of our cell members can be considered Christians who have been converted. They have abandoned a life insensitive towards the love of Christ and his Mercy, to become fervent announcers of Jesus”.

In his reply the Holy Father said he was “happy to be among you to celebrate the official recognition that the Catholic Church has offered with the final approval of the Parish Cells of Evangelisation”.

Pope Francis went on to say “you need to help you parish community to become a family in which one finds a rich and varied reality of the Church, meet in homes to share the joy’s and expectations that are present in each person’s heart. Your cells are a genuine experience of evangelising that is very similar to what happened in the early day’s of the church”.

Finally, with his blessing, he asked us to pray for him. All too soon he was leaving us

Later, we all gathered for a meal to celebrate before some of us went to watch the All Ireland semi final replay between Dublin and Mayo in an Irish pub.

On the Sunday morning we went to the Irish College where Monsignor Ciaran O’Carroll rector of the college was the principal celebrant of the Mass, and our own Fr. Michael was one of the chief concelebrants. During the Mass we remembered Bridie and Thomas who were celebrating their Ruby Wedding Anniversary. It was wonderful to be in the church with a relic of St. Oliver Plunket and the heart of the Liberator Daniel O’Connell. Following refreshments it was time to take the tube to St. Peters Square for the Angelus recited by the Pope.

The square was full to the brim.
In his address, Pope Francis challenged the peoples and governments of Europe to look after the migrants arriving into our continent Then it was time for lunch and some shopping organised by Carmel who knew where to get the best bargains. After some sightseeing we went to watch the All-Ireland hurling final between Kilkenny and Galway. Then it was a rush to the airport and after some anxious moments we made it on time through a disorganised Da Vinci airport for our flight home on Sunday night.

A truly wonderful few days coming to an end.

Fr. John McNamara, Adm. Leixlip.


Cells Meeting with Pope Francis.

The weekend celebration and audience with Pope Francis to celebrate the Decree of Recognition of the Parish Cells which I had the privilege of attending was truly the affirmation of my faith journey.
I questioned how had we got here whilst waiting with the many thousand others to meet Pope Francis.

The seed which for us here in Leixlip was sown about 12yrs ago had truly come to blossom, there we were arms length away from Pope Francis whilst he addressed the Parish Cells from all over the world. He asked us very simply not to judge others then we will not be judged and that our faith is an open book.

On Sunday when we attended the morning mass at the Irish College with most of the Irish who had travelled and celebrated by our own priests this was very special ,what a homily and inviting place in a big city like Rome . Since returning I just can't help sharing with all who are interested . This trip will help us all to reach out and evangelise , just so we can encourage others to experience even the smallest portion of what Pope Francis imparted to us this past weekend.

Anne Barnes, Leixlip.


Core thoughts on audience with Pope Francis.

First and foremost our visit to Rome was very special and we are so grateful to those who organised it.

The audience with our Holy Father was a truly wonderful experience, powerful and emotional in that Parish Cells and their intrinsic potential for evangelization was the main focus.

If I were asked to name some main points that impressed me from the Pope’s address I would say;

1. His advice to always listen to the Holy Spirit, to take care that this does not end in fatigue or the difficulties of the moment, to push on to overcome the various obstacles encountered on the way of evangelization.

2. His appeal for Cell people to cultivate charisma, to reach out and welcome everyone with enthusiasm, without judging anyone.

3. The Lord gave us the advice he reminded us: “Do not judge lest you be judged.”

David Campbell, Thurles.


Parish Cells Audience With Pope Francis.

On Friday September 4th I travelled to Rome with my wife and a group of fourteen people from our parish. We joined up with over a hundred and twenty people from all round Ireland on invitation from Pope Francis, to a Mass in Paul VI hall in the Vatican, to celebrate the conferring of permanent status on the parish cell system of evangelisation which started in our parish twenty-five years ago.

We arrived at the Vatican with the estimated five and a half thousand cell members from all round the world in the middle of the biggest down pour of rain I have seen in a long time.
What a joyful experiences meeting friends from other cell communities around Ireland with a continuous flow of Latin American music in the background.

We entered the hall which seats over six thousand and were lead in song by an Italian youth choir and band, their uplifting music helped us forget the rain outside. A mime, acted out by six young people depicting the love of Jesus for each of us and how that love can overcome all kinds of distractions and temptations spoke to all the various languages in the hall instantly, no interpretation required.

