The Birkirkara Oratory was founded with a specific scope and vision in mind. In 1910, it was felt that the children of Birkirkara lacked formation in the Catholic faith, so the need arose for a special place to be built where the boys of Birkirkara could receive Christian formation, as well as be in an atmosphere where they could grow and develop holistically.
It was with this perspective in mind that Mons. Joseph De Piro expressed his wish that the members of the Missionary Society of St. Paul take full responsibility of this place.
In time, the principle aim to educate boys and young men was broadened to include girls and young women. Thus, gradually, the Oratory became a place where all children and adolescents received their spiritual formation. Later on, in the eighties, the Oratory continued to further expand its vision, and also became a centre for the family. For this to happen, more structural works needed to be carried out, and the Oratory was therefore almost completely rebuilt.
In the light of this vision, which continued to progress according to the needs of the day, one can understand why, a hundred years later, the Missionary Society of St. Paul would like this place to move one step further again, to also become a Centre for Catechesis and the Liturgy, not only for children and adolescents, but also for the formation of adults.
The Church is conscious of the great need in our country, for the ‘faith’ in Malta to move on from simply a cultural and ‘religious’ one to a faith that becomes a deeper, personal choice. This requires a special call, an invitation, as well as continuous formation. For this to happen, there is, first and foremost, the need for a physical structure to create the right atmosphere. This of course, needs to be combined with a formative structure to nourish a walk of faith, which doesn’t just stop as soon as one receives the initiation sacraments of Christianity. For this reason, more extensive structural works have been carried out in the past year so that this dream could become a reality. The renovation of the Oratory was completed within the targeted time for this vision.
At present, the initial vision of the Oratory is being fulfilled – ie to form children to receive the Sacraments. There are six different classes, and about one hundred and twenty children who attend twice a week to receive their formation. In order to form children we have fourteen catechists who, voluntarily and very eagerly, help out week after week. Some of them have, for many years, been offering their services to help children mature in their faith in the best possible way.
At the Oratory, we also offer formation for adolescents and young adults. At the moment there are two youth groups, who together with their leaders give a young and open-minded spirit to the place. In their walk of life, these youth grow in an atmosphere of friendship. Their spiritual walk is based on Biblical Catechesis and sharing of the Word of God in Lectio Divina groups where they share their experiences and discuss how the Word of God can be the enlightenment they need to face the various challenges in their life, and also help them grow in their faith.
Since the beginning of the foundation of the Oratory, the inhabitants of the surrounding area always gathered as a community to celebrate the liturgy. The Oratory is, in fact, a pastoral zone and the Liturgy is an important and integral part of faith formation. Christianity in itself requires celebration and in its own nature it has a great power to attract those who are far from the church through evangelisation. Recently we have adapted the celebrations in our Church to better reflect the Spirit of the Liturgy.
Throughout the year there are important spiritual celebrations; the most meaningful of which is the Easter vigil – the climax of a week full of Catechesis and Liturgical celebrations. We firmly believe that the Liturgy is extremely influential, and leads to evangelisation as well as the building of various communities. We have also felt the necessity to build a new, small chapel within the building itself, to be used by different communities, this being the driving force behind all our work.
A lot of structural work has been carried out to create halls and rooms for different types of meetings. These include a media room and a board room, as well as halls for youth meetings and smaller rooms for Lectio Divina groups. New kitchen and refectory facilities have been installed, enabling retreats and other activities to be held at the Oratory. The meeting hall has also been refurbished. Most of this work has been carried out voluntarily, by people who regularly attend and receive formation at the oratory. God’s providence has been greatly abundant.
The MSSP lay community also moved to the Oratory last year. This community was formed nine years ago by Fr. Martin Cilia. The specific scope of this community is for the members to grow in faith and to live the charism of the Missionary Society of St. Paul. This community was transferred to the Oratory to help Fr. Martin develop this Centre for Catechesis, as well as to give an authentic witness of a Christian community that lives a life of service, bringing others to faith in Christ.
It was the great wish of Joseph De Piro, founder of the Missionary Society of St. Paul, to bring Christ and the Good News to those who had never heard about Him. Our mission in the Oratory is to be open to those who have lapsed from the faith. Through the Alpha Course, which has now also become an integral part of the Oratory programme, we aim to reach out to those who, for some reason or other, have left the Church. The Alpha Course is a powerful means to help people make this choice, and after the course, which is held twice a year, the Oratory offers an itinerary for the continuation of one’s walk in faith; for those who organise it, as well as for those who have participated in the course .
The new Spiritual structure of the Oratory is based on a Biblical Catechesis. This is held every first Monday of the month, the purpose of which is for the Word of God to be a light in the walk of faith to all the different groups meeting there. All groups meet together in the Church to listen to this Catechesis. Like the first Christians, smaller groups later meet for Lectio Divina on a different date to share the Word and their experiences in the light of this word, and also discuss how they can apply it to their lives. At the moment, there are twenty Lectio Divina groups. All groups and communities then meet together once again on the last Monday of the month for Eucharistic Adoration, and also to pray and intercede for this place.
The Oratory also offers spiritual and psychological Biblical formation through special courses which are held on Tuesdays. The aim of these courses is to continue to help deepen the faith of those who attend. These courses are open to all and so far, the attendance has been extremely encouraging.
We are very much aware that the Lord is showering us with His blessings at the moment. The communities are working together so that this vision becomes a reality. As this centre is situated in the heart of Malta, and is so close to Mater Dei Hospital and the University, our wish is for several groups and communities to join us by meeting here, in order to truly sustain, as well as give an authentic response to the call for a new evangelisation, where faith can become alive in a community that prays, works and celebrates together, with the desire that others too can share this gift of faith, and grow in love and acceptance of God in their life.
Our wish is that, like the first community mentioned in Acts of the Apostles 4:32, we will be “one in mind and heart” sharing together the Word and the Eucharist, and that through us the Lord will continue to increase the numbers of people who are saved.