This couple’s committed to a movement that unites faith and life

Newcastle couple Brian and Adda O’Donnell are keen to share their enthusiasm for the ecclesial movement, Communion and Liberation. Communion and Liberation is a movement which has the purpose of forming its members in Christianity in order to make them co-workers in the Church’s mission in all areas of society. 

Brian was born and raised in Melbourne.  In 1980, aged 20, he took a year off from studying engineering at university to see the world. He cycled around Europe and also met his father’s family in Ireland. During this gap year, whilst staying in a youth hostel in Donegal, Ireland, Brian met Adda. 

Adda, also aged 20, had studied English and Russian in her home town of Milan and was visiting Ireland for three months with her friend Anna to improve their English skills. Both Adda and Anna invited Brian to visit Italy to stay with their families for a few days. Brian’s three or four-day visit turned into two months and Adda’s family ‘adopted’ Brian!

Brian and Adda corresponded via letters and the occasional phone call when Brian returned to Australia to finish the last year of his degree. Brian then bought a one-way ticket to Italy and secured a job in Milan. He had learned French and Latin at his Jesuit school in Melbourne but it was while working in an engineering company in Milan that he began to master Italian.

On his first visit to Italy, Adda introduced Brian to Communion and Liberation (CL). Adda had been involved with CL since she was at high school. It took a year for her to decide if it was something she wanted to do.  Adda said she feels she met CL at just the right time. “It is perfect for the way I was made.”  

There are other Catholic movements in Italy which both Brian and Adda respect, but the charism of CL greatly appeals to them. They both like the way people in CL treat each other, live their faith and are not ashamed to talk about their faith. Brian said he was “attracted by the fact they were having a joyful and happy time together and slowly I discovered it was because of their faith”.

Every aspect of Brian and Adda’s lives involves CL, including socialising and holidaying with other CL families whose friendships they value greatly. They have stayed with the CL movement through university, marrying, becoming parents and recently grandparents.

Pope John Paul II officially recognised CL in 1982 and asked the founder, Don Luigi Giussani (1922-2005), to ensure that the movement, which originated in the 1950s, became a presence in other countries. Brian said the movement is very popular in Italy, North and South America and there are large communities in England, Ireland and Spain. In 2015 Pope Francis addressed the CL Movement in St Peter’s Square in front of over 80,000 people.

For Adda, CL is not a theological club but a more intimate experience. “It educates me in a faith which speaks to my real life and is not just a habit. CL does not have many rules.”   They meet regularly to discuss CL documents and share opinions which relate to how they live.  They match the lesson from the messages to real situations in their lives. The documents may include the writings of Don Luigi Giussani, his successor Father Julian Carron, papal writings, or other sources related to the life of the Church.  In the group they explore how they have handled situations and discover things about themselves.  For example, during a recent CL discussion, a friend shared a problem and reflected on a passage being studied, asking, “What did it tell me that Christ is calling me to do, what is the sign for me?” Adda added, “All circumstances in life, no matter how normal and insignificant they seem, the good and the bad, are an opportunity to see the presence of God.” 

Brian explained there is a missionary aspect to CL and members are asked to reach out to the community and participate in parish activities and organise events such as the Way of the Cross.  Adda volunteers with refugees, at the St Vincent de Paul Centre and in her parish of Tighes Hill.

After spending 31 years raising three children in Italy, Brian and Adda returned to Australia five years ago.  To maintain contact with other CL members, in Italy and in other parts of Australia, they use Skype to participate in the “school of community”, the name given to these weekly meetings, which are held in groups in the larger cities.  CL has been in Australia for 20 years and there are members in Sydney, Melbourne, Perth, Adelaide and Launceston. 

Brian and Adda are committed to sharing their Christian friendship with others and have a desire to have a CL presence in Newcastle.  They believe that without CL, they may have abandoned their faith.  To them, CL is for those who do not want to live an individualistic life.  They encourage people searching for a way to live their faith, which perhaps they haven’t found in their parish, to investigate the CL movement.  

For more information about the Communion and Liberation movement in the Church, email Brian & Adda O’Donnell or visit the website 

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