The AVI Familylaity who live the AVI charism
In the summer of 2005, we Apostles of the Interior Life (AVI) felt the call to found a group of lay people to evangelize in places where consecrated people are not present. It was a desire and a prayer. A few months later, a small group of our spiritual directees in Lawrence, KS shared their desire to be more deeply formed in the sisters’ spirituality so to spread the AVI charism in their families and everyday environments. The Lord had given both the sisters and this small group the same inspiration!
What was the initial goal? In January 2006, we AVI and our small group of about 15 spiritual directees started to regularly spend time together, gathering in a member’s house or in our house in Lawrence to pray together and share ideas. Although we began without any specific guidelines, a clearer identity began to emerge as the friendships deepened and our similar dreams began to materialize. Something united us—we all cared for the souls of others by leading them to an interior life and personal relationship with God by means of spiritual friendship. In the starting group of Collaborators of Your Joy, everybody felt at home; it was like a family.
Collaborators of Your Joy
Why, then, the name “Collaborators of Your Joy”? On June 21, 2002, during the celebration of Father Salvatore’s (the founder of AVI) 50th anniversary of his Priestly ordination, hundreds of friends and relatives of the Apostles gathered in Rome. For the first time the Apostles’ Italian and American friends could meet, talk, and pray together. They were able to share their spiritual and apostolic desires. Sister Michela quoted Saint Paul’s letter to the Corinthians in a meditation, saying that “we want to be collaborators of your joy” (2 Cor 1:24). At those words, a voice from the crowd shouted, “Collaborators of your joy! This is what we want to be!” It was Peppino, Sister Clara’s dad. A few days later, we Apostles thought, “Whoever loves us, desires to share in our joy.” What is our joy? It is the joy that comes from knowing and loving Jesus in the intimacy of a deeply formed interior life, and the joy that comes from sharing this prayer life with others. This is the reason for the joy of the Collaborators: it is the participation and sharing in the joy of Jesus. Our friends desired to share in the joy of Jesus that they saw in the community. We sisters were not yet thinking of a lay movement, but that meeting was, in embryonic form, what that group of friends one day would become.
Thus this group of people was named Collaborators of Your Joy (CO-JOY). In the fall of 2006, we sisters and the original 15 Collaborators of Your Joy held the First National Meeting of the Collaborators in Belleville, Illinois. The goal of the weekend was to connect families, students, and friends that we Apostles had met during our years in various parts of America. The meeting, which included prayer, conference sessions, shared meals, skits, music, socializing, and witnessing, provided a way to share personal faith stories and to encourage each other to respond to the New Evangelization called for by Popes Paul VI, John Paul II, and Benedict XVI. For the first time a “rule of life” was laid out for the laity according to the four pillars of the sisters’ community.
With time, some of the Collaborators of Your Joy felt a desire to commit themselves to the charism of the Interior Life in a new way. After much discernment, the decision was made by the sisters to offer a specific program of formation for those Collaborators that desired to go deeper in their commitment. The name “AVI Family” was chosen to indicate a closeness to the ideal that the sisters were living out through their consecration.
In 2008 a group of people (including young adults, families and diocesan priests) was involved in the preparation for making a promise to become part of the Family. They took their formal promise on January 1, 2009.
Ever since, many more people in both the US and in Italy embraced our AVI charism. Currently there are roughly 100 people in both countries who took promises to belong to the Family of the AVI.
As was the case of the first group of Family members, there are requirements toward being able to take the promise. There are 15 meetings (spread over a period of 20 months) consisting of teachings on the human person (intellect, will, and affectivity), the AVI charism, the history of the Community and the four pillars. One year of participation in the Collaborators is mandatory prior to the 15 meetings. Ongoing Spiritual Direction, daily meditation, and thanksgiving after Communion are also required. During these 20 months of preparation and formation possible candidates for the Family need to discern if they are being called to take an official promise.
The two newest group of Discerners (7 people in the USA and 7 in Italy) set out to begin their journey in September 2023, which will conclude in May 2025 with the taking of their Promises
The AVI Family seeks to live out the charism of the Apostles of the Interior Life according to their respective state of life. Their formation is based on the four pillars of the charism: prayer, community, formation, and apostolate.
Prayer: They are formed in the habit of daily mental prayer, thanksgiving after receiving Communion, and frequent reception of the Sacraments. Mental prayer allows individuals to spend time with God seeking out His will for them every day. It is a primary method of transformation, whereby we have a dialogue with Christ that leaves us more like Him. Spending time in thanksgiving after Communion gives us the opportunity to experience deep intimacy with Jesus. It is a time when we can ask for the graces we need to live out his will and share with him our thoughts and concerns. It is a time when we can thank him for the abundant blessings he has given us. Frequent reception of the Sacraments (particularly the Eucharist and Reconciliation) deepens our life of Grace. Regular spiritual direction aids in this development.
Community: We are called to live in communion with the Church, the body of Christ. Thus it is important to be present to our families, parishes, friends, and others we are in contact with on a daily basis and not be isolated. Forming spiritual friendships and praying with others aids our own spiritual growth and the growth of others by together becoming more closely united to God. It holds us spiritually accountable and challenges us to become who we are meant to be through sharing joys, struggles, and insights, and giving and receiving advice and wisdom. Our natural affiliations and interactions are consequently infused with grace, joy, love, and prayer that ‘speaks’ of Christ and invites others to encounter Him.
Formation: Intellectual formation involves learning more about God, who He is, how He created us, and how in His Divine Plan He sent Jesus to redeem us. The other aspect of formation is human formation. This involves forming, with the help of God’s grace, our will, thoughts, feelings, and emotions so that we can better understand ourselves and how God works in our lives. Formation encompasses all our life—our whole being is formed and likened to Christ.
Apostolate: It is important to spread the ideal of the interior life through leading others to a personal relationship with God (deeper holiness), through teaching others or speaking about the importance of a daily prayer life, the growth of virtue, and balance of life.
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