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Mission AD GENTES as a promoter of vitality in the Institute

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28/02/2011: General House

On June 29, 2010, Cardinal Claudio Humes, archbishop emeritus of Sao Paulo, issued a circular on “THE MISSIONARY IDENTITY OF THE PRIEST IN THE CHURCH”. He issued this document in his capacity as prefect of the Roman Congregation for the Clergy. Since I am involved with the recently created Secretariat in our congregation with the name of “INTERNATIONAL MISSIONARY COOPERATION” within which is found all the work of AD GENTES, I thought of slightly modifying that title and writing on the “MISSIONARY IDENTITY OF THE BROTHER AND OF THE LAY MARIST.

To broaden the horizons in this way is no mistake because, as we learn with the elementary bases of Ecclesiology, mission is a constituent dimension of the Church. In other words, without mission Church does not exist. In fact Cardinal Claudio Humes begins his letter with what I would call an ecclesiological axiom: The Church on earth is by her very nature missionary”.

The Marist congregation and its members, brothers and laity, thus find themselves integrated into that missionary dynamism of the Church. Also, whatever the Congregation, it is born to carry out a mission within the Church and society. The mission of the Congregation from the times of Father Champagnat is well known: the Christian education of youth. The traditional wording that we know is that our mission consists of good citizens and good Christians. The present general administration is conscious of the mission left to the Institute as the reason for its existence. And it was expressed very well, using 21st century terminology, in a broader way, but always keeping youth in mind as its proper field: “To continue developing the Marist mission, as part of our identity and nourishment of our spirituality, especially in three of the aspects stressed by the General Chapter: a more meaningful presence among poor children and young people, evangelization and the defense of children’s and young people’s rights”. We could not have a clearer formulation of the “missionary identity” of the Congregation.

 

AD GENTES, a mission within the mission

Within this broader formulation of the Council and looking at its organizational chart, special attention is given to Mission AD GENTES within an even broader reality: international missionary cooperation. Basically what is wanted is to put into practice the guidelines of the General Chapter that in two places, in a very explicit way, defends the deepening and the development of Mission AD GENTES, launched at the General Conference in Colombo (Sri Lanka) in 2005.

In the document “Letter of the 21st General Chapter”, the Chapter, proposing a “broad” mindset that goes beyond the borders of one's own country, states: We are developing an international and intercultural mindset towards our Marist mission. The Ad Gentes Project invites the Institute to recapture its missionary spirit(Document of the 21st General Chapter, p. 23).And in the chapter on "Future Horizons", on speaking of the Marist mission in a new world, the Chapter specifies in a general way, but without room for ambiguity or doubts, 8 proposals for action. In number 7, speaking of Ad Gentes:“To strengthen the further development of Mission Ad Gentes in Asia and open it out to other areas where a need is discerned.(Document of the 21st General Chapter, p. 43).

With other words we are speaking of vitality. “To discern the need” of a province or region is an invitation to act so that province or region may have more life, more vitality. Such was the expression of the Ad Gentes Project on formulating its objectives in 2005. After formulating the general objective six specific objectives were mentioned. Number 4 stated: “To establish Marist communities in poor countries of Asia where up till now there has been no Marist presence”. And Number 5 specifies: “To send a small number of brothers and lay people to provinces that still do not have the level of vitality and viability necessary for their future development”.

So we can summarize by stating that from beginning of the foundation of the Ad Gentes project there have been three elements which are very clear:

1.       The project is part of the missionary tradition of the Institute that began with the birth of the Institute. The Institute was born missionary. And the mission is the Institute’s reason for being. We can say that from the beginning, Mission Ad Gentes was always the practice of the Institute. A practice that has been lived throughout the 200 years of the history of the Institute and that since 2006 continues being put in practice, with groups of brothers and laity.

2.       Mission Ad Gentes is an essential part of the mission of the Institute and is directed to the viability and vitality of the poorest regions or provinces where there already is a Marist presence. But it is directed above all to the establishment of new communities in regions or countries marked by poverty, where Marist life did not yet exist, with the hope that Marist life might develop and multiply there.

3.       Since the beginning, the Mission AD GENTES project was conceived for brothers and lay Marists who desire to become Marist missionaries. Group number 7 who were in Davao last year is a good example of that reality: 5 laypeople and 4 brothers were sent on mission.

________________________
Br. Teófilo Minga - Coordinator of the Ad Gentes project
Rome, 10 February 2011

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