226 - march 1999

The Missionary Dimension of Institutesof Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life

Henri GoudreaultO.M.I.
Archbishop of Grouard-McLennan


Table of Contents

Foreword
1. A new context of mission
2. New Questions
3. The absolutely unique role of Christ
4. Consecration and mission
5. The following of Christthe first way of being missionary
6. Professing the evangelical counselsthe second way ofbeing missionary
7. Responding to the needs of theworlda third way of beingmissionary
8. Searching for a universal missionary presence
Notes


Foreword

OMI Documentation is happy to present some majorextracts from a paper prepared by Archbishop Henri Goudreault for theOctober 1998 Plenary Assembly of the Congregation for the Evangelisationof Peoples. He unfortunately died suddenly at Edmonton on July 23 of thatsame year. This posthumous publication wishes to honor the memory of aman who "in his person and in his teaching knew how to join theologicalcompetence with the ministry of pastor" (OMI Information N°371Sept. 1998).

We are grateful to Archbishop Marcello ZagoO.M.I.Secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelisation of Peoplesfor permissionto publish this text.

Three spaced dots ( . . . ) indicate abridged text.

1. A new contextof mission
It suffices to read books and articles published during recent years tosee that mission today is developing in a context which is very differentfrom that of the past. ( . . . )

The missionaries themselves are living through thisturning point in a very profound way. The communities which they foundedno longer regard them as they did formerly. Some of the faithful ask themto leave. Others call their work into question. Several are of the convictionthat they cannot take responsibility into their own hands as long as theforeign missionaries are living amongst them. The compatriots of the missionariesthemselves are also asking questions. A Canadian missionary said: "Inthe l950'son my return from AfricaI was treated like a hero. Todaymy nephews and nieces say to me: 'Unclewhy do you go to introduce anew religion to them? Don't you change their cultures? Don't you findthat there is enough to be done in Canada? All of this has a corrodingeffect on the convictions of the missionaries themselves. They admit thatin the past mission had its problems. Today they have the impression thatthe mission itself is the problem. It becomes demoralising to accomplishsomething while asking oneself if it is worth the trouble. Missionariesin the pastleft to undertake the obligation of mission; today they havethe impression that they must justify their presence in mission. At leastpsychologicallywe have moved away from the time when Pius XIthe greatPope of the Missionswrote: "Of all the activities of the CatholicChurchthe greatest and the holiest is that of the missions. This worksurpasses all other forms of charity as the soul surpasses the body".Pope Paul VI would have subscribed to this statementwhilst acknowledgingthat this activity takes place today in a context which is very new. Onthe occasion of World Mission Sunday in 1970he wrote: "A new erahas arrived for the missions.... This means that missionary activity mustbe encountered with broad and modern perspectives. A new implementationis indispensable: in theological principlesin informationin recruitmentin preparationin methodsin work and in organisation." 1

The principal charges levelled against the Church inher missionary work are:

1. collusion with colonialism;
2. westernisation of Third World countries:
3. failure to pay attention to the socio-cultural values of the youngnations;
4. paternalistic assistance;
5. proselytism that is incompatible with religious liberty;
6. overhasty and excessive sacramentalisation;
7. absence of formation of a responsible laity;
8. powerlessness in the face of the phenomenon of urbanisation.

These indictments verge on caricature and demand tobe better nuanced.2 It is always unjust to judge the past by present criteria.If certain problems arise today because of the weaknesses or limitationsof the pastothers have been generated from the successes of the missionaccomplished. Once the missionaries have instilled in the people a wishfor participationprogress and autonomywhich are the fruits of a lengthyeducation and an ever-growing maturitythey can no longer act as theyhad previously. When a community tries to develop local leadershiptobecome more aware of its identity and of its cultural richesto takeresponsibility into its own handsto adapt its institutions to its owncultureit shows signs of a very positive evolution. The missionarieswho are at the centre of this evolutionmust accept the "kenosis".Superiorsdirectors or tutors though they may bethey must accept beingsimple collaboratorsworking under new mastersliving the spiritualityof John the Baptist. "He must grow greaterI must grow less"(Jn 3:30). If we have to change many things todayit is not that pastefforts have been found wanting and without results" but rather thattimes have changedthanks in part to the work of the missionariesthatsituations are different and mentalities have evolved.

