South Lyon — Nobody loves what they do not know, “so if people don’t know their faith, it is very difficult to fall in love with it,” says Fr. John Ezratty, MC, of the Miles Christi religious order of priests and brothers.
“Our charism is the sanctification of the laity,” explained Fr. Ezratty. “We work with the lay faithful and try to have them grow in holiness, (building) their own personal relationship with Christ.”
Miles Christi was founded by Fr. Roberto Juan Yannuzzi, MC, in Argentina, in 1994 as a Public Clerical Association of the Christian Faithful by Archbishop Carlos Walter Galán Barry. After the Church’s required conditions were fulfilled, the “Association” became a Clerical Religious Order in 1999.
And in October 2000, two Miles Christi priests arrived to serve in Michigan — brought by invitation of Cardinal Adam J. Maida.
They paved the way for many more Miles Christi priests and brothers to come to the United States; today more than 60 priests and brothers travel giving retreats, talks and spiritual direction.
Miles Christi’s slow but steady growth even caught the eye of a Nebraska-based Catholic media organization, the StoryTel Foundation, which began making a documentary in 2009. The documentary, directed by Don Carney who oversees StoryTel, will debut on EWTN on Nov. 16.
Fr. Ezratty expressed a hope that the film will increase an awareness of Miles Christi: “My greatest hope is that when people see the documentary, they will find out about Miles Christi … we want people to see what we have to offer, and grow in relationship with Christ.”
The U.S. branch of the congregation is based in South Lyon, though the first two priests had made a temporary home at St. John’s Center in Plymouth upon their arrival. Three years later, as the Daughters of St. Mary of Providence women’s order prepared to vacate their Northville convent, the sisters donated their building to Miles Christi.
With continued expansion, however, Miles Christi is currently working to complete a Metro Detroit “Family Center” to host more activities, Bible studies and faith opportunities for the local laity.
“Many of us say that we see Detroit as our home in the U.S.,” said Fr. Ezratty, adding that a Miles Christi community was also established in San Diego in 2008 to serve the West Coast.
Fr. Ezratty added that when someone inquires about a vocation to Miles Christi, “we are very serious about it,” and do not focus on merely increasing numbers.
“We work for the Church first and foremost; we are very happy to say we presented many different men to different seminaries around the country,” he said.
He explained that Miles Christi, whose goal is to “help the people grow so they can give back to their parishes what they have received in spiritual direction,” draws its spirituality from St. Ignatius of Loyola. In fact, Miles Christi’s retreats follow the method of St. Ignatius’ spiritual exercises.
“We follow all the saints of the Church, but the core of our spirituality is St. Ignatius,” said Fr. Ezratty.
He said that Miles Christi emphasizes the importance of spiritual direction, “we try to provide what other priests cannot do because they are busy,” adding that Miles Christi priests do not have parishes of their own in order to focus on the apostolate.
Fr. Gonzalo Viana, MC, “master of students” for Miles Christi candidates discerning at their South Lyon school of humanities, said a specific focus of Miles Christi is in evangelizing college students.
“That age is a moment that needs help more than ever,” he said. “There are big decisions in life; 50 percent of Catholics lose their faith as freshman and 80 percent by senior year.”
Fr. Viana said that the congregation’s rigorous formation includes studies in the liberal arts and developing a good “cultural background” in order to best serve the laity.
Miles Christi formation usually takes between 10-12 years for a man to become a priest.
“Holiness is the goal of our life — our job description from God,” he said, adding that there is “no other job in town” for the people of God “but to become saints.”
Local silent retreats
Miles Christi will hold several men’s and women’s retreats in the local area in 2015. Retreats offer spiritual talks and time for silent personal meditation, plus daily Mass, rosary and confession opportunities. All retreats will begin Friday at 4 p.m. and conclude on Sunday at 4:30 p.m. Email firstname.lastname@example.org.