Mass was celebrated by SE Mons Rino Fisichella, head of the congregation for the laity with over fifty priests from all around the world con-celebrating. Pride of place was given to Don Pigi Perini now in his mid-eighties, founder on the cell system of evangelisation in Europe.

At the end of Mass the hall was filled with excitement as we awaited the arrival of Pope Francis with people standing on chairs to get to the best possible vantage point to see him.

Pope Francis entered at the back of the hall to tumultuous applause and greeted the people as he walked down the central passageway in the middle of the hall. On reaching the stage he was warmly greeted by Don Pigi who expressed gratitude to God for all that the Holy Spirit had made possible over the past thirty years since he first heard about the parish cell system of evangelisation from Msgr. Michael Eivers in America. He thanked Pope Francis for honouring us with his presence.

In response the Pope spoke about the charism of evangelisation which was present in the cell movement, encouraging us to always protect that particular charism and never be afraid to evangelise, to speak about the love God has for everyone. He said that cells should be for everyone no matter what their state was. We as cell members should never judge people saying if something judgmental came into our minds we should shut our mouths and not speak.

After his talk he personally greeted all the local organisers and promoters of the cell movement from around Europe and there was a great cheer from the Irish contingent as the pope shook the hand of Fr. Michael Hurley, founder of the cell movement in Ireland.

We all left the hall to a beautiful sunny day with a renewed sense of the importance of sharing our faith, overjoyed that the church had recognised the parish cell system of evangelisation as movement of the Holy Spirit answering the call to evangelise in the church at this point and time in history.

Deacon Noel Ryan.
Ballinteer, Dublin 16


Simple but Profound.

The trip to Rome to meet Pope Francis was a wonderful opportunity, being in the same room as the pope really felt special, it's hard to explain but the air was charged with a spirit and an air of excitement!

The pope spoke simply and told Cell members from all over the globe to be seeds in their communities and families, a simple message but very profound! He was direct and honest in his message to go and tell others the good news.

His love of the sick and children was very obvious when he hugged the little boy with Down syndrome and what a hug and smile! I'm still buzzing from the trip!

Maura Duggan, Celbridge.


A Privilege.

When my husband, Peter and myself first heard that Pope Francis was inviting all Cell members throughout the world to attend an audience with him, we determined that we would both make the necessary arrangements to take that journey.

We were not disappointed!

The Paul VI hall was packed with members of our Cell family from around the globe (108 of them were from Ireland). The atmosphere was electric and the growing excitement, palpable. The singing, the dancing and the thought provoking mime demonstrating, first rejection and then restoration of life with God, set the scene.

The Mass then brought us into the correct frame of mind and heart for the Papal audience.

When the Pope finally arrived, he received an enthusiastic welcome by all present. His words of support for Cells affirmed us all in our work. It was a privilege to share this wonderful experience with our worldwide Cell brothers and sisters. It is an occasion that Peter and I will both remember for a very long time!

Anne Armstrong, Coleraine.


Be Missionary.

On 5th September last I was present in Paul VI Hall at that Vatican to celebrate the official recognition by the Church of the Parish Cell System of Evangelization. I gathered with 125 other Irish cell participants and joined more than 5,000 other people from many parts of the world.

I found, in the words of Pope Francis to us, clear confirmation of the gift and possibilities of Parish Cells. He placed before us our responsibility to ‘take care of the charism of the cells’, and urged us to commit to its central features, without being side tracked by tiredness or disappointments.

For Pope Francis, our vocation is to be missionary. We are to lead people to Christ and to be formed in faith.
He told us that living our vocation means announcing to all within our parishes the ‘beauty of the Gospel’, and ‘finding new paths in order to evangelize’.

Through meeting as small communities in homes, we help build the parish as community and family. Sharing faith in this way is equally a ‘genuine experience of evangelization that loosely resembles what took place in the early days of the church’.

As cell participants, we exist at the service of the parish. We are to go out to all, and welcome all, without judgment and exception.

Pope Francis went on to link meeting Jesus in the experience of a cell community with the Eucharist, which is to be the ‘heart of your mission of evangelization’.

