2012-03-15 MOZAMBIQUE

Project Ad Gentes


FromFebruary 27untilMarch 2took place in the Novitiateof the Province ofSouthern Africa, inMatola, Mozambique, a seminaron the Project Ad Gentes. The 15novicesand the formation team attended the meeting. This seminarwas lead by the Ad Gentes CoordinatorBrotherTeofiloMinga. Inspired by the title of CardinalMartini's book, "Conversations by nightin Jerusalem", everyday there was a moment called,"Conversations by nightin the novitiateofMatola."

There were45 minutes afterthe evening mealto review the daysharingwith othersin areflective andalmostprayerful way the riches of a day coming to a close. The exerciseproved to be veryuseful.In these night conversations we have reviewedthefivethemesof the seminar: the past of AdGentes, the current situation ofAdGentes, the future of AdGentes, a day withSt. Paul and testimoniesof the 2012 group.

Conversations by Night I – The past of Ad Gentes

Without using any papers, computers, or images, we let our hearts speak and share with others the richness (or even the poverty) of the day about to end. The exercise proved to be very helpful. The comments below, of course, will remain anonymous.

·           What struck me was the sense of joy, of hope, and of thanksgiving we felt in talking about Ad Gentes. To begin our mission Ad Gentes was an act of daring by the Institute, a source of joy and thanksgiving.

·           I thank God continually for the presence of Brothers and lay Marists as missionaries in Asia. Their presence in distant lands is a response to a personal call from God. It is a response in love, echoing the phrase of the Holy Father that we have studied: “Love is the soul of mission.”

·           I’d like to emphasise the response at the level of Institute to the Pope’s appeal to evangelise Asia. I admire the openness and generosity of those Brothers and laypersons who have left everything to serve the Lord in the person of the very poor. There is much poverty in Asia. I’m not capable of being in the front line of mission, but I can pray daily for them, as the Holy Father suggested.

·           I have come to appreciate the “missionary journey” of the Congregation: the idea of mission was already in the heart of Father Champagnat. There is a link between our Founder’s sentence: “To bring up children well, we must first love them” and the text we reflected on today: “Love is the heart of mission”. To go on mission is an act of love. Only love can explain the missionary thrust of the Church. One definition of mission could be: “Mission is an activity of the Church confided to it by the Lord Jesus: to share with all creatures the divine life that the Lord brought on earth.”

·           I agree with the idea that there is no missionary activity without true love. This love has its origin in the Eternal Father and has been poured into our hearts by Jesus.” Our animator has repeatedly said: “The brotherly love that the Lord asks of his ‘friends’ has its origin in the love of God as father.” To be effective in mission, we need to live in this love, and be guided by it.  

·           There are two interesting points. Firstly, the second-year novices have already studied the Constitutions where Article 2 speaks of the charism of the Founder: “…led by the Spirit, and seized by the love that Jesus and Mary had for him and for others …”. This is a clear example of mission originating in the fatherly love of God. Secondly, our document on spirituality, Water from the Rock, underlines that it was Champagnat’s experience of God’s love for him that led him to found a congregation for the benefit of children. And so, the foundation of the Institute becomes an act of love of the Father coming to fulfilment and being multiplied in the love for every child confided to our care.

·           Our mission Ad Gentes was intended to be another drop of water in the ocean of love lived out by the congregation. But developments in Asia have not gone ahead as we had hoped at the beginning. I have learned to respect the rhythm of persons, and also that of continents. I’ve learned that being a missionary is Asia is very different to being one in Latin America.  What is important is to put into practice today’s gospel text (Mt 25:31-46): doing good to all without distinction.

·           Our conversation must come to a close. Let us conclude with a short prayer taken from a Credo by Br Benito Arbues, former superior general: “I believe that the Brothers of Africa, America, Asia, Europe and Oceania are gifts to one another from the Lord.” Let us praise the Lord for this mutual gift whereby the Lord calls us to mission.

Conversations by Night II – The present of Ad Gentes

Let’s continue our conversation after a busy second day. Having dealt with the origin of our Ad Gentes project in 2005, today we looked at the current situation. Where has it gone to? How will it develop? This morning we looked at some presentations, and in the afternoon we studied Benedict XVI’s discourse for the World Day of Mission in 2007. Let’s proceed with our sharing either individually or in groups.

·         I was particularly struck by our call to unity within diversity. I enjoyed seeing photos of the communities with great cultural diversity, reminding me of the Constitutions when they refer to our differences as being a course of complementarity. The Ad Gentes communities are striking examples of variety in unity in Marist life, and are a source of witness to others.

·         I was impressed with Benedict XVI’s having stressed cooperation between young churches and those of long-standing traditions. The word cooperation occurs eight or nine times in the text. Such collaboration can be applied to our different Marist provinces.

·         When speaking of collaboration among churches, Benedict XVI refers to Pius XII’s encyclical Fidei Donum. This was a far-seeing document promoting a renewal of missionary activity some fifty-five years ago.

