Catholic Cell Groups


Cell Groups have been a big part of Protestant Churches for years now and I have come around to believing this is a good development within their church. I’ll be honest when I first heard of these new weekly small groups I thought it would be passing fad - or just a change in language from Bible Study Groups to Cell Groups, Anyways, I have noticed no Catholic Church with such a program, most churches in my area range from small to mid sized but I would think enough people to support this, Anyone know if there is such a thing as a Cell Group with any Catholic Parishes


I don’t know what you mean by a cell group.
If you mean a small community of Catholics within the larger parish who gather for bible study, prayer, or faith sharing, those have been part of Catholic life for at least a couple of generations through cursillo, the Catholic charismatic renewal prayer groups, small faith communities, communidades des bases and so forth. Many of the parish renewal programs of the last 30 years or so rely on this concept–Renew, Christ Renews His Parish, Disciples in Mission etc. And yes they can be extremely effective in strengthening faith of individuals and encouraging them in evangelization and lay apostolates.

In my parents’ and grandparents’ generations the “cell groups” were neighborhood based, with women in church circles who met for the rosary and to help other neighbors in time of deaths, illness, childbirth etc., or men from Holy Name or similar groups who met for various types of service.

Yes Cell Group is a term that Protestants use, I first heard of them about a dozen or so years ago and am not certain if this simply replaced Bible Study groups or not, but it is essentially a small group of people that meet on a weekly basis meet at ones home and read the Bible, share their joys and struggles, pray, maybe eat and now and then have some sort of event ie sledding (brrrr to cold today for this), going bowling etc. They are very common in Protestant churches but never seen this type of thing in Catholic Churches, To my parishes credit we tried a Bible study at the church but was sparsely attended and then dropped

The World Apostolate of Fatima Prayer Cell ( Cell Hour of Holiness) is a weekly spiritual gathering for small group prayer before the Blessed Sacrament or in a small home.

It may be said that the first prayer cell started with Our Lady and the three children at Fatima.
During her six apparitions at Fatima in 1917, Our Lady and the children prayed together.

The problem of such group is that if you do not have a properly trained leader, you could mislead each other. The blind leading the blind. Remember that our Church relies on discipleship on passing the correct teaching. We must be disciples of one who the Church has made worthy a teacher. It could be a priest, a religious or even a lay person who received the proper training.

Thing about Protestants is that they just rely on the Bible and pray that the Holy Spirit guide them to an understanding. But Christ himself established the system of discipleship. Remember he has dozens, even hundreds of disciples. Among them were the 12 who became the elders, so when Christ left they pass down the teaching. And from there we have a new group of elders, St. Paul, St. Mark, etc.

So when forming or joining a Catholic Cell Group or Bible Study, its important that there is at least one who is approved by the Church through the local Bishop to lead others in teaching.

Prayer cells I guess are different because its just group devotional prayers.

Yeah my experience within these groups is thats it not really about teaching, Its more about the sharing, praying and eating part - fellowshiping, there is some Bible reading but I wouldn’t call it instructional, but more of a opportunity open up more lines of discussion.

Usually a cell group is a core group that are involved in church planting. The initial premise is bible study, but the goal is to ‘grow’ until the core group (usually 3-9 people) numbers 15 or more, at which point they ‘multiply’ into two groups. It’s loosely based off cell division in biology.

Neil Cole wrote a book called “Organic Church: Growing Faith Where Life Happens” which goes into church planting a bit. It’s not Catholic literature, but it is a good book and can give you some insight into core groups/church planting.

If you’ve ever done RCIA and done something like “Breaking open the word” where the candidates/catechumens leave after Homily and go to a side room to discuss the Gospel read in Mass, you’ll notice there are several of you that tend to show up and delve into the Gospel pretty deeply. This is an example of a type of ‘core’ group similar to what would be at a cell group meeting.

In my personal experience cell groups are great on paper, but in reality end up leading folks away from the Church. They create an intimate environment that is nearly impossible to sustain outside of the group. That breeds resentment and dissatisfaction that leads to Church-hopping. The primary goal of a cell group is it’s downfall: growing numbers.

Parishes are Catholic cell groups.

I’ve attended “Journey Groups”, prayer groups, cell groups… whatever you want to call it. The rough format was looking over the study notes from a Protestant pastors sermon given during the past week, looking at the relevant Bible verses and discussing it. Fellowship, support, sharing, praying and eating all seem to be major parts of the group structure.

It was basically a bunch of school teachers, computer networking engineers and office workers all trying to figure out what the Bible means, one muscle-bound auto mechanic trying to tell everyone what the Bible means, and one or two others who showed up to complain about their boss or ex husband or to get therapy. Ultimately it was this group which drove me back to the safe harbor and steady compass of Catholicism.