I felt privileged to be part of a great international faith celebration of song, story, and drama. I know that the pope’s words of challenge, and confirmation, will long remain imprinted for me and others who attended.

Fr Michael Hurley.


Welcome Everyone.

My initial reaction to listening to Pope Francis's address was its simplicity and his gentle voice, yet what he said was huge and challenging.
Pope Francis encouraged us to welcome everyone into our homes, similar to what happened in the early days of the Church, to be accepting of everyone, of the good and bad in all of us.
In this way we reflect God's immense unconditional love and draw people to Him.

Anne McFerran, Carrickfergus.



What a wonderful weekend my husband and I enjoyed with our Fellow Cell Members in Rome.
Thousands worldwide, were present in the Vatican. We were overwhelmed and inspired by the atmosphere and joy of all who were present.

The Pope's address was tremendous and Cell members young and old raised the roof with their enthusiastic joyous singing.

The fellowship and love amongst everyone was amazing and made us feel proud to be a member
of the Parish Cell System of Evangelization.

On our return home, we were tired, happy and so grateful for our gift of faith.

Maureen Mullan, Coleraine.



My experience of being in the audience with Pope Francis on 5th September 2015 was truly awesome.

I had some problems with the translation service but the heartfelt joy and rapturous acclaim that emanated from everyone in the room needed no translation.

It was just such a wonderful experience to be part of that wide international community rejoicing in the approval granted to the Parish Cells system of evangelisation, mindful, not just of the 5000 or so in the audience, but also all the other Parish Cells members from across the world, who could not be there in person, but who we knew were so very much with us in spirit..

Mary Bond, Portstewart.


Bear Witness.

I felt the excitement and anticipation as we waited for Pope Francis to enter Paul VI hall both joyful and intense!

I was surprised by the Pope’s physical strength as he briskly walked to the front of the hall.

I sensed the Pope’s physical strength reflected in how he spoke to us Parish Cell people, encouraging us to continue in our work of sharing our faith.

His words “May you always bear witness to the tenderness of God the Father and his closeness to everyone” will remain with me.

Margaret Webb, Carrickfergus.


Amazing Experience.

I was lucky enough to be invited to Rome for the Pope's recognition of Cells .

It was the most amazing experience of my life , to be in the same room as His Holiness and hear him speak , one sentence he said remains with me " don't judge lest you be judged "

Tess Grehan, Donaghameade.


Papal Audience.

It is hard to find words to describe our unique experience in Rome.

The atmosphere in John Paul II Hall was one of excitement and happiness.

It was wonderful to see so many people, of all different nationalities and ages, happy and united with one common thread - the Parish Cell.

The joy and expectation was palpable. We came away feeling energised and enthused about the future.

We felt blessed to have been apart of such an event.

Maeve Foley, Leixlip.


Encouraging Testimonies.

It was a great privilege for us to be present on this occasion where such recognition was given to the Cells Evangelisation Movement.

It was very encouraging for us to hear Testimonies & the news of the World wide expansion of Cells throughout the world.

Pope Francis reminded us of the Charism each of us has and he encouraged us to use that to the full in our interactions with others and to be open and accept the Holy Spirit working within us and among us.

Mary & Hugo Gallagher, Leixlip.


Meeting the Pope.

Get up, get up, its time to go to the Vatican to meet Pope Francis. The very thought of being invited to meet the Pope is so surreal that it is almost impossible to believe.

After about two hours in the queue, which seemed like ten minutes we started to move and soon we are in a huge hall. We got seats quite close to the front and near the podium where Mass is to be celebrated and subsequently the Pope will sit in his chair.

Preparations start for Mass and approximately one hundred or more priests arrive out on the altar to take their seats. Mass is now well under way and Holy Communion is to be distributed to the congregation of approximately five thousand.

Dozens of Priests take their ciboria and head for the large throng in the hall. In a few minutes Fr. John arrives to distribute Holy Communion to his Leixlip fellow travellers numbering thirty five, and another seventy Irish invitees almost all in the same area of the hall.
Mass is now over and we eagerly await the arrival of the main Man. Every vantage point is now occupied, grandmas and granddads are standing on chairs and young people are sitting straddled on the shoulders of their pals.

