lay movementlaity who live the charism
Collaborators of your Joy (CO-JOY) are individuals who have the desire to live out the charism of the Apostles of the Interior Life. They feel called to be active members in the development and the spreading of the charism of the interior life. By focusing on the four pillars of the community – Prayer, Community, Formation, and Apostolate – Collaborators develop the charism and spread it to those God has entrusted to them.
Within the CO-JOY, a group of people, called “The Family”, take promises to live out the charism in a more committed way.
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.
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 the lay movement 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 “Family” was chosen to indicate a closeness to the ideal that the sisters were living out through their consecration.
In 2008 a group of 25 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 190 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 12 meetings (spread over a period of 18 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 12 meetings. Ongoing Spiritual Direction, daily meditation, and thanksgiving after Communion are also required. During these 18 months of preparation and formation possible candidates for the Family need to discern if they are being called to take an official promise.
The Family meets in Kansas, in Texas and Family members from other states are reached through live-streaming and through video recordings of the meetings. Some of them are leading small groups of friends and coworkers who desire to deepen their spiritual life. They are involved in the formation of others (through friendship, mentorship, talks, etc.). Monthly, several Family members in different parts of the US lead the Collaborators of Your Joy gathering, which are open to anyone who desires to grow in faith and friendship. Once a year the AVI, the Family and the COJOY gather together for a 1-day event, called convivenza (gathering). The Family members also gather once a year with the AVI brothers and sisters for a retreat in the Spring.
The Collaborators of your Joy is the apostolate of the Apostles of the Interior Life and of the lay movement of the Family. This is a time for lay persons, young and old, married and single to receive spiritual formation from the Apostles of the Interior Life. Children are welcome to the meetings, where they receive a special separate formation.
Meetings are held once a month. For more information on the Collaborators of Your Joy, please do not hesitate to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.