2. New Questions
Even if past work had known no inadequaciestoday we would have toadaptand the words of Pope Paul VIquoted aboveremain very valid.Missiologycultural anthropologythe history of the missionsthe theologyof salvationecumenism and interreligious dialogueare all scienceswhich project a new light and raise new questions on Mission. How canthe universality of salvation in Christ be reconciled with respect andvalue for the non-Christian religions? How can the preferential optionfor the poor and the obligation to evangelise the rich be reconciled?How can the work of human promotionthe changing of political structuresand social injusticesand the promotion of the spiritual and inner lifebe reconciled? How can inter-religious dialogue be reconciled with thecall to conversionto baptism and the call to the following of Christ?What reply can be given to those whose missionary zeal has cooled whenfaced with arguments such as:

1. The people are of good faith. Now God does not abandonpeople of good faith. Why then evangelisation?

2. The non-Christian religions contain real values whichlead people to God. Why then evangelisation?

3. What reply can be made to the great religions ofAsia whichbecause of the Incarnation of Christ and of the attentionwe pay to creation and developmentconsider that we have a materialisticreligion?

4. What do we reply to the Muslims for whom the Incarnationof Christ hides the transcendence of God?

( . . . )

3. The absolutelyunique role of Christ
A careful reading of the Prologue of St. John's Gospelindicatesthe unique place of Christ. ( . . . ) Saint Paul affirms: "For inhim were created all things... all things were created through him andfor him... and in him all things hold together" (Col 1:16-17). Itmust be concluded that Jesus is not only God revealinghe is also Godrevealed. He not only delivers the contents of revelation; he is the content.He is not only the preacher of a cult; he is the object of this cult.St. Paul tells us: "In himin bodily formlives divinity in allits fullness" (Col 2:9). ( . . . ) As François Varillon writes:"The Gospelthat is the Good News... before being a messageisa person .... This Good News is not what Christ says but what he is. Itis the Good News of the Incarnation. God so loved man that he became man.To love is to want to become the one whom one lovesto make oneself onewith him (her). The most profound motivation for my faith is that theIncarnation cannot be surpassed. It is not possible for a God to loveman more than by himself becoming man." 4

( . . . )

This unique place of Christ explains and justifies allthe rest. Salvation cannot come from anyone other than Jesus Christ. Heis the sole mediator. "For of all the names in the world given tomen this is the only one by which we can be saved" (Acts 4:12). Wego on mission to make known this name. No one can make known God the Fatherexcept him"the only Son who is close to the Father's heart"and "who has made him known" (Jn 1:18). Interreligious dialogueis enriched by this revelation and attracts people without compellingtheminfluencing their hearts without doing them violence.

The salvation which Jesus offerssurpasses human development.It is not restricted to the framework of a temporal existence; it dealswith salvation which surpasses all human limitations so as to attain aperfect communion with the Absolute. This transcending and eschatologicalsalvation begins here below but finds its completion in eternity. 5

4. Consecrationand mission
To be consecrated is to be set apartreserved for a special function.Canon law recalls that it is in virtue of their very consecration that"members of Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of ApostolicLife dedicate themselves to the service of the Church... and have an obligationto play a zealous and special part in missionary activityin a mannerappropriate to their institute" (Can. 783). This canon is based onLumen GentiumN° 44Ad GentesN° 40 and Perfectae CaritatisN°20. Missionary efforts can be expressed in many different waysbut Institutesof Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life cannot ignore thisobligation. The decree Ad Gentes affirms that "Institutesof active lifewhether or not they pursue a strictly missionary idealshould sincerely examine themselves before God as to whether they mightbe able to extend their work for the expansion of the kingdom of God amongthe nations; whether they might be able to leave certain ministries toothers so as to spend their strength for the missions; whether they mightbe able to begin work in the missionsadapting their constitutions ifnecessaryin accordancehoweverwith the mind of the founder; whethertheir members engage in missionary work to the full extent of their possibilities;whether their form of life bears witness to the Gospel in a manner adaptedto the mentality and circumstances of the people" (AG 40). SinceVatican IIthe general principles and practical criteria of an adaptedrenewal require that everything be adapted to the physical and psychologicalconditions of the members and also to the extent required by the natureof each communityto the needs of the apostolatethe requirements ofa given culture... especially in mission territories" (PC 3).