The CCTV giant screens are now all focused on the large double doors at the rear of the huge hall where there are by now a dozen Swiss guards firmly guarding the doors.

A huge cheer erupts as the man in white enters the doors surrounded by the aforesaid Swiss guards. He is now on the podium and he greets all to a tumultuous applause. His words are encouraging and well received.

Don Pigi Perini addresses the Pope on our behalf and the great man talks to us again and his words are profound and so welcome.

He then approaches a group of pre-selected persons to shake hands with and have a short conversation with. One of the select few is Fr. Michael Hurley formerly of this Parish.

When he is gone we don’t want to leave the hall, taking photos talking and smiling. We are now out in the hot midday sun and nobody wants to leave the great square of St Peters. The Irish group are now all in a huddle near one of the great fountains reminiscing and still in a state of semi shock at what transpired.

After an hour in the sun the Irish group moved off slowly to find restaurants nearby to have a bite to eat, After all it was at least eight hours since we had our miniscule and excited breakfasts.

Thomas Clancy, Leixlip.


Papal Audience.

On September 4th I travelled to Rome with fellow cell people in response to an invitation issued by Pope Francis to all cell people around the world to meet him in the Vatican on Saturday September 5th.

Having participated in parish cells for over ten years this was truly an ‘amazing grace’. It seemed somewhat surreal that we had received an invitation from Pope Francis. Over one hundred and twenty people travelled from Ireland and many more cell participants were linked in with us through their prayer support. It confirmed for me that we are all members of the same family – family of God.

Saturday 5th was aa very memorable day. The highlight for me was the address delivered by Pope Francis. He confirmed the place of cell groups in the life of the Catholic Church. He gave total affirmation to the charism of cell and challenged us to reach out to everybody without exception.

After the Papal audience we all adjourned to a nearby area of cafes and restaurants where we shared food, drinks and stories of parish cell groups with people from many other countries.

For Thomas and I it was a very special day as we were celebrating our 40th wedding anniversary and I couldn’t think of a nicer place to celebrate.

Our fellow travellers made sure it was highlighted.

Overall our trip was a very memorable event. I thank God for each person who has contributed to the growth of parish cell groups. I ask the Lord for inspiration as to the best way to proceed and take up the challenge given to us by Pope Francis.

Bridie Clancy, Leixlip.


A Papal Invite—the Experience.

An invite from the Pope, meet with him, a return to the eternal City. Yes.

We awoke to an incessant downpour, headed to the Vatican. There was so much rain in that small City, it could supply Ireland with free water for a year. It mattered little. As we queued to go into the PaulVI Hall the excitement was palpable.

On entering the hall we were calmed (and enthralled) by a youth band and mime group. Followed by Mass, concelebrated by numerous priests from around the world, including our own Fr. John McNamara Adm Leixlip and former PP Fr. Michael Hurley.

The excitement built again as we awaited the arrival of Pope Francis and what a wonderful experience when he did arrive. Passing close to where we were, he smiled and waved at everyone. Cameras almost too slow to catch the moment.. Listening to him, he opened our hearts to hear the Holy Spirit. Do not judge anyone, Love everyone with the love of Jesus and go tell everyone, through our command from Jesus, to evangelise no matter the cost. Beautiful. Fr. Michael shaking hands with the pope and later us (crowds) shaking Fr. Michaels hand.

Out to the now glorious sunshine and mingle with our friends from all over Ireland and the world and getting sunburnt. Into Rome for meals and in a deeper manner than usual, bonding with our Cells friends.

And the rest of the weekend. All Ireland football Semi Final Replay Saturday afternoon. Well played Dublin. Sunday morning Mass in the Irish College again with Fr’s John and Michael concelebrating. The dash to catch the Popes Sunday audience at noon. Sunday afternoon, the All Ireland Hurling final. And woe for Mayo. Then the rush, for some, to catch the plane (but say no more all was okay, in the end). And for the (non sporting) ladies; walks, shopping, coffee, getting lost, then meeting up for the Irish group cell meeting. The presentation to Bridie and Thomas for their 40thWedding anniversary and again the evening meal. Wonderful..

And the highlight of the weekend has to be the honour of meeting the pope and him confirming in person, the recognition of the Cells, by the Pontifical Council for the Laity, as an approved movement of evangelisation .

John & Carmel, Leixlip.