·         Our group was also impressed by the idea of collaboration. Pius XII himself referred to cooperation among churches for a mission Ad Gentes. There is a link here with the recent creation of a new Secretariat in Rome called Secretariate for International Collaboration in Mission. This is good news for the Institute – 55 years after Fidei Donum. Would that it generate among our Provinces the same energy as was kindled among dioceses in those days.

·         I was reminded of this morning’s opening song: “Grant us, O Lord, a heart renewed” – the lyrics of which suit the theme of our last General Chapter: “New hearts for a new world”. The Ad Gentes project is a very important initiative for our Congregation. To bring it to the fore, perhaps, requires not only new hearts but also new ways of thinking. What has come to birth is good, but it must be consolidated. I am full of admiration for the 41 Brothers and 5 laypersons involved. The call to Ad Gentes is a vocation within a vocation.  

·         I am very impressed with the work of our Canadian Brothers in Africa, chiefly in Malawi and Zimbabwe. Can we not reciprocate now that these Brothers are aging  and possibly in poor health? The spirit of Pope Benedict’s letter implies that young churches should work with the more ancient ones. (Mention was made of what has already been done in this regard.)

·         Our group was impressed by the simplicity and detachment shown by the Brothers who’ve gone on mission. The project is in accord with the desire of Chapter that we be significantly present among poor children. The photos showed that the Brothers live very simply. Some of the dwellings are quite poor.

·         I would like to underline a point emphasised by the Holy Father: the need for prayer for the missions and for missionaries. I think that our Founder would have said the same. I would like to pray for the Brothes who’ve gone on mission.

Conversations by Night III – The future of Ad Gentes

Another very full day. The photos we saw of various aspects of our mission Ad Gentes together with explanations was very interesting. Each picture carried a message – helping us to sense the joys and trials of our Brothers on mission. Today’s text (The Pope’s message for the World Day of Mission in 2008) was more demanding than the others we’ve looked at being full of textual references to the Apostle of the Gentiles in the “Year of St Paul”.

·         What impressed me most today was this morning’s photo session. I think everyone else felt the same. We got a full picture of what our Brothers and lay colleagues are already doing and of their plans for the future. I would like to draw your attention to some aspects: the poverty of the Brothers’ house in a certain place; the friendliness shown by the family that hosted the Brothers; the Buddhists at prayer in Bangkok. This is real life, not just a fantasy.

·         I was equally impressed with the pictures we saw. I came to admire the total self-giving of the Brothers on Ad Gentes, and got to appreciate the difficulties they meet in their apostolate. I was touched by seeing how children in Myanmar are helped by the Dominican Sisters with whom the Brothers collaborate since they do not know the language. This apostolate of helping refugee children is very touching – these little ones are indeed among the most needy. I felt a strong urge to give myself totally to my apostolate like they do. These Brothers are a fine example of dedication and love for the very poor.

·         I’d like to highlight the point of the papal text that, like Paul, speaks of the need for creation to be set at liberty and be renewed. This is an important element in these times when natural disasters and major climate change are so apparent. We need to respect nature. The Holy Father goes on to say that humankind also needs to be rescued and set free. He mentions three areas of concern: violence, poverty and discrimination. How can our Brothers a laypersons contribute to this struggle. Surely, the work they’re doing is an element of the battle against discrimination.

·         I’d like to go back to our dialogue on the work of the Brothers in Korea. At first I was surprised that they didn’t run schools since that seems to be the apostolate of the Marist Brothers. I came to realise that we must adapt our work to the local situation and the needs of people. This is a great challenge to those in Ad Gentes. I now understand why it is difficult to find suitable ministries for different communities. This could be source of discouragement to some Brothers.

·         I’d like to talk about formation. What formation did the Brothers and laypersons have before leaving? A partial answer was given this morning. However, I’d like to talk about the formation of our Brothers within the Provinces and awareness within communities of the missionary work of the Brothers. We know that our Congregation was missionary from its early years. Couldn’t we then have sent more Brothers working in Ad Gentes? (These questions raised much discussion in the group, particularly about the initial formation of the Brothers in our provinces.)

·         What was said earlier about the Brothers, reminds me of Pope Benedict stating (echoing Pope John Paul II’s Redemptoris Missio, §63) that a Bishop is consecrated not only for his own diocese but for the salvation of the whole world. On several occasions during the seminar we’ve heard that our Brothers are Brothers for the congregation, even though they belong to a particular province. This is a similar notion. I don’t know how easy it will be to put this ideal into practice. It will require great courage. But it is the way of the future: our communities are increasingly intercultural and international. Ad Gentes is a fine example.

Conversations by night IV – A day with Saint Paul

Today we spent a day in the company of Saint Paul. The visual presentation on "Saint Paul, first missionary of Christ," although short, was rich in content. The Pope’s text (Message for World Day of Missions 2009), which we read in the afternoon allowed us to complete certain of the ideas in the morning’s presentation. We saw that Ad Gentes is progressively moving forward and becoming consolidated. It was a day that really attracted our attention because Saint Paul was a revelation for us. He is a good companion for today’s missionaries because of his unfailing love for Christ and for the communities he founded. It was worth it. With Paul, it was easy to give body to our fourth evening conversation.

