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I am here to share with you what could be our mission in the future as Divine Word Missionaries. At the very outset, I thank Fr. Stan for giving me this wonderful opportunity to reflect along with you on this relevant topic. When we are called upon to speak of future realities, most of us tend to speculate what our future should be and accordingly we make our proposals. E.g.; we have often given speeches on what I would do if I were the Railway Minister, Mr. Lalu Prasad or what I would do if I become the PM of India? But called on to reflect on our future mission I cannot do the same, even though I am tempted to do so, with a topic so vital for our life and mission. So, in the first part of this presentation I would like to propose the basis for the future mission i.e. the life of the Divine Word, Jesus, endeavours of other congregations in the changing times, paradigm shift in the understanding of mission, changing dynamics of our Society and our General Chapters. In the second part I will share with you what necessitates such a future mission and in the third part what could be our future mission.
1. Basis for the Future Mission
1.1 First of all, the life of the Divine Word, Jesus, was one of love and service and it was for the realization of the Kingdom of God. He began his public ministry by proclaiming, “the kingdom of God is at hand repent and believe in the Gospel.” Lk. 4:18-19 Jesus presented His mission manifesto and this he lived out all through his life. Thus He inserted and immersed himself in fighting against the evil, the unjust structures and thus restored the lