Life Ascending UK Logo 2015

30th Anniversary of Life Ascending

An address given by Mrs Paula Conrad (Focolare Centre – Welwyn Garden City,Thurs. 14th October 2010)

I can never thank God enough for sending me this work to do for Him and for all the inspired, prayerful and unique souls who have also been called to use their gifts and love, to enrich others lives.  Over all these years I have kept many treasured memories and keepsakes. Looking through the archives I found a precious letter written by Sister Mary McEvoy. She had just set up a group in Islington but sadly she was killed, crossing the road at Kings Cross one morning.  She was on her way to the 7.30am Polish Mass. In her last letter to me, she closed it with these words “This is the Lord’s doing and it is marvellous in our eyes”. I really could not find more appropriate words to conclude this 30th Anniversary reflection.


The History of Life Ascending

From the French “Vie Montante” or Life Ascending Movement to its roots in the UK and the growth of a national Christian Spiritual Movement with groups and members across the UK. 

 1952 André D’Humieres met with other retired parishioners to pray and they later formed individual groups of prayer and reflection, in Paris

Andre d'Humieres

1962 Vie Montante (Life Ascending) is founded in Paris with the name: “Comité d’Entente de Groupes Catholiques d’Anciens.”   Start of Vatican II

1979 Fr Henry Pownall of St Philomena’s Liverpool translates the French Handbook into English.

1980 Fr André Tanguy, Mme Françoise Nouvel and Sr Marie Benoit visit England.

Vie Montante takes root in England as the Ascent Movement.   Maidstone and London start Groups.

1987 First World Congress in Benin

1989 International Congress in Panama

1990 10th Anniversary Celebration at Canterbury Cathedral /Mrs Paula Conrad becomes President in England.

1991 European Congress in London Colney

1994 Third World Congress at Miami.

1995 Life Ascending International (LAI) is admitted to the Conference of International Catholic Organisations.

15th Birthday Celebrations with three day Conference in Liverpool

1996 Decree of Recognition received from The Pontifical Council of the Laity ‘ad experimentum’ for a period of five years.

1997 Molly Hukin elected as President.

1998 Fourth World Congress at Dakar, Senegal

1999 International Year of Older People. Ascent groups study the Pope’s Document: ‘Dignity and Mission of Older People in the Church and in the World, in preparation of the Jubilee of Older People.

2000 Two representatives from England together with 20,000 other older people attended Jubilee Celebration for the Year of The Older Person in Lourdes.

England is divided into five areas with a Vice-President for each area:- North-West, North-East, Birmingham, Westminster and Southwark with representatives from each area on the National Planning Team

2001 Sr. Margaret Brown is elected President: The Constitution is finalised.21st Birthday Celebrations with a four day Conference in Ripon.The Decree of Recognition from the Pontifical Council of the Laity is ratified/ European Conference held in Velehrad, Czech Republic

2002 The Constitution is amended in that the word Apostolate is changed to Mission. Fifth World Congress of Life Ascending International (LAI) at Bangkok. 10 Asian Countries also participated.

English delegation with Alberto Marxuach (the outgoing President)

2003 Miss Bernadette Cantenot, the International President, together with Leon Cassiers, one of the European Presidents came to England to visit members of the Ascent Movement in London, Blackpool and York.

2004 European Conference held in Poland with the Theme: How can Vie Montante respond to the needs of retired men and women today?

2005 Miss Margaret Snowdon elected President

2006 Silver Jubilee Celebrations at Newman College Birmingham

/ Pope Benedict XVI addressed 400,000 members of the Ecclesial Communities and New Movements, including The Ascent Movement, on the Vigil of Pentecost in St Peter’s Square.

2006 Sixth International Meeting of Life Ascending International held in Lourdes from October 25th -29th. 80 people from 34 countries attended with the theme being ‘Seniors – A sign of hope for today’s world’.

2008 European Conference held in Lourdes with the theme “The role of Life Ascending in a secularized world”

2009 Archbishop Vincent Nicholls appointed Archbishop of Westminster.  Leon Cassiers, President of Life Ascending,Belgium died in March

2010 30th Anniversary of the Ascent.  Celebrations in York, Surrey, Maidstone and Welwyn Garden City.  International Conference in Canada ‘Life Ascending, a Witness in a World Crisis’

2011 Aylesford Retreat Fr Michael Manning.  Ilkley Retreat.  Little Sisters of the Poor, London with Bishop Howard Tripp and Joanna Bogle. Glasgow reps attend National Meeting in York

2012 March- Nominations for Presidency required

2014 Namur, Belgium for the 8th World Meeting on 14 – 17 October 2014

2015 The Ascent Movement (UK) renames itself as Life Ascending. New graphics, badge, leaflets and poster.

2016Margaret Snowdon retires as President in December.
2017Ross Roberts becomes new President in January

2018 Marie Ryde steps aside as National Secretary.  Fr Francis Kemsley becomes Prior of Aylesford and we can no longer use the friars for our retreats.

2019 Day of Recollection at St Georges Cathedral SE1. Talks by Felix Project, Live Simply and Joanna Bogle.                                  Fr Peter Griffiths SJ gives retreat at Aylesford on The Sacred Heart of Jesus

2020 A number of events were planned for our 40th anniversary year.  Due to Covid-19 every event had to be cancelled until further notice.  The retreats at Aylesford in June and Ilkley in October 2020 were cancelled.

2021 – 2022    Colin Blagdon, formally Stevenage group leader, agrees to become President as Ross Roberts steps down as President. Ross had served three years in the position. Unfortunately all meetings and gatherings ceased during the Covid epidemic. Miss Bernadette Cantenot died  April 2022 aged 91 years. She was former President of Vie Montante International. Bishop Howard Tripp, auxiliary Bishop of Southwark diocese died in October aged 95.  Always very supportive of the movement and good friend.

2023  16 Groups in the UK and  15 Associate members.  West Croydon restarted with new Group Leader.  Fr Finbarr Neylon, chaplain to crew ships in Dublin, wants to start groups in Ireland.

September – The World Congress in Madrid with theme ‘Rebirth’. Paul Donovan (Addiscombe member) and Mike Palowkar, National Treasurer were our UK reps.  Colin Blagdon steps down as National President and Paul Donovan becomes Interim President until May 2024.

2024  January – Brenda Willis (Eltham) is the new National treasurer.  Dulcie Jacobs (Addiscombe) is Secretary.  Fr Peter Griffiths SJ of The Sacred Heart of Jesus, Edinburgh hopes to start an LA group.