5. The followingof Christthe first way of being missionary
"The ultimate norm of the religious life is the following ofChrist as it is put before us in the Gospelthis must be taken by allinstitutes as the supreme rule" (PC 2). "In the image of Jesusthe beloved Son 'whom the Father has consecrated and sent into the world'(Jn 10:36)those whom God calls to follow him are also consecrated andsent into the world to imitate his example and continue his mission....Thus it can be said that consecrated persons are 'in mission' by virtueof their very consecration" (VC 72). They desire to realise thisideal proposed by Christ: "You must be perfectjust as your heavenlyFather is perfect" (Mt 5:48). If they be perfectthey will neverexhaust the demands of such an ideal. These demands remain ever open;they invite one to march forward and to surpass oneself. They challengeand urge one on to more and to better. Entering into this dynamism issetting outnever being satisfiedaiming for that which is to be achieved.It is accepting ruptureshaving enough couragegoing against the currentshowing the world that Christ has become our whole life and that he isvictorious over all. It is making his mission our own. The call to followJesus includes mission. Fundamentally"consecrated life is itselfa mission" (VC 72). Pope John Paul II adds"it can thereforebe said that a sense of mission is essential to every Institutenot onlyto those dedicated to the active apostolic lifebut also those dedicatedto the contemplative life" (Ibid.). It is a historical factthat for centuriesand in a privileged waythe missionary work of theChurch was entrusted to the members of Institutes of Consecrated Lifeand Societies of Apostolic Life. Their commitment to follow Christ andtheir availability facilitated their apostolate to the most distant peoples.Pope John Paul IIin Vita Consecrataspeaks of Institutes completelydevoted to contemplation who "by their life and mission imitate Christin his prayer on the mountain... bear witness to God's lordship overhistory... anticipate the glory which is to come. They contributewithhidden apostolic fruitfulnessto the growth of the people of God"(VC 8). He continues"The West has also knowndown the centuriesa variety of other expressions of religious lifein which countless personsrenouncing the worldhave consecrated themselves to God through the publicprofession of the evangelical counsels... for the sake of carrying outdifferent forms of apostolic service to the People of God" (VC 9).Later the Holy Father speaks of Secular Institutes and Societies of Apostoliclife as new expressions of the consecrated life. All these institutionshave had an important part in the missionary diffusion of the Gospel."Amid such a wide variety"says the Pope"the underlyingunity has been successfully preservedthanks to the one call to followJesus – chastepoor and obedient – in the pursuit of perfectcharity" (VC 12).

6. Professing theevangelical counselsthe second way of being missionary
Evangelical radicalism is the basis of all religious life. It coversa vast area within which are inscribed the three evangelical counselsof povertychastity and obedience. A brief study of the Rules of lifeof the older Orders as well as the new reveals that founders and foundressesunder the guidance of the Holy Spiritdesired to follow the teachingsand the footsteps of Jesus Christ. Sobefore being a question of vowsit is a question of the following of Christ. ( . . . )

Why should the following of Christ need to be expressedin a special way through the evangelical counsels of chastitypovertyand obedience? Tillard tells us that"they embrace the three concupiscenceswhich dominate human existenceand the person thus sees him/herself compromisedin the very core of his/her being." 6 Fundamentallythe three vowshave helped in overcoming the three great temptations inherent in humannature. In a world where possession of goodslove of passion and self-determinationare bound to become absolutes and block the perfect fulfillment of thehuman personthe evangelical counsels of chastitypoverty and obediencekeep these realities within their relative meanings and encourage peoplenot to allow themselves to be dominated by them.7 In living out the evangelicalcounsels of chastitypoverty and obediencepeople give witness to theworld that the appetite to have is not ordained to possessingbut tosharing. Jesusduring the temptation in the desertrefused to changethe stones into bread for himselfbut he multiplied the bread to feedthe starving crowd. He did not live the married lifebut he loved deeplyand he made marriage a sacrament; he loved familieschildrenspouses.He did not seek power by accepting all the kingdoms of the earth offeredto him by Satanbut he washed the feet of his disciples and acted likea servantinviting them to do likewise. To secure a better worlda worldmore conformed to God's plan and his design of salvationthis witnessis far stronger than any words. In the concrete it shows that with God'sgrace this ideal is possible. People are thirsting for truthauthenticitysincerity; they are searching for witnesses whose commitment is beyonddoubtwitnesses so strong that the eyes of the blind will be opened andtruth will shine forth. Gabriel Marcel said: I have known individualsin whom I have felt the reality of Christ so intensely that I could nolonger doubt it." 8 In Vita Consecratathe Holy Father stressesthis need of witness: "In our worldwhere it often seems that thesigns of God's presence have been lost from sighta convincing propheticwitness on the part of consecrated persons is increasingly necessary.In the first place this should entail the affirmation of the primacy ofGodof eternal lifeas evidenced in the following and imitation of thechastepoor and obedient Christwho was completely consecrated to theglory of the Father and to the love of his brothers and sisters (...).Prophecy derives a particularly persuasive power from the consistencybetween proclamation and life" (VC 85).


