The COVID-19 pandemic could not overshadow the fraternal atmosphere as the Congregation of the Mission began “Vincentian Month.”
The first Missionary Vocation Festival began on September 1st, when the clock struck 5:00 pm in Rome. Superior General Tomaž Mavrič, CM opened the festival by attempting to raise the vocational awareness of the whole Congregation of the Mission.
The meeting, which was held virtually through Zoom, was attended by more than 300 people from the five continents: missionaries, students, seminarians, those in formation and young people in discernment.
The community of the General Curia in Rome was responsible for animating the spirit of the festival and also acted as masters of ceremonies, presenting the speakers and testimonies.
Seminarians from various provinces shared their musical talents: the first were the seminarians from the Polish Province; then Jean Baptiste Ging, a student from the French Province who composed a song using the inspired motto “Our vocation consists in going, not to a parish, not just to a diocese, but to the whole earth” (ES XI, 553); next was Ângelo Cacilda Macamo, a student of the Vice-Province of Mozambique who presented a song in rap style. To conclude the event, the seminarians from the Vice-Province of Costa Rica lit up our hearts with the well-known song: “The Heart of St. Vincent de Paul.”
As the festival progressed, four missionaries shared their mission experiences. Father Toshio Francesco spoke about his work in Bolivia where he is currently on mission. Fr. Toshio is the first Japanese Vincentian and is a member of the Western Province of the United States. He was followed by Father Yohanes Berchmans who is on mission in Indonesia. Then we heard from Brother Jorge Barrera from the Province of Colombia; his missionary testimony reminded us of the importance of the vocation of Vincentian Brothers. The last testimony came from Father Pedro Opeka, CM, who related his encounters with the poor of Madagascar since 1970. He invited the young people to be courageous in responding to the call to a missionary vocation.
Next on the agenda was the presentation of the book “Where God Wants Us”written by Fr Rolando Gutierrez, CM of the Vice-Province of Costa Rica. The book will soon be published in English and other languages. The core theme running through this work is that of creating a Vocational Culture… and doing this from the perspective of the charism of St. Vincent de Paul: “I speak to you about vocational culture according to the heart of the Vincentian charism… which empowers us to revitalize missionary mysticism with a sensitivity similar to that which moved St. Vincent to follow Jesus Christ, Evangelizer of the poor … a sensitivity that turns us all into “callers.”
The festival continued with an interview by Fr. Tomaž Mavrič, CM with Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle who had visited the General Curia in July. The Cardinal shared his admiration for the Congregation of the Mission for its missionary service and its contribution to the formation of the clergy and laity. The Cardinal concluded by giving his support to the 1% campaign and stated: “With all my heart I support this 1% Campaign, so that we may have a steady flow of new Vincentians, especially those ordained for the mission ad Gentes. This is an invaluable work and it is a way of giving witness to a fragmented world. We know that the love of Jesus makes us brothers and sisters to one another. Even in a foreign land, we can find a home, because there we will find brothers and sisters in Christ. Coming together from different countries and finding a home in another country is a testament to God who is love, and who became incarnate in Jesus Christ. Let the 1% become 2% or 3% and yet let us also recognize that all of this depends on God’s action and on our availability. Let us support this campaign.”
The Festival came to an end with the launching of the 1% campaign by the Superior General. Father Tomaž, wearing a white T-shirt with the name of all the cities where there are missions ad gentes, explained the campaign in these terms:
“The Congregation has been missionary since its foundation, and with the 1% campaign we seek to encourage men volunteering for the missions. In addition, we also wish to promote reflection on the meaning of the Missionary Spirit in the Congregation, and we want the confreres to recognize that our missionary dimension is not limited to the International Missions, but extends to the missionary regions that have taken on by many provinces. The presence of missionaries outside their countries of origin is the response that a given province makes to the request from a bishop or a particular church, and also corresponds to the call of the Church to go on Mission Ad Gentes”.
The Superior General also pointed out how the Communications Office of the General Curia has prepared to promote this campaign, including posters, T-shirts like the one he was wearing, the logo, and the new website:
Finally, Father Tomaž Mavrič, CM, convoked all the missionaries involved in Vocational Ministry to participate in a virtual meeting on Saturday, September 19th at 5:00 pm Rome time. He also invited the seminarians and those in formation for a virtual meeting on Saturday October 17th at the same time.
Communication Office of the Congregation of the Mission
Relive the festival in the following video: