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Do we have a sufficient degree of self-confidence to allow us to live through a process of renewal? At the same time we are: the authors, the protagonists and beneficiaries of the spiritual renewal we long for. Are we perhaps hoping that change will come from above, from the Chapter, from the Leadership Team?

Characteristic Dimensions

It is difficult to identify indicators of change in our communities as well as in PRMs as regards the ad intra aspect of the characteristic dimensions. The ad extra aspect is easier to measure or to confirm the results regarding the objectives.

However, what indicators would allow us to affirm that the life and mission of a community have been enriched by the characteristic dimensions in recent years? It is evident that here we refer to the ‘quality’ of our life and not to the activities which make up our agendas and reports. The latter could clearly express the ‘quality’ of our life, but not necessarily.

As religious missionaries we have decided to consecrate our lives to the cause of the Kingdom of God. This causes us to be focussed on God, to fight for justice and peace, to reach out to and include all of humanity and to inspire others to join forces with us in this common cause.

Echoing the Gospel message (Mat. 25) and our own Constitutions (Con. 102), the present General Leadership Team has highlighted the particular perspective from which to live our consecration today: “Prioritize those who are last”. The ones historically excluded (poor, marginalized, victims, refugees) are not only faces, statistics, or beneficiaries of our charity.

They are God’s privileged ones, and for that very reason they are a theophany, a concrete reality God has always chosen and through whom God continues to make himself known. Therefore, the excluded (the little ones) are a fountain of our spirituality, the reason for our vocation and community life, the model of our leadership, the ethical frame for our financial administration and permanent formative itinerary.

Our life centered on God

Together with the Word of God, the Eucharist and our ecclesial and congregational spiritual heritage, we also have the inexhaustible spiritual wealth of our peoples. Beyond that, those living on the margins of our contexts, continually afford us precious clues on how to deepen our spiritual life and our fidelity to the Gospel.

They are like precious pearls that help us to better understand our vocation and bring our mission fully to life. They lead us to purify the image we have of God. With them we are able to celebrate the God of life and of history. They lead us to grow in our relationship with Jesus of Nazareth and through them we strengthen our commitment in the promotion of justice.

Today we experience on a global level the reality of displaced and refugee peoples, resulting from wars, hunger and poverty. The hunger for justice of these multitudes, as depicted by the prophet Ezekiel (cf. Ez.37, 1-14), reveals to us the suffering faces of Christ.

Through them God puts the same question to us today: will these people be able to achieve the fullness of life? Which means: are we (missionaries, our resources and structures) focused and committed to the same project as Jesus to promote life on all its levels?

Today it is urgent and necessary to read the Gospel of Jesus Christ from a reverse historical perspective, from marginality and exclusion. What is God saying to us today from these human situations? Is it a question of bringing ‘the Good News’ to these people, or rather permitting them to help us to have a deeper comprehension of the Good News?

Responsible for the care of creation in justice and peace

We all live our consecration in a concrete place, offering specific services with our sight fixed on the Kingdom of God. This Kingdom, far from being a state of life or a place to be reached in the future, is an option and a real and permanent dynamic of life. In this dynamic spectators and consumers don’t count; we are all protagonists.

The marginalized force us to see the economic reality from a different perspective, especially our responsibility in the ethical administration of our resources. The greater our sense of belonging to the Congregation, the more conscious we are of being simple administrators of resources, structures, funds, donations, and financial initiatives.

To seek personal advantage from that which belongs to all denotes irresponsibility. Human trafficking and the indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources are presently two clear manifestations of political and economic systems which threaten to drag all of humanity down the road of irresponsibility and self-destruction.

To a great extent, (as a Congregation and as Church) we continue to support these systems either as mere spectators on the one hand or as mere consumers on the other. We build the road to justice and peace, step by step, by concrete attitudes and decisions against these worldwide calamities (scourges).

The prophet Micah shows us how to become totally involved in the construction of justice and peace as the true worship due to God (cf. Mic 6, 8). We may perhaps need to convince ourselves that ‘the sacred’ is not found in temples, but rather in every human being, especially in the excluded. Humanity degraded and despised is the place God has chosen and where he wishes to be worshiped; a worship in justice and truth.

Humanizing ourselves and humanizing life through fraternal relationships

There are certain elements in the social dynamic of the poorest that merit reflection. For us religious missionaries, it would do us a lot of good if we were to come down from the stage or from our priestly role and draw closer to the people.

The people will let us know not only if they understand our homilies, but also if our reflections are really steeped in the daily reality in which people live. Friendly gestures, spontaneous dialogue with everybody, sensitivity towards the realities of pain and anxiety, a fraternal embrace of recognition, a word of gratitude to the lay persons who accompany us daily, o acknowledge our mistakes and ask for forgiveness, the capacity to celebrate life in specific moments in the history of concrete persons, etc., are daily exercises that enable us to mold our mind and heart to recreate the environment in which we live.

Aggressiveness is a virus which erodes and dehumanizes our relationships. We also find the sensation of loneliness resulting from abandonment, exclusion, discrimination and abuse. Both of these factors remind us of the growing loss of humanity because of how we communicate and the increasing severity of cases of depression and individualism.

In truth we only communicate when we transmit who we are; the rest is just information. We are able to fill pages of the internet with news, and it needs to be done to reach a wider audience, especially the younger generations. Nevertheless, apart from telling others what we are doing, today we also have the imperative to allow ourselves to be molded by our Potter so that we can communicate His Gospel with our life (cf. Jer 18, 1-4).

As true protagonists of community building, there is a pressing need for us to care for and promote fraternal bonds which extend beyond the liturgy or sharing at table. To care for our own human formation and be mindful of the human formation of others is a very efficient way of communicating life.

Transmitting the joy of being part of the Gospel project

Our journey of renewal, centered on the theme proposed for the XVIII General Chapter, will surely result in greater passion and enthusiasm for mission. In all areas of our life and mission you get a breath of the spirit that identifies the Divine Word; a reality which would not exist without our presence. It is also true that it is an atmosphere sometimes clouded by our attitudes, expressions and defects.

However, wherever we may be and whatever group we accompany and serve can be a unique opportunity for missionary animation and for growth in Gospel values. Perhaps we should not be over worried about the falling number of practicing Christians, nor about the decline in vocations to consecrated life. It is perhaps more urgent that we recover, strengthen, and rekindle our missionary zeal.

Our ‘material structures’ (churches, schools, hospitals, centers of communication, etc.) are there for all to see and are indeed much appreciated by the people. What a large percentage of the people needs to see and feel is our passion for the Kingdom, consecrated men open to challenges, ready to embrace new ideas and plans, and to let go of ‘posts’ and titles.

Here too we are helped by the ‘wisdom of the least, the excluded’ whose lives are not bound by rigid structures, but are rather animated by an attitude of openness to novelty, to allow themselves to be surprised by everyday events, thus avoiding routine and burnout.

Assured by the potentiality we have in our resources and structures, we are open to the encouraging words of the prophet Isaiah who reveals to us a God who is completely free from limitations and fixed patterns, anxious to rekindle the fire and missionary zeal of his people (cf. Is 43, 18-19).

Conclusion

It is the ordinary people, our lay missionaries, our own cultural roots; the diverse realities of the lives of our people in which we share, these are the reason and the motivation for a profound spiritual renewal. From that vantage point we reread Sacred Scripture and we place ourselves in the same perspective of God: “what I am looking for is the meek and contrite of heart, the one who has fear of my word” (Is. 66, 2).

By Fr. Marcelo Cattaneo, SVD - Zonal Coordinator PANAM

Published in the newsletter “Arnoldus Nota” – May 2018