7. Responding tothe needs of the worlda third way of being missionary
The modern worldthrough its positive elements (concern for the communitydimensionpersonal relationshipssharing of goods and responsibilitiesteamworkprayersimplicity of life) and through its shortcomings (theanonymity of the citiesthe egoism of the richthe increasing povertyof the poorclass divisionsinstitutionalised violenceanguish anddespair)appeals to the deepest elements of the Gospel message and callsfor gestures of fraternitysharingjusticeunderstandingreconciliationand hope which authentic religious life can and must provide. Here aresome specific examples.

a. A world torn asunder
People today are often pulled this way and thatscatteredwithoutany landmarks. What can they rely on to build their lives? In which directioncan they go? What can they choose and what should they cast aside? Theyhave the feeling of being on a boat that is going nowhere. No wind isfavorable and yetall seem to be so. Since they do not know their destinationthey also do not know if they are going in the right direction or if theyare going adrift. People are searching for meaning. If they had an answerto this questionthey would be able to arrange everything accordinglyso as to find their balancecohesion and harmony. Apostolic religiouslife must bear witness to the meaningcoherence and unity of life. Thiswill only be obtained if religious life is founded on profoundstablerealitieswhich chance mishaps and surface ripples cannot disturb. Theserealities are those of the Gospel.

b. A world torn apart by violence
In confronting the break-up of our world through violencefacedwith its conflictsintolerance and often racismreligious life mustbe an expert in communionan artisan of peace and unitya place of welcomewhere people can find their bearings and recuperate.

c. A voiceless world
The more inequalities increase in our societythe more numerousare those without a voice. It is the law of the strongestof every manfor himself or of "sauve qui peut". Religious life must witnessto solidaritysharingconcern for the "voiceless". And moreoverits preferential option for the poor must be clear.

d. A world of efficiency andprofit
The more the value of the human person is linked to its efficiencyto its profit and its profit-earning capacitythe more the ageing ofindividuals risks being mismanaged. The religious community by the wayin which it treats its sick and elderlybears witness that the personis loved for himself/herself and is valued much more for what he/she isthan for what he/she can or cannot produce.

e. A world whose changes causethe virtue of fidelity to be doubted
The rapid and constant evolution of society has scarred a greatnumber of people and has given rise to doubts about the possibility ofa commitment for life. Since everything seems to be temporary and relativeto make a life-long commitment seems to mean compromising oneself in relationto the unforeseen. This calls into question the most fundamental and sacredinstitutions (the familyreligious lifethe priesthoodthe Church).What is called the "cult of successive sincerities" is extolled.It is said that the modern person must learn to adapt constantlyto castoff one's skin like the serpentto changeto react rapidly to events.In this perspectivefidelity seems to imply a mandate of changing nothingof keeping the "status quo"mistrusting all noveltyfearinglife's risks and challenges. Is this not becoming an accessory to repetitionformalism and fixism? In such a worldthe members of Institutes of consecratedlife must witness to the permanence of realities which do not pass away.Adaptationchanges and adjustments which are imposed must not be dictatedby unhealthy desires to taste everything in turn andby the inabilityof settling ourselves somewhere and committing ourselves to a given direction.Fidelity is demanded by love itself. It is in the name of Christ and ofthe people of our time that we must persevere to the end. Fidelity invitesus to lose ourselvesnot by a process of alienationbut by a gift ofourselves given in love. Fidelity in love is a stimulant for those whomust strugglean invitation to constancy and an imitation of Christ wholoves his own even to the end. Fidelity colours the whole of life. Inone senseit is a way of existence. The One who makes it possibleisthe faithful God who cannot disown his own self (2 Tim 2:13)the Godof tenderness and compassionslow to angerrich in faithful love andconstancy (Ex 34:6). In many mission countriesthis witness of fidelityhas led to martyrdom.

