The General Superior of the MEP (Paris Missionary Congregation) assesses the missionary involvement of the Congregation and reflects in mission. (letter slightly abridged)
THE JOY OF MISSION!
The year 2018 marks the 360th anniversary of the sending of the first apostolic vicars and thus of the founding of the Society of Foreign Missions of Paris. Indeed, on June 8, 1658 Pope Alexander VII ratified the decision to send apostolic vicars to the Far East.
More than a commemoration, this anniversary is a call to renew our missionary dynamic for the support of the local Churches by being engaged Ad Vitam (for life), Ad Extra (beyond our borders), Ad Gentes (towards non Christians) and Cum Ecclesia (with the whole Church).
The heart of the MEP’s mission is the proclamation of the Gospel in an inventive and daring way. For this, today, nearly 190 priests form the Society of Foreign Missions, 14 seminarians, 6 basic formation candidates and 1 associate priest candidate from Vietnam, are preparing to join them. Every year, 150 lay volunteers will support missionary projects through their skills; it is one of the answers to the Lord’s Call. We are also delighted to welcome, in Paris and Toulouse, 67 Asian and Malagasy priests to support them in their training as future trainers. Our gratitude also goes to those who collaborate with us every day as employees or volunteers.
Today, dialogue continues with the bishops of Asia and the Indian Ocean to discern the place of missionaries in their local churches. In 2018, to mark the 360th anniversary of the MEP, several events will be proposed, but above all I invite you to cultivate a 360-degree vision! Let us be ready to witness to the Gospel, to be inventive, to have projects like our predecessors. Let’s really be “on the go”, do not live in the past but build the present and the future, together, in complimentarity, welcoming Christ to the heart of our lives.
This year, Pope Francis has also portrayed the missionary as a “bold and creative” person. It is a question of regularly evaluating the objectives and the structures of mission. Because “we live in a time when it is necessary to rethink everything in the light of what the Spirit asks us” .
“In the Church, mission is born from the encounter with Christ, Jesus is the center of mission”. This implies, for the missionary, a continuous growth in docility to the Spirit and the ability to welcome the presence of Jesus in so many people excluded from society. And also to foster a “spirituality based on Christ, on the Word of God, on the liturgy”.
The year 2018 will therefore be marked by several events such as the sending of missionaries, diaconal and priestly ordinations, 15 years of MEP volunteerism, but also a new reception at rue du Bac, and the renewal of our “digital Mission” with a new website, a smartphone app and more projects. And, of course, we are united in the synodal reflection planned in Rome in October 2018 on the theme “Vocations, discernment and formation”.
Retrospectively, the year 2017 was punctuated by the many missionary field projects in Asia and the Indian Ocean, which the MEP Magazine echoes every month: migrants, inter-religious dialogue, refugees, life-injured, reintegration after a period of imprisonment and accompaniment of people, educational projects and construction of schools, support for the training of pastoral agents, construction of places of worship and a hospital and many others. In addition, seven new missionaries, the ordination of three deacons and five priests, and the sending of 150 lay volunteers to Asia and the Indian Ocean.
These reminiscences remind us that we are not dwelling on a “glorious past”, but we renew the missionary dynamic that dwells in us, we discern the signs of the times to testify of Christ today, by joining people wherever they are. We give thanks for all that has been done, and we are firmly anchored in today’s world.
Pope Francis recently called for an extraordinary month of prayer for Mission in October 2019 and recalled that “The Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud had urged … to move across the borders of the nations, to testify to the saving will of God through the universal mission of the Church. May the approach of its centenary be a stimulant to overcome the recurrent temptation that hides behind any ecclesial introversion, any self-referential closure within our own secure walls, any form of pastoral pessimism, any sterile nostalgia of the past, to open up rather to the joyful novelty of the Gospel “
All this is “the joy of Mission” on the ground wherever we are. Let us broaden our horizons, go forward and share what makes us live, may the Lord bless each and every one of you. Merry Christmas and Happy New Year 2018.
Gilles Reithinger MEP