No one "evangelizes" as successfully as young people.

We interviewed Georg Mayr-Melnhof, the founder of the Loreto Community in Austria, which promotes numerous prayer groups in various countries, and a youth meeting at Pentecost attended by many thousands of young people.

Fritz Brunthaler-October 11, 2021-Reading time: 6 minutes
young people

Translation by Alfonso Riobó from the original in German, which can be read by clicking here. here.

Georg Mayr-Melnhof, a native of Salzburg, is the ninth of ten siblings. He studied business administration, theology and religious education. He is also the founder of the Loretto Community, which we talk about in this interview. He tells us what this new movement is, what its goals are and what appeal it offers to young Austrians. He is married, has four children, is a permanent deacon and enthusiastically practices endurance sports. This is the conversation with Georg Mayr-Melnhof.

-Dozens of prayer groups in Austria, South Tyrol, Germany, Switzerland and England, and every year a large youth festival in Salzburg with 10,000 participants. What is Loreto: a large prayer group, a renewal movement, charismatic renewal in Austrian style?

The Loretto Community is one of the great new renewal movements within the Catholic Church in Austria. It is counted among the so-called "movements", i.e. among the new initiatives that are increasingly found in our Church in various forms and spiritualities.

-Georg, you are the founder of the Loreto movement. How did it come about?

Our roots are in Medjugorje. I first came to this place of grace in the mid-1980s, shortly after Our Lady's apparitions began. On the following pilgrimages I was no longer alone, but more and more young people came with me. In the Easter days of 1987, when I returned to Austria, two young people from Vienna came to me and said: Georg, after these strong experiences here in Medjugorje... let's start with something at home. A request of Our Lady resounded: "Found prayer circles". That was the starting signal. On October 4, 1987, we met in a small student apartment in Vienna for our first prayer group. There were three of us; we prayed a rosary together and then ate three sausage sandwiches. And that was it. Quite unspectacular, and at the same time very moving.

-What is your program, what are your objectives and how do you want to achieve them?

Our first vocation is surely prayer. Prayer for the renewal of the Church. We want to create spaces throughout our country, and beyond, where people can meet and experience the Lord. We dream of many lively, Pentecostal places, with many young people, with deep communion, with good catechesis, with attractive (praise) music, with confession and conversion, with the Eucharist at the center. In addition, we offer various training possibilities and programs in the area of discipleship and leadership in order to form a new generation of decisive people for the Kingdom of God.

Our first vocation is surely prayer. Prayer for the renewal of the Church. We want to create spaces throughout our country, and beyond, where people can encounter and experience the Lord.

Georg Mayr-MelnhofFounder of the Loreto Community

Is there a "follow-up" program for the participants in your proposals, i.e. continuous training, further training, etc.?

Now our programs are already very diverse. They begin with prayer groups for children, preparation for confirmation, youth groups, discipleship training, congresses and festivals, deepening, perpetual adoration. From the young to the old, there is something for everyone. Each person who comes to us can decide for himself which offers he wants to take advantage of and with what intensity. Apart from that, we offer the so-called "community promise", i.e. a very concrete step that can be taken to live even more intimately with Christ and from the sources of the Church. We make this promise for one year, with the possibility of renewing it again and again.

-What is so attractive or special about Loretto?

Undoubtedly, the presence of so many young people who follow this path of following Christ with great eagerness and dedication. This is incredibly attractive and appealing. And at the same time, we are all united by a great love for the Church, from whose fountains we drink daily.

-The emblem of Loreto is a dove. What meaning does the Holy Spirit have for you?

Our logo, the red dove, represents the Holy Spirit and its fire, and Pentecost. We dream and pray for a New Pentecost, as written in Joel 3. We know we are part of the great Charismatic Movement, we practice the gifts and charisms of the Holy Spirit and we count every day on the refreshing signs and wonders that the Lord works in our midst.

-You are married, have four children and recently became a permanent deacon. What significance does Loretto have in this trajectory and for your family?

For me, and also for my wife and our four children, it is a great gift to be able to feel part of such a lively community. Much of our life revolves around the Lord, around a life of discipleship, around new projects and ideas for the Church and the Kingdom of God, around the sanctification of daily life, etc. Having had the honor of being part of our movement from the first hour, I can say that these last three decades have had a very special impact on me.

-What has been your best experience with Loreto so far?

There are certainly many moments I could mention, but the annual Pentecost Day gatherings in Salzburg, with up to 10,000 young people, are one of the highlights. These intense times of prayer in the Salzburg Cathedral, at Holy Masses, at times of praise, on the Night of Mercy, when up to 120 priests are available to hear confessions. These shining eyes of the young people with this absolute longing to follow Jesus: it is a bit like tasting heaven.

-Most of the participants in your convocations are young people. How do you reach out to them? Can you inspire pastoral work in Austria, in parishes, dioceses, etc.?

Where young people gather, other young people automatically join in. If they are enthusiastic about the proposal, they bring their best friends and their siblings. No one "evangelizes" as successfully as young people. They simply say to their friends: hey, come; you have to experience this too. Many come and stay. The "program" we offer them must be well adapted to young people, of course. Anyway, the "content" has been there for 2000 years. We announce to them the whole Gospel message, not just what they want to hear. JESUS is absolutely central. He is the one who matters to us, and very much so. So the content is there. Our task is the packaging. It must be attractive and appealing. More and more bishops, priests and youth leaders are coming to see what we do. And think about what they could do for their dioceses and institutions.

Jesus is absolutely central. He is the one who matters to us, and very much so. So the content is there. Our task is the packaging. It must be attractive and appealing.

Georg Mayr-MelnhofFounder of the Loreto Community

-It is known that Loreto is in good relations with the Archbishop of Salzburg. How are you integrated in the dioceses, how is your contact with the bishops and parish priests?

As a community recognized by the Austrian Bishops' Conference and rooted in the heart of the Church, it is naturally a central concern of ours to be in close and fruitful exchange with our bishops and with those in positions of responsibility. For a young, lively and missionary community to be fruitfully integrated into a diocese, not only a lot of good will is needed on the part of all, but also a lively exchange and, above all, many personal relationships.

-How has Loretto expanded from a small group? Are there plans to expand to other countries with different languages, such as Italy, France, England, Spain or Poland?

The Loretto Community is actually a large group of many friends. Friendship and convivial relationships are at the heart of our movement. And this is exactly how Loretto spreads. Friends who are with us and then go elsewhere for work, family or other reasons, often start where they arrive with a new prayer group, a Loretto home group or a small apostolate.

Originally we are an Austrian community, but since a few years we have expanded to all other German-speaking countries. And also to London in England. We never really have any concrete plans, but it is more a question of identifying which doors the Holy Spirit will open next.

-How do you see the situation of the Church in Europe? Can Loretto, or Loretto's approach, be a path of renewal?

Tomorrow's Church will probably be smaller than today's, at least here in Europe, but it will hold up very well, because it is built on rock and the promise of Jesus remains valid, just as before: the powers of hell will not overcome it. And I am convinced that it will become more and more a Church of confessors of the faith. Many will probably leave, because tradition no longer sustains them or, even more, because they have not personally experienced and come to know Jesus. But those who consciously walk with Jesus, follow Him and have recognized the Church as His bride, will stay and contribute decisively to the renewal of the Church.

The authorFritz Brunthaler


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