No63 June 2005.1
The Missionaries of Africa
have trust in the future
What does a missionary think of himself in this third millennium? Only one thing is foremost in his mind: the Word of God. The messenger works at the mission with a free and peace-filled mind. He shares this peace that is given him. The missionary puts his energy in proclaiming the Kingdom of God. His whole being is sustained by the work to which the Holy Spirit invites him. He cannot settle anywhere permanently, for he has no port of registry. The missionary proclaims a free salvation. He has been chosen freely, he has accepted freely: he therefore fills his mission in a spirit of poverty and selflessness, with the conviction that God gives him the necessities through those who accept his word. Being at peace with himself, docile to the will of God, the missionary does not work for his own profit. He works for the Good News, he implements it with others. This is what distinguishes the missionary.
This is what also the Missionaries of Africa have tried to express in their Society at their latest Chapter in the spring of 2004. What has come out of this meeting? Here is a summary of what their reflections have produced.
Our Mission, just as the Churchs mission, is beyond frontiers because the action of the Spirit does not recognize frontiers; the love of God has no boundaries and his Kingdom surpasses the visible limits of the Church. Our Mission has its source in the universal love of God, materialized in our love for Africa and Africans.
Our missionary identity is in a fundamental reference to Ad Gentes, where Christ is not yet known. In addition, our Mission has meaning only within Local Churches. We bring our specific missionary characteristic to them. By remaining attentive to new areas of Mission and overcoming possible misunderstanding, we contribute to their missionary openness. Solidarity at the local lever is now organized worldwide. The Christian community is opening up to the outside world and the poor evangelize us. In this way, our apostolate has a geographical, cultural and socio-economic dimension. These certainties and circumstances are for us life-giving factors.
We are called to live out our Mission in all the changes and challenges of contemporary Africa: Islam, Ecumenism, New Religious Movements, African Traditional Religions, but also in the situations of injustice, violence and pandemics affecting it. The face of Mission today is expressed in a special way by encounter, proximity to the people, and the struggle for justice that has become the task of every Missionary.
Wherever we are, whatever we do, we are all Missionaries. You are apostles and nothing but apostles. (Cardinal Lavigerie) Reverential love for Christ and Africa gives us an apostolic identity in our lives and apostolate. Our vocation as contemplatives in action compels us to announce the Good News of Jesus Christ, thereby promoting in-depth evangelization. This is the ideal sustaining us, giving us strength.
We are called to live out our Mission in international and intercultural witnessing communities. The witness of the community in all the diversity of its members is already a sign of the Kingdom. Several factors are life gibing: community of sharing in faith, goods and project of life and work, making it a place of mutual evangelization, discernment, confrontation and growth. Here is therefore our missionary Creed:
Our common vision
Captivated by Jesus and walking in his footsteps, sure of Gods passionate love for all and sent by his Spirit preceding us, we want to work with, and for, todays African world which is going through a time of rapid change.
Through our commitment to parish ministry and other missionary activities, concerned to promote Christian unity, we work in communion with the Local Church, for the proclamation of the Gospel and the growth of the Reign of God.
Invigorated by the breath of life and hope blowing across todays African world, we wish to celebrate life and promote the values of the Kingdom, especially at the frontiers of our Church. Like the Prophets, we become involved at fracture lines and in areas of injustice that divide and cause individuals and peoples to suffer. In this way we form part of the surge of solidarity coursing through the world.
We want to continue being involved in the encounter taking place between men and women of differing cultures and religions, so as to journey together with them in search of God and of a more just and fraternal world. Today Islam, New Religious Movements and African Traditional Religions challenge us in a special way. In the traces of those who have gone before us, who have given their lives to the full, and faithful to the inspiration of Cardinal Lavigerie, we remain apostles by our whole life, being and activity. In witnessing communities, transforming our diversity into a pathway of communion, we put our various gifts at the service of our shared mission. Christs love spurs us on: it is from Him that we unceasingly draw our strength.
