The joint document of the Missionary Institutes of Men and Women Founded in Italy
The Superiors and General Superiors of the Missionary Institutes Founded in Italy (men and women, Comboni, Consolata, PIME and Xaverian) have drawn up a document aimed at revitalizing the missio ad gentes in today's social and cultural context, encouraged by the call for the Extraordinary Missionary Month October 2019 by Pope Francis.
In the first chapter of the document, entitled "An encounter that has changed us," recalling the words that St. Paul VI pronounced in Manila in 1970, reiterates that "the mission cannot be an individual and solitary fact but, essentially, is a community event, a feeling of cum ecclesia: with the universal and particular Church of which we missionaries are an expression and from which we are sent, and with the particular Church to which we are sent."
The second chapter, "The Missionary Institutes ad Gentes," acknowledges the difficulties that mark identity, sense of belonging, structures, ways and places of commitment: "For some people the claim that “everything is mission and everywhere is mission” in reality reveals the fatigue and lack of motivation for the mission ad gentes, whose complexity and variety if subjectively interpreted, often become a reason to claim his/her “own” mission. The discomfort also involves formation and missionary animation, where criteria and methods are in question because of momentous and sudden changes. Likewise, in religious life we may note a weakening of the feeling of belonging, accompanied by marked reduction in number and aging of missionaries (especially in western countries)."
The Superiors and General Superiors therefore feel the need for an initial training that is more experimental and less theoretical, attentive to the human, relational and motivational aspects of the candidates. From the beginning of the formation process, they need to be clear about the charism ad gentes, ad extra, ad vitam and its implications.
Faced with objective difficulties there is no place for discouragement: "We believe that audacious humility is required to keep exploring new grounds and to allow ourselves to be challenged by the mission, the poor, the people with whom we share our life." The Founders of these institutes had strong roots in the local Church of which they are an expression of missionary spirit and witness: "Because of that, we want to reiterate with keener awareness that our contribution has to be considered as a missionary proclamation to people far away, to the outskirts of existence and beyond the geographical borders of our own Church. Even though the missionary reflection also speaks about inter gentes mission, which is a global mission not linked to geographical and juridical criteria, for us the ad gentes qualification remains a strong statement."
In an age where fear and suspicion of strangers and immigrants are increasingly implicit, these institutes also consider their task to "encourage the encounter between people and the dialogue between different cultures and religions", to "facilitate a fruitful exchange among local Churches on the different continents" and, with the utmost humility, to "recall the local Church to her missionary role against the temptation of self-absorption".
In the last chapter, "The Mission," it is noted that the changing situations in the world and the Church compel us to reconsider the ways of doing mission. Therefore, new models that give a framework of reference for missionary action are needed. "We long for a missionary style characterized by reciprocity where missionary men and women are at the same time evangelizers and the evangelized," the General Superiors write, emphasizing that "there can be no Gospel proclamation without metanoia, without conversion, both for the ones that proclaim it and the ones that receive it [...] There can be no Gospel proclamation without parresia, the courage of proclaiming the Truth and of judging the structures of death and alienation that suffocate the weakest among us: there is no proclamation without prophecy."
Lastly, mission is also a collaboration "between missionary Institutes, local Church, laity and community leaders, and all people of good will. In particular, we need to find a better synergy between strictly missionary Institutes and the local Churches where they work." The Superiors and General Superiors conclude that "evangelization is a passion for us, the passion for Christ and His Kingdom and, particularly, the passion for the “poor” of the world, the outcast and the excluded."