FATHER GENERAL'S MISSIONARY MEDITATION HAITI CHALLENGES US
In early July, I made my last visit as Father General to the Oblates in Haiti. The visit was not planned in advance, just as the earthquake of 12 January 2010 was not planned. As a missionary meditation, here is an excerpt from my letter to the province, dated on 12 July – just six months after the catastrophe.
“You have something important to say to the Congregation, especially on the occasion of a General Chapter whose chosen theme is conversion. During my four days in Haiti, what I was able to see and hear in Les Cayes, on the roads, downtown in the capital, at Sibert and at Blanchard, in visiting three bishops, etc., was of substance both very rich and profound. I share with you three messages which you give all of us by the way that you are living these difficult times for Haiti.
“First of all, you give us a message about detachment – it was one of you who used that word. With more than 200,000 dead in January and 1.5 million persons still in tents six months later, anything we could own or have lost becomes quite relative. A scholastic and many people close to you are among the dead. Several Oblates told me that they were very lucky to have survived. Many of those close to you are among those who are living in makeshift shelters and you yourselves know something about life under the tents.
“Secondly, I felt in Haiti a deep sense of the Church as a big family. Laity, clergy and religious – all are working together to serve those in need: programs of immediate assistance, child care in the schools, and planning for rebuilding the churches, the schools and the formation centers. This spirit of unity is an important sign for the country at a time when the political infrastructure is still fragile; so many people need prophetic gestures and words from Church leaders who must make visible the presence of Christ among us. ‘Seeing the crowds, he had pity on them, for they were troubled and abandoned, like sheep without a shepherd.’ (Mt 9:36)
“And finally, you enrich us by your witness to the power of faith which I felt to be so strong among you. ‘No one cursed God,’ Bishop Hubert Constant told me. Someone else remarked that through the catastrophe, many grew in their faith, this paschal faith which is our most important treasure. ‘The cross of Jesus is at the heart of our mission.’ (C 4) This cross alone is the key which opens the door to a new life.
“I saw your detachment, your sense of Church and the power of your faith, but what I share with you are only my impressions. You will have many other things to add. The Congregation seeks solidarity with you, but you then can help the Congregation which will soon be in Chapter, to really obtain this grace of a deeper personal and communal conversion. The five Haitians who will be in the room for our great assembly will be your spokespersons.”
Dear readers, with these reflections, I am now concluding a cycle of meditations, eleven times per year, beginning in 2002. I felt it was a special call to share with the Congregation and with our friends some part of the great things which God is doing through the Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate everywhere in the world and the invitations which the Holy Spirit still sends us. Thanks for reading them; let us continue on the paths of evangelization as contemplative missionaries.
“The missionary must be ‘a contemplative in action.’ He finds the answer to problems in the light of the divine word and in personal and communal prayer.”
“The missionary, if he is not a contemplative, cannot proclaim Christ in a credible way; he is a witness of the experience of God and must be able to say, like the Apostles: ‘What we have contemplated…., the Word of life…, that is what we proclaim.’ (1 Jn 1:1-3)” (John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio 91)
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