f. A world that is both thirstingand indifferent
Many are marked by religious indifferenceunbelief and misbeliefpractical or doctrinal atheism. On the other handnew religions and sectsare multiplying.9 Where the true God is neglectedfalse gods are created;where the true sacred is abandonedthe false sacred thrives; where thetrue temple does not existfalse images are made and adored. In thiscontext it is necessary to live one's faith deeplyto redouble evangelicalfervourto live an experience in the very heart of the world of thisGod whom we knowlove and adore.

g. A world which devalues life
The more people are desirous of putting an end to life at itsvery outset through abortion and at its end through euthanasiathe moreit is necessary to give witness to an absolute respect for life as a giftfrom God and as an inalienable right of the person.

8. Searching fora universal missionary presence
The Holy Fatherin Redemptoris Missio (n°37) deals with the different spheres of mission. He returns to severalof these subjects in Vita Consecrata (Nos. 96-103). The list islong: a) territorial limitsb) new worlds and new social phenomenac)cultural sectors: the modern equivalents of areopagus (the world of communicationcommitment to peacedevelopment and liberation of peoplesthe rightsof individuals and peoplesculturescientific researchinternationalrelations which promote dialoguethe world of education).

a) Territorial limits
Missionary presence must be universal. It cannot be hindered byterritorial boundaries. This universal presence is far from being an accomplishedfact. Despite the growth of the young Churchesmany people have not beenreached by the proclamation of the Gospel. (. . .) Finallyeven in ourso-calledold Christianity there are groups who have never heard thepreaching of the Gospel. They have need of a new Evangelisation. Thesegroups are sometimes the fruit of massive migrations. ( . . . ) And nothingwill undermine our hopeif we allow the Spirit to act as he wishes. JohnPaul IIan ardent promoter of new Evangelisationinvites us to be attentiveto the voice of the Spirit who speaks in the Church and in society: "Thereis also need for a better appreciation and understanding of the signsof hope present in the last part of this centuryeven though they remainhidden from our eyes" (TMA46). "With the Holy Spirit alwaysat worksigns of hope are not lacking around us." 10

There is no magic formula which would answer all needsbut there are guidelines which some modern missiologists have given us.Richard G. CoteOMIin a recent book 11 says that evangelisation willbe marked by:

l. the courage to review our conventional image of God;to present a nonutilitarian and gratuitous Godthe God of the Covenantbased on lovesharing and generosity;

2. the wisdom of giving priority to mystagogyand notto pedagogy. To present the faith as a mysterya reality which is opento the unexpectedto the sounding of unplumbable depthsto the mysticallife;

3. the creation of structures which are directed outwards:"Goteach all nations." People often come to Church; they donot reach out so often. The apostles do not multiply as rapidly as thefaithful. We too often have consumer Christians who image their society;

4. the desire to marry or to make one's own the "questfor integrated wholeness". The whole is greater than the parts; unfortunatelywe are often satisfied to look at the parts and we do not see the wholewhich is the masterpiece. Everything is inter-related: interaction iseverywhere. We must therefore stop fragmenting realities like the creation- the incarnation - the resurrection - the redemption - the natural -the supernatural - the profane - the sacred - justice - charity. It issometimes necessary to separate them so as to better understand thembut they should not be left divided. It is in the whole reality that allthe richesbeautyand force of attraction are to be found;

