Demystifying ‘The Way’

Neocaechumenal ay

The Neocatechumenal Way inspires commitment, stirs controversy

Balbina Terlaje, 85, was among the pioneer members of the Neocatechumenal Way on Guam when the evangelical movement — also known as “The Way”— was introduced to the island in the late 1990s. “NCW told us to open the Bible so we could find peace within ourselves,” Terlaje said.

Terlaje joined her NCW group on a pilgrimage to Jerusalem, where they saw NCW founder Kiko Argüello. “During the ceremony, we had to go with Archbishop (Anthony) Apuron and get scrutinized,” she said. The scrutiny involved declaring all her sins to Apuron and the congregation. “I kneeled before him and he said that I couldn’t get out of the NCW.”

But the pressure became too stressful for Terlaje. “Every time NCW had an event, I had to be there. When my husband was bedridden, I had to leave him to attend the convivence.”

Terlaje eventually quit the movement.

For soul searchers, any alternative can be appealing. Hence the NCW, a charism with its own rituals and retreats, managed to attract followers.

But the NCW itself is a source of uneasiness toward the Catholic Church itself. Critics dismiss the NCW as a cult, alleging that it takes advantage of its members. Some frown on fanaticism and unthinking obedience the NCW allegedly builds, while others object to its heterodox teachings and liturgical practices.

While she was still a member, Terlaje attended an NCW weekend retreat at a hotel. “When they passed around a trash bag for donations to pay for the food and the banquet room, I put in $100. A few minutes later, they counted all the donations and said it wasn’t enough. They passed the trash bag again five or six times,” Terlaje said.

Although the retreat that pressed for donations had been uncomfortable for Terlaje, she still believed the group had good intentions.

Having to divide her time between her religion and her sick husband, Terlaje faced judgment from fellow NCWs. “They told me I couldn’t leave NCW because I had already been scrutinized,” she said.