Cardinal Lavigerie responded to the social challenges of his time. Inspired by Christ, he dedicated himself to specific works. Our present-day commitments to justice, especially at fracture lines, are consonant with his commitment. Our founder engaged the Society he established in the challenges facing the world of Islam in North Africa. He insisted on the necessity of being close to people, learning their language and entering into their culture. Our spirituality should help us to develop our ability to welcome, encounter, and listen to people, allowing ourselves to be touched by their lives, deepening our knowledge of one another, developing friendships and engaging in shared action. His life at that time is our inspiration today.
Community superiors help confreres to distinguish between doing works of mercy and helping to eradicate the causes of injustice. They identify the major challenges of today, with the aim of a firm commitment in different areas: AIDS, youth, human rights, migrants, refugees, unemployment, urbanization, respect for creation, lobbying and so on. After having identified the great challenges, they help confreres to take up one or two specific areas in which to take up a commitment.
Unity and diversity in our vision of Mission is an intrinsic part of our identity White Father. Missionaries of Africa, we are united in the Spirit who send us to proclaim the Good News of Jesus Christ to the African World and the world of Islam. In our Society, there have always been different ways of seeing and living out our Mission.
The prominence given to justice, peace and integrity of creation (JPIC), to Encounter and Dialogue, has contributed to diversifying our vision of Mission. Many confreres took inspiration from this and found new impetus in their missionary life. Some confreres advocate the primacy of primary evangelization and pastoral care, while others place more emphasis on other missionary commitments. Our strong point is the fresh inspiration this new orientation gives to our Mission. Here is therefore the second line of our missionary Creed:
Our common vision
Our vocation and our commitment to mission create among us a strong bond of unity. We aim to establish inter-cultural, witnessing communities, composed of brothers and priests, as a sign of the Kingdom of God.
We accept diversity in our communities as the will of God and an important part of missionary life, according to the traditions of our Society. Welcoming diversity as a gift, we respect the differences of our cultures, backgrounds and interests, and open ourselves to mutual enrichment and renewal.
Diversity is also a challenge to the unity of the Society and its future. We therefore conceive our communities as places of mutual evangelization, discernment, confrontation and growth.
Committed to overcoming individualism, we promote the sharing of faith and material resources in a spirit of solidarity and transparency. In all humility, we acknowledge that the mission we carry out is essentially Gods work. Thus, in spite of our diminishing numbers, we welcome a diversity of ministries, mindful of our charisma and the priorities of our Society.
Superiors of communities will see to deepening a spirituality of unity in diversity through knowledge of self and of ones culture as well as by spiritual animation at Society level. They will help them continue integrating JPIC, Encounter and Dialogue, Ecumenism and pastoral care in all our ministries and community witness.
However we cannot but notice that our Society has become weaker than before due to the decrease in personnel. Should the structures that were erected for a Society of 4000 members remain the same for a Society of less than 1700 members? Questions are being asked: how can we continue to support services rendered to Mission and the confreres with the personnel we have today and in the near future? Should we continue with the present dispersal of communities or concentrate only on some countries or in a region within a country? How do we reduce full-time personnel to ease the structures? What criteria should be used to appoint young confreres? These are real questions that will need our attention in the future.
Moreover Europe and North America have experienced a rise in the number of old confreres and a reduction in the personnel available for the essential functions of the Provinces. At the same time there has been a growth in the presence of the African World and Islam in Europe and North America, prompting an increase in governments decisions concerning them. The Local Churches are appealing anew for a missionary presence. This is the third line of our missionary Creed:
Our common vision
We wish that each confrere be welcomed, recognised, valued and supported so that all may truly feel part of the family.
Several confreres in Europe and North America devote themselves to administrative tasks in their Provinces. In solidarity with confreres working in Africa, they provide essential support for their missionary work.
Others dedicate themselves to the care of retired confreres and those who require more particular consideration. The presence, prayers, generosity, and acceptance of suffering of those being cared for are a precious contribution to their communities, and to the missionary commitment of the whole Society.
With them, the whole Society commits itself to live out the priorities of the Mission:
- In collaboration with the Local Churches and other missionary Institutes, we are at the service of the values of the Kingdom through our involvement in the realms of justice, peace and integrity of Creation, in welcoming migrants, and through our meetings with Africans and with Muslims.
- We express our solidarity with Africa and the African world by making known the cultural values of Africa and the life of the Church in Africa.
Michel Fortin, M.Afr.
Back to main menu