5. To accept ambiguity as a blessing and not as a curse.Every period of transition and progress is marked by a certain ambiguitya disturbing uncertaintywhich tests peoples' faitha "night"in a mystical sensea purification. But i is also an occasion for progress.12

b) New worlds and new socialphenomena
Among other thingsone can mention the phenomenon of urbanisation.Urbanisation is not only a simple demographic phenomenon. It is a wayof beinga style of lifein which all is plannedrationalised. It isa milieu where new models of development are createdwhere new culturesare developedwhere the most advanced techniques abound. The Holy Fathersays that"the privileged places of the mission "ad gentes"should be the big cities where new customs and styles of living appeartogether with new forms of culture and communicationwhich then influencethe wider population" (RM 37b). It is in these large centreswherepeople are physically close to one anotherthat the greatest anonymityreigns. Valery speaks of "the increase of those who are alone".From whence the need for the Church to create real Christian communitieswith human dimensionscharacterised by lovefraternitymutual helprespect for each other's identity. It is also in these large centres wheretechnology predominates that the sense of mystery is dulled. One no longermarvels. One rationalises everything and one is under the misapprehensionthat everything is valued according to its efficiency. The most seriousproblems risk being reduced to a question of organisation. The conceptof truth is perhaps itself distorted and replaced by the following formula:"What works is true". The absolute criterion is not truthbutefficiencyproductivity and profitability. The Church must bring abouta rediscovery of the sense of mystery. And for thatthere is nothingso efficacious as interpersonal relations and art. The encounter witha person is always more than can be expressed. The person remains a mystery.We can say the same thing about the works of artists. They say more thanwhat we see or hear. Thanks to thiswe will discover the sense of wonderof mysteryof the beyond. ( . . . ) People see themselves in what theartists createsay or sing. It is through their works that one discovershow people liveoften without being able to express it. If the Churchwishes to use expressive symbols to translate and bring the Christianmysteries aliveshe must not neglect the contribution that artists canoffer her.14

( . . . )

c. Cultural sectors or modernequivalents of the Areopagus
One of the most important cultural sectors of our time is theworld of communication. The means of modern communicationso to speakabolish distances and unify the globe. The knowledge of events and thealmost instantaneous diffusion of ideas set up chain reactions. Relationsbetween persons multiply at the planetary level and the phenomenon ofsocialisation becomes more pronounced. It can result in either a culturalenrichment or in a levelling out which would be the equivalent of an impoverishment.( . . . )

Persons who live in such an environment are confronted daily with peoplewho do not think as they do. They can easily fall into sceptism or relativism.Evangelisation must therefore be presented with clarity and assuranceand empower Christians to be ready to give an account of their hope (1P 3:15). It is in this sense that we speak of a pastoral programme ofunderstanding .14

The means of social communications are powerful instrumentsof evangelisation. But they do not automatically play this role. It isfor the Church to make use of them. ( . . . ) As the Holy Father has indicatedto use the media "to ensure the spread of the Christian message andthe Church's authentic teaching is not enough. It is also necessary tointegrate that message into the 'new culture' being created by moderncommunications" (RM 37c)

A second cultural area is that of the commitment topeacethe promotion and liberation of peopleshuman rightsetc. Concreteactions give credibility to words. One way or anotherlove of neighbourif it is realcannot fail to lead to commitment. ( . . . )

Culture is also a modern area which at the highest levelconcerns the mission "ad gentes". Inculturation is in the verylogic of the incarnation. One cannot be truly present in a nation andignore its culture. ( . . . ) What appears clearly unacceptable will changebut very littleif at allby an attitude of condemnation. It is necessaryto aim at giving a new meaning to the realitiesat creating a new mentalityand the rest will follow. What is unacceptable willalmost automaticallyeither be transformed or rejected. On this point it is good to rememberthe instruction that the Congregation of Propaganda Fide addressedin1659to the three French Apostolic VicarsFrançois PalluPierreLambert de la Motte and Ignace Cotolendichosen to administer the missionsof AnnamChinaKorea and Tartary; it was suggested "not to makeany judgementsand in any case to condemn nothing rashly or excessively"and to challenge customs which are openly evil "by a nod of the headand silence rather than by wordsat the same time not failing to graspthe opportunities by which these customs can be imperceptibly uprootedfrom the souls of those willing to embrace the truth." 15

The world of education is another major cultural areain which Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Lifehave much experience. ( . . . )

Are Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies ofApostolic Life always missionary? The answer is unhesitatingly "yes".But what changes have there been during recent years?

l. The personnel of the Societies and Institutes thatsupply missionaries has greatly diminished. The vocation crisis has affectedthem very much. Departures of new missionaries have been less and lessnumerous.