  • What most attracted my attention today was the little film which showed us the different ways of praying in the different religions. It was very clear for me that we can approach God in different ways. And I don’t think any way of praying is better than another. They are different. I saw, for example, that Orientals prefer incense in their prayer. But we do a lot of dancing at Mass to express our way of praying.
  • I was truly surprised by Paul’s example. How could he travel so much, already at that time, and with so many difficulties? One of his voyages took 8 or 9 years according to what I saw. It seems incredible. No doubt that he was effectively «caught» by Christ on the way to Damascus. From that experience, he became passionate for Christ. I think that all the Ad Gentes missionaries thus have to be passionate for Christ. Otherwise they can become discouraged at the first difficulties.
  • I was also struck by everything said about Paul. On the basis of the texts mentioned, and on the one we will be studying in more detail (2 Corinthians 5: 17-6, 1-10), we have been struck by his exclusive love for Christ. Phrases such as: «For me, to live is  Christ» and «Woe to me if I do not proclaim the Gospel" really show that his life was one consecrated to the Gospel from the moment he discovered Christ.
  • I really liked the title of the presentation: "Paul, first missionary of Jesus Christ." It was well chosen and it is correct. I felt great joy in watching the slides on Paul and reading the Pope’s text about him. Paul is truly the Apostle of the Gentiles. And what an apostle! Jesus Christ was his wealth, he was everything for him. Over and above his missionary task, he worked so as not to be a burden on the communities which received him. I very much liked to see that aspect in the presentation of Paul. It’s a fine example for all missionaries.
  • With what we have discussed today about Paul, we understand better what the Pope said in his text when he invites bishops, priests, religious and laity to be more conscious of the missionary mandate to «make disciples of all nations" (cf. Mt 28: 19). It is an invitation to live "in the footsteps of Saint Paul, Apostle of the Gentiles." Today’s text shows more clearly than other texts we have studied the mission Ad Gentes as essential in the framework of the mission of the Church. The Pope leaves no doubt on this subject: «The whole Church must be engaged in mission Ad Gentes so that the saving power of Christ may be fully realized." And again in a more lapidary fashion, the word he addresses to both the Churches of ancient foundation and those of more recent foundation. In their pastoral plans, «all the Churches must make mission Ad Gentes a priority." So it is very clear:  Mission Ad Gentes cannot be forgotten in the local Churches.

Conversations by night V – Ad Gentes, a call from the Lord

This is the last day of the seminar. We continue to reflect on the importance of the mission Ad Gentes in the Church with the help of the testimony of potential candidates preparing to join the Marist Ad Gentes project. We start from a very realistic base and not a theoretical one. These testimonies have a very profound impact in our lives. They speak to us, not only as a matter of words, but especially as examples of life. They form the core of our evening  conversation V.

  • What I see is that the Ad Gentes vocation is a call within the more general call of the Marist vocation. I don’t believe all the Brothers have a  vocation to Ad Gentes. I don’t know if I have one. Anyway, I am very happy to see what we have seen today: the future candidates and their impressive testimonies. They have given me a real lesson in enthusiasm when I look at their generosity. I was very struck looking at the photograph of the couple who want to go on mission Ad Gentes, even though they have a very small child. There are the examples of great generosity. And what gives me more joy is that they are lay Marists.
  • Certainly, it is difficult for the couple, but it can also be quite difficult for the Brothers. We have seen a good number of Brothers return to their  Provinces. They had difficulties, very likely. But Paul, he also had to face many difficulties. I think that it should not be very difficult to adapt to foreign cultures and such difficult languages. But that is what can be demanded of missionaries today: to be prepared and capable of surmounting difficulties. In doing so, they enter a little into the life and history of the people they want to evangelise. We have heard that Saint Paul was Roman with the Romans, Greek with the Greeks, Jewish with the Jews. There’s a good example for missionaries today. I recognise that it may be difficult: to be with the people, come close to them, enter a little into their world.
  • I am very happy to be in this seminar from the beginning up to now. It seems to me I even live there where the brothers and lay people are on mission. I feel very close to them. Looking at the photos and the work they are doing, I am very proud because they are Marist brothers and lay marist people. I  regarde them with a lot of sympathy. They form part of our history and it seems to me that they are already part of me. I know that for the moment I can only pray for them. Prayer appears in all the Pope’s texts that we have studied. Starting from now, I believe the whole novitiate will pray more for mission Ad Gentes. Up to now, we knew very little about this important project of the Congregation. Now I feel that the project is also mine.
  • I feel a great joy to know this project better. I agree with you:  this project is now our project. It forms part of us. I want to say that in my group there was no difficulty in reading the Pope’s texts. They are an excellent reflection on the Church’s mission and in particular on mission Ad Gentes. Now that we know more about the project, I would like Brother Teófilo to continue to send us further information on Ad Gentes. This would be a good way of continuing to live what we have seen and lived here during this week. It would be a pity if it all finished here with the end of the seminar.

Entry of new postulants at Manizales...


?Finding a place at the table?...