Several former members of Love Holy Trinity Blessed Mission spoke to the TH about their experiences in the group, raising concerns about the mission’s methods.
Tim Flynn, of Dubuque, is a lifelong Catholic. At one time in his life he wanted to join a religious order as a lay associate. Six years ago, he was looking for an ecumenical Bible study group when he read a pamphlet in his church about the mission. He started attending weekly meetings at Holy Ghost Catholic Church.
“It seemed OK at first,” said Flynn. He said the members were “working to be holy” and were very friendly. He was urged to attend group retreats and did several times. At one he was strongly encouraged, as were all retreatants, to meet privately with the group’s foundress, Kyo McDonald, for “spiritual assistance.”
“She said I had a good spirit,” Flynn said of the petite Korean woman.
But as he attended more meetings, Flynn found himself questioning what the leaders laid out and how they operated.
“They want you to stay close to the group and find all your spiritual answers within the group. I was interested in other groups and other answers, but questioning is seen as arguing, which is seen as evil,” said Flynn, who said he was never asked for donations or tithes.
“It is very secretive. We were told to pray for our families if they denounce us, but to detach ourselves from them and from other religious people.”
Eventually Flynn stopped going to meetings. He said he was shunned by former friends who remained in the group.
“I don’t want a holy battle with them, but their leader is not a Catholic theologian and they are not a legitimate order in the (Catholic) Church,” he said.
Marilyn Vogt, of Dubuque, a long-time mission member, said Flynn wasn’t in the group long enough to fully understand its purpose and process. Mission members say they remain actively involved in their local parishes and other Catholic organizations, contesting Flynn’s assertions that the group discourages outside involvement.
The mission is not yet an officially recognized Catholic order, members admit, but that is the group’s eventual goal.
Mary Stodola, of Platteville, Wis., said she had a similar experience last year when she started going to mission meetings in her parish hall at St. Mary’s Catholic Church.
“I was just back from a great retreat and had a zeal to keep active,” she said. Stodola started getting red flags about the group almost immediately.
“They kept raising their voices more and more to emphasize points. They went back to the same Bible passages over and over and harped on original sin. There was no joy in their religious journey,” she said.
Stodola started raising questions during meetings and was not satisfied with answers she considered evasive. She quit going to meetings after 12 weeks.
“I’m just worried that if they are kicked out of the churches, they will go underground,” she said.
Mission member Jan Imhof, of Dubuque, said there was much to be joyful about in the group’s teachings.
“Especially when you see where you are going,” she said.