8. …with feet firmly on the ground… from time to time…
I am aware that the statements or hypotheses that I have advanced in the previous post may seem, perhaps rightly, too lofty, not viable in the short term. So, I will try to reduce my expectations to proposals that seem most feasible within a reasonable time. These are my proposals that all of us with good will can suppose are viable:
- Create in the houses of the Congregation of the Mission, at least where there is lively pastoral action, joint teams made up of local Vincentian priests and brothers as well as of local lay people who are pastorally active; share with lay people, giving them all possible leading roles, the dreams, hopes and projects of the Congregation of the Mission. A statement that can serve as a practical criterion is this: There is no reason for a priest to do what a layperson can legitimately do. We should give our lay collaborators access, at least from time to time, to our community meetings, family celebrations and festivities…
- Encourage, by all available means, the development of specific pastoral projects, with the various branches of the Vincentian Family working together as a team. What is especially urgent is the preparation of lay professional teachers with proven Vincentian spirit to take over the teaching and pastoral administration of Vincentian-run schools. One will soon enough not be able to count on religious Sisters or Vincentian priests and brothers.
- Promote within our family evangelization through the media. Create local teams to promote the use of these media. We should give funds to those teams that do valuable work; we should provide financial and technical support and advise those who need them…
- Create a permanent joint pastoral team of the Vincentian Family, at the provincial, regional or national level. These teams should be composed of some Vincentian priests or brothers, Sisters and lay people who work assiduously in various pastoral ministries. This team would have as main goal to energize our joint pastoral action, to advise us in our pastoral projects and to collaborate directly in its execution and implementation.
The Congregation should encourage them to prepare adequately for the exercise of their respective pastoral functions. It should help them even economically, when necessary. Their direct participation in some of our ministries is becoming increasingly indispensable every day. Catechesis, children, youth and family ministries, the various services of applied charity… cannot do without this direct participation. Churches in mission countries hire catechists and other pastoral workers. Why cannot we think of something similar in our midst? Some dioceses are already experimenting with something like this. I believe, it is our calling as Vincentian priests and brothers and as lay Vincentians to be pioneers in this field.
Why cannot we think also of possibly allowing some of these committed laity, imbued with the Vincentian spirit, to attend our meetings and even our provincial assemblies? These witnesses can serve at least as consultants on matters dealing with specific pastoral tasks. Obviously, the possibility I am suggesting is complex. Appropriate regulations that are subject to review and change, depending on the circumstances of time and place, should govern it.
We daydream this year, just before the year of the celebration of the birth of the Vincentian Charism in 1617. Why not think then of the possibility of holding a General Assembly of all Vincentian pastoral agents, either internationally or at the level of the different geographical demarcations that have affinity with each other because of their ministries and pastoral problems?
May the power of the Holy Spirit inspire and move the hearts and minds of those who are at the helm of the Congregation of the Mission, the Daughters of Charity and the entire Vincentian Family.