As others have stated, I think parish life is and should be where the Body of Christ meets the every day life of the ordinary Chistian. As for cell groups, I think Catholics simply call them “Close friends.”


maybe you have not been around much
btw Welcom Home

some other “Catholic cell groups” that come to mind
rosary cenacles
Legion of Mary, some locals meet in smaller groups
parish altar society where the ladies have local meetings in neighborhoods and larger meetings of all the women of the parish, to pray or work on the service they do for the parish
K of C and Catholic Daughters
Oblates and other secular associates of various religious orders, who typically have general meetings, but also smaller groups called deaneries (usually about 10 members) who meet locally
Our parish has just started Endow for women which the first group is meeting in a home

Hi PuzzleAnnie, thanks for the list I have been thinking about finding out more about K of C, I know there is group that meets and runs some events in my parish

Maybe my experience is with Cell Group/Bible Study group is to far back and things may have changed but never saw the need to increase the numbers of the small group, there were various groups all around 6 - 10 people. But the common denominator is that they were all small

Thats the thing with these Cell Groups they vary greatly, in some ways mirroring Protestantism. Think one of their objectives is to take Parish Life which IMO for the most part consists of exactly one hour each week(if weekly) and tries to foster a community where sharing, support, praying etc…even complaining about the boss :), hey were all human.

We might not call them “cell groups” but this has been done for years in Catholic parishes. In my parish we call them Small Christian Communities. I’ve belonged to a Cursillo group for the past 20 years and our group starts with a simple meal (by our own choice) and fellowship before we start discussing things. Some of my friends and I have started a discussion group that meets monthly at a local cafe for breakfast and we now are discussing a spiritual book. Our Diocese has a Bible Study where the upcoming week’s readings are discussed. Our parish has 2 regular Bible study groups plus one for parents to attend while their children are attending PSR. I think most parishes have some sort of small group activity going on, and if there isn’t, they are not that hard to start. Christ Renews His Parish, Cursillo, Marriage Encounter, and many other Renewal programs carry out their mission via small groups, and then there are the groups mentioned in other posts which have been going on for years in the Catholic Church and are not modeled on Protestant groups. These small groups of Catholics meeting for personal spiritual development and evangelization purposes are all over the place and in most parishes.

As a matter of fact, Cursillo, a distinctly Catholic movement, has been adapted for some of the Protestant renewal movements. I have friends who have attended these weekends in their respective churches.

My personal opinion: Small groups seem like a good idea, as long as they are guided by the proper Church authority (priest), remain in union with the parish, and the teachings of the Catholic Church. I’m sure there are billions of them out there in Catholic Churches as I’ve seen them in mine. In fact, it seems to me that historically, many Orders started out as small groups. Jesus himself had a small group of 12…and these apostles (except Judas) became the shepherds of the Church and have carried it on through the bishops, even to your priests and deacons. So like I said, small groups are good, but they must be obedient to His ordained authorities and in complete union with the Church. Plus, small groups seem in line with the principle of subsidiarity (correct me if I’m wrong).

Now, as others have pointed out, I’ve seen and heard of many Protestant small (cell) groups who without the proper understanding of authority - lead and teach their own interpretations. I’ve met some, who discouraged by their small disagreements with mainstream churches, only meet in small groups of people they can agree with, instead of attending church with the rest of the community. The only Protestant churches I’ve seen that succeed in this are ones with incredible authority structures that organize all the small group leaders and train them before starting any group.

For instance, I was once a missionary in China. There, many Christians (Catholic and Protestant) meet in houses. As far as Protestant house churches go, they are grouped into “movements” of thousands usually meticulously run by gifted “elders” who take on authority much like Catholic Bishops. These Christians are forced to do small groups, because they have no other options in the face of persecution.

As far as using a cell group model in Catholic parishes for greater social benefits and evangelization, that seems like something the priest would have to want and support. As far as for evangelization or chatechesis goes, I don’t see why a priest would object, seeing that this would help to energize his parish. Solid discipleship does grow the Church in many ways, including the fact that priests (increase their numbers Lord) are born from ordinary families, and I can’t think of a better cell group structure than the family!



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Great idea :thumbsup: A good way to get qualified would be to get a 36 credit Catechetical Diploma from Catholic Distance University.


Yes there are very successful Catholic cell groups which build community and evangelize. i suspect & hope that in the Year of Faith there will be many more. The essential ingredient is that the overall leader of the groups should be the parish priest and that the teaching in all groups in one parish is exactly the same - often by way of a CD homily from the parish priest.

One of the priest at my Parish is setting up something similar to this at our Parish. It is basically a prayer group with 8-10 families. It is a way in which members of our Parish can become further acquainted with one another and become more evolved in each others life and the Parish through prayer and discussions of the weeks readings. The priest says he is going to lead all groups, like he did at his former parish, then to tie the “cells” back to the Parish periodically he has a special “Night with Jesus” where the Parish is all invited to come to the Church for a sort of Charisismatic like celebration of the Eucharist. He claims this was very successful at his last parish and had like 500 people show up.

He is helps lead the Associates of Mary Immaculate lay ministery. Perhaps you could look into the group and see if they have advice on how to set something like this up.

Bravo ! for your parish priest!

There are thousands of Catholic cell groups world-wide !!! Cell groups differ from all other small groups in that their main mission is to evangelize…to bring others into the group and then when the group gets big, it gives birth (or multiplies) to a new group.
Also Cell groups are an integral part of the parish and the final authority in the parish is the priest. There is a definite structure which allows for communication from the bottom up and the top down.

I have had the privilege to be involved in parish evangelizing cell groups for over 20 years.

please visit (our new site and we are still working on it)

In Europe and the rest of the world cells abound. Please visit our sister parish in Milan, Italy:


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