Formation rooted in a theology of Mission – This was the topic of a week-long program for the members of the Congregation of the Mission, seminarians and Daughters of Charity. The following “Chronicle” appear in NUNTIA, the official international newsletter of the Congregation of the Mission. One can immediately recognize many of the themes dear to Pope Francis. CLAPVI is the organization of the Provincial Superiors of the Congregation of the Mission in Latin America.
From August 25-29, the formation session on “the theology of the mission” (promoted by CLAPVI) took place in Fazendo de Engenho/Caraça (Brazil). Forty-seven persons participated: twenty-nine priests, three deacons, one brother, seven seminarians in their first year of studies and seven Daughters of Charity.
Day One: During the morning Father Getúlio spoke about what Vincent referred to as “the state of the missionaries” and characterized that state as an apostolic and a Christian state. In the afternoon he spoke about the state of the missionaries as a “state of exodus” because we are called to go out, to go forth. He also spoke about this missionary state as one in which we are present to those who are poor. He concluded his presentation with a second part in which he identified the state of the missionaries with the state of charity.
Day Two: Paulo Suess, a Missionary from Germany who has ministered in Brazil, presented the understanding of mission from the colonial era up to the time of Pope Francis. He presented some theses, challenges and proposals:
- The mission is a priority among all our theological and pastoral priorities.
- Faith has a distinctive identity and is intimately related to the extensive identity of love.
- There has been a move from proselytism to a respect for both oneself and for others.
- Mission has a twofold focus: geographical exodus (going forth) in order to encounter the poor.
- Where there is a lack of missionary activity there is a lack of ecclesial life.
- The missionary community is a welcoming community that sends forth its members.
- Formation for the mission and prophetic formation are a means to live each situation as a missionary opportunity.
Once those elements were presented there was an opportunity for the participants to speak about their concerns and an opportunity to comment on the elements that had been presented. Then some further elements were presented … elements that should characterize the disciple-missionary:
- Courage to accept that which is central and essential: Jesus Christ.
- Acceptance of diversity. • One should not want to do and or control everything.
- Live life from a spiritual perspective (charism).
- Nourish the missionary spirit.
- Share one’s bread, one’s time and one’s gifts.
- Be responsible in those matters concerning the poor.
- Accept and embrace the reality and live in accord with the gospel ideals.
Day Three: Father Paulo Suess began this session with a reflection on the meaning of our witness/example in the Church and in the midst of the world. His reflection was based on the documents of the Second Vatican Council and the Apostolic Exhortation of Pope Francis. He pointed out that following Christ will often mean that we find ourselves being unpopular. He also spoke about the need to understand and evangelize the culture. It appears that the church has difficulty in accepting other theologies as a result of cultural confrontations and of her defense of her own identity. On many occasions the Church has closed herself to others way of coming to know God, namely, through different forms of theological reflection and through different cultural rites … all of which deal with the relationship between the human person and God. Pope Francis has pointed out new paths of evangelization.
As members of the Vincentian Family we have to travel along those new paths. Pope Francis refers to evangelization as the reason for the Church’s existence and therefore she rejoices in her ministry of evangelization (Paul VI). When the Church does not go forth to evangelize she becomes a prisoner to herself. The evils that have arisen in recent times in the various ecclesial institutions are rooted in different forms of theological narcissism.
Continuing with his presentation, Father Paulo focused on Evangelii Gaudium. He explained the content of this document addressing what we might call its lights and shadows. He emphasized the fact that this document is intended to lead to a true transformation of the Church, that is, the church is to become one that is missionary and that is in a state of permanent conversion. Father also referred to the social dimension that ought to characterize the process of evangelization, namely, the inclusion of the poor in the work of evangelization.
He also affirmed that the Pope dreams of a social/missionary dimension that includes all people and the Pope invites everyone to take seriously their mission and to understand that the very nature of the Church is to be missionary. As Vincentians we must be mindful of Vincent de Paul who has called us together and exhorts us to opt for the poor in the same way as Jesus did … the poor are to be loved and promoted and served.
- The participants shared their missionary experiences:
- The missionary work in the Prefecture of Itaituba (Curitiba Province)
- The missionary presence in Honduras, Region of San Pedro Sula and La Mosquita (an interprovincial mission coordinated by the Province of Barcelona)
- Two distinct missionary experiences in Peru were explained by Father Javier Balda and Father Walter Crespo.
Day Four: Tour of the historic city of Outo Preto.
We want to thank the Province, the Provincial, Father Gerardo Mól Santos and all the confreres of the Province.