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History of Cells

In the 1980s, Longford born Mgr. Mike Eivers worked as parish priest in St. Boniface, Florida. He knew that the American church was going through, at best, a holding operation. As he prayed for direction in his own ministry, in part prompted by illness due to overwork, he observed vibrant and active churches which were dynamic, where growth and mission were strong features. None of them were Catholic.

They were largely Pentecostal. Churches. He decided to take a closer look at them and to determine their reasons for growth. As part of his research, he visited Korea to meet with Paul Yonggi Cho, who pastored a cell community of almost 1,000,000.

He drew a number of conclusions about these growing churches.

* Each individual who participated had experienced a renewal of faith through the outpouring of the Holy Spirit as at Pentecost. S/he remained expectant of God's intervention to guide them through life's events.

* People met in large assemblies. Worship was joyful, with a great degree of participation.

* More significantly, he observed, they also met in small house units. This enabled fellowship and friendship to be fostered. People knew they were welcomed. They were pastored and encouraged. It was an ideal and natural place where questions of the day, including personal questions, were shared and looked at in terms of God's word in the scriptures.

And that

* Prayer, the use of scripture, and the availability of teaching were important.

* Participants had a strong commitment to evangelization, to sharng faith with family members, neighbours and work and leisure colleagues.

* All provided leadership, and were active in ministry, in one way or another. The role of the pastor was influential in providing teaching and vision.

For Fr. Mike, the conviction of faith, the growth in numbers, the clarity of mission and the degree of participation, that he observed in these churches, stood in sharp contrast to the uncertainty, the dwindling congregations, the inward looking analysis, the politics and the passivity that marked so much of the American Catholic Church as he knew it.

He recognised that he could introduce all of the above conclusions to the parish where he worked. Then after further reflection and prayer, he initiated the parish cell system of evangelization. These cell groups answered a need and began to develop so quickly throughout the parish of St. Boniface that within a few years 550 parishioners participated in them.

Fr. Mike claimed that once he had provided initial training and built in ongoing supervision, his sense of responsibility for the parish decreased, as did his workload. He knew he was now surrounded by many co-workers. He claimed, 'of all the initiatives I have undertaken, cell groups yield the best fruit'.

News of this 'success' story spread rapidly. People were gathering in small groups. They were enjoying the experience. They were forming bonds of friendship. They were also coming to know Jesus in a personal way. They were growing in confidence and were beginning to find it somewhat easier to talk about their faith. Interest was also aroused when it became known that they had an ability to involve the lapsed and alienated.

In February 1987, Don Pigi Perini, parish priest in St. Eustorgio, Milan, visited St. Boniface with 10 parishioners to learn from this experience. They were so inspired by what they saw that today more than 1,100 people participate in cell groups in St. Eustorgio, which is in turn a catalyst for parish cell groups throughout Europe.

In 1990, Fr. Michael Hurley and four parishioners from the parish of St. John the Evangelist, Ballinteer, Dublin visited the First European Seminar on cell evangelization in Milan. The impact was that at one time more than 300 parishioners were active in 31 cell groups throughout the parish of Ballinteer.

They also became part of the pastoral plans of such diverse parishes as Carrickfergus, Co. Antrim, Nenagh, Co. Tipperary, Callan, Co. Kilkenny and Doneraile, Co. Cork. 

Parish Cells continue to be an important means of evangelisation in many parishes.They continue to grow and flourish throughout Ireland.
2019 saw the parish of  St.Jude the Apostle,Willington, Dublin 6w become the most recent community to establish parish cells.

Text is taken with permission from Leixlip Parish Cells