1. Just what, exactly, is The Companions of Christ? Are you diocesan priests? Are you a religious order?
Yes, we are diocesan priests. No, we are not a religious order. We are diocesan priests in every way: we have promised obedience to the Archbishop of St. Paul and Minneapolis (our “ordinary”); we are given our parish or other assignments by him; we are paid by the archdiocese; we will live and die here.
We believe however that some of the spiritual benefits of the Religious Life can be lived in the diocesan priesthood, namely fraternity and the evangelical counsels. For this spiritual purpose of allowing these tools to help us grow in holiness we have become an association of clerics. This means that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has made a formal agreement with The Companions of Christ that the Archbishop will do his best to let us live our communal way of life (which is laid out in our statutes). To do this he attempts to assign us to parishes in such a way that we can live together in small households (we call them “fraternities”) of 3 or more priests in various places around the Archdiocese.
2. Why are you doing this?
The desire for holiness as priests is the main reason. We have come to understand the importance of fraternal communion for our priestly holiness. Today priests are increasingly isolated by their heavy work load, by the reduction to only one priest per parish due to declining numbers, and so on. Our previous Archbishop, Harry Flynn, identified our charism as “a strengthening presence”; we seek to support and encourage one another in living the priestly vocation with clarity and joy. We have also found that joining our lives together around a set of common ideals helps us to call each other on toward this priestly holiness which we all seek. Many of the members of the Companions of Christ came from works of evangelization which saw the impact that fraternal life can have on vocations.
3. How did all of this get started?
Many of us in The Companions of Christ were involved, as high school and college students, in the Catholic charismatic renewal movement. We joined prayer groups, communities and lay brotherhoods of celibate men that we connected with the movement. The Companions of Christ grew out of one of these communities. In 1992, with the help of then auxiliary bishop Robert Carlson, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis formally established us as a “Public Association.” More recently our members have come from our parishes and movements within the Church which encourage young people to the radical call to holiness.
4. How many are involved in the group?
Currently (June 2016), there are 20 priest members of The Companions of Christ. Most are assigned to parishes but some work in seminary formation or the archdiocesan tribunal.
5. Do you expect to grow?
During the last few years one or two men have joined us each year. By the grace of God, we expect this growth to continue.
6. Is this sort of thing happening anywhere else?
It’s rather unique, actually. Many similar groups of priests are either moving toward becoming religious communities (rather than remaining diocesan priests), or they are support groups that do not have the element of living together in community. However, in 2007 the Companions of Christ was founded in the Archdiocese of Denver by four seminarians, and they now have several priest members. They share with us the same lifestyle and ideals, even though they are completely under obedience to their Archbishop. In addition, we are in touch with priests and seminarians around the country who are interested in starting, in their own diocese, what we have begun here.
7. How do you handle your money and possessions?
Like other diocesan priests, each of us collects a salary form the Archdiocese and receives a stipend for room and board from our parishes. In turn, each of us pays the Central Fund of The Companions of Christ for our monthly rent and food expenses. “The Companions of Christ Incorporated” owns the house on Marshall Avenue; we bought it in 1992. Each priest in The Companions of Christ gives 5% of his salary to the Central Fund, to be used for retirement of our corporate debts, for house maintenance, common activities, and for our apostolic efforts, and each priest also gives 5% to the parish or archdiocesan institution he is serving. We commit ourselves to live simply, to not except extra money beyond our salary, to be generous with our money, and to be accountable with one another in our financial dealings.
8. Is there some sort of leadership structure within the group?
The Companions of Christ has a Constitution (“Statutes”) that has been approved by the archbishop. These Statutes, along with our “Rule of Life,” are the chief governmental basis for our life together. A Council of ordained members meets monthly for planning and decision-making. Members of the Council elect a Moderator for The Companions of Christ, who serves for 3 year terms. The Moderator helps to call us to the ideals of our common life. Our Current superior, Fr. Tony O'Neill, was elected for his first term in 2014.
9. What do you expect The Companions of Christ to be doing in ten years?
We expect that most of us will be serving as parish priests, since that is the most pressing need of the Church these days. We hope to continue to provide seminarians for our Archdiocese and holy priests for the service of the local Church. We also hope that this movement of priestly fraternity might grow in other diocese around the country, as it has in Denver. Above all, we seek to glorify our Lord Jesus Christ, to serve the Church, and to be faithful ministers of God’s saving love to the world.
10. How does one find out more information about The Companions of Christ?
Please visit our contact page.