2. The return of many missionaries of retirement age.

3. The difficulty of adapting to new situations in countrieswhich have become independent.

4. The sending back of some missionaries by the civilauthoritiesthe nonrenewal of visasthe prohibition of the work of evangelisation.

5. The increase of vocations in young Christian countries.

6. The conviction that each local Church must take responsibilityfor increasing apostles locallyespecially by promotion of the laity.

7. The awareness of the missionary needs of the olderChristian countrieswhich themselves have become mission territoriesand are in need of first and second evangelisation.

All of this explains the concrete situationsbut doesnot take away the missionary obligation of Institutes of Consecrated Lifeand Societies of Apostolic Life. To close ourselves to mission would beto turn in on ourselvesto face the challenges aloneto cut oneselfoff from the riches which opening up to others givesto lack oxygenso to speakand die of asphyxia. A group which refuses mission finishesup by no longer finding in itself the strength to repair the tissues whichare breaking down within itself. ( . . . )

The missionary task has always been difficult and thosewho are called by God to carry it out are "the precursors of thepeople of God in the march through history" (Olivier). Their activityis one which places them in the front line. He who leads and animatesthis great enterprise is the Holy Spirit himself.

Like the Apostles after Christ's Ascensionthe Churchmust gather in the Upper Room "together with Mary the Mother of Jesus"(Acts 1:14)in order to pray for the Spirit and to gain the strengthand courage to carry out the missionary mandate. We toolike the Apostlesneed to be transformed and guided by the Spirit" (RM 92).

 

* * * * *

 

Notes
1) Quoted in Centre de recherche théologique missionnaire5 rue MonsieurParisBulletin de formation missionnaire et scienceshumainesIntroduction.

2) See Henri Goudreaultomi"La question missionnaire aujourd'hui"in KerygmaNo. 241975p. 71.

3) See Henri BourgeoisIdentité chrétienneDesclée de Brouwer1992pp. 115-128.

4) Joie de croirejoie de vivrep. 226.

5) Evangelii NuntiandiNo. 27

6) Devant Dieu et pour le mondeÉditionsdu Cerf1974p. 126.

7) See Yves St-ArnaudEssai sur les fondements psychologiquesde la communautéMontréal1970pp. 113-130.

8) Quoted by René LatourelleLe témoignagechrétienDesclée & CieBellarmin1971pp. 51-52.

9) The city of Montreal alone has more than seven hundred.See Richard BergeronLe cortège des fous de Dieu EditionsPaulines1982511 pp.

10) L'Esprit-Saintle don de DieuPrions enEgliseNovalis1998p. 51.

11) Re-Visioning MissionThe Catholic Churchand Culture in Postmodern AmericaPaulist Press1996191 pp.

12) Ibidempp. 150-158.

13) Richard Coté writes in Re-Visioning Mission:"If Christianity is to survive in the postmodern world and retainits 'core' identity and integritythe Christian symbolswhich go tothe very heart of 'being' a church with a missionmust somehow be recoveredrevitalized and reappropriated; in a wordthey must be 'set free' inorder to do what only living symbols can do for us.... The survival ofthe Church as a significant transforming and gracefull presence in today'ssociety dependsas John Riches has correctly stated'on its abilityto adapt and change its symbolism to the new pattern of society; otherwiseit will have a distorted view of God and the church and society."(p. 13).

14) Henri Goudreaultomiin Atheism and DialogueSecretariat for Non-ChristiansVatican CityXIX-21984p. 121.

15) Translation by Miss Achard of the latin text citedby H. Chappoulie in Aux origines d'une Eglise. Rome et les missionsd'Indochine au XVIIe siècleParis1943t. 1pp. 392-402.The Holy Father in Vita ConsecrataNo. 96points out how "theInstitutes of consecrated life have always had a great influence in theformation and transmission of culture." To give but one exampleCanada in 1979 had 3912 missionnaries in AfricaLatin AmericaAsiaand Oceania. Grouped according to their fields of apostolate37.5% werein education10.9% in health care7.9% in social activities32% inpastoral ministryand 11.9% in other fields (Conférence religieusecanadienneMissionnaires catholiques canadiensStatistiques 1979p. 40).

Abbreviations

AG Ad Gentes
RM Redemptoris Missio
PC Perfectae Caritatis
TMA Tertio Millenio Adveniente
VC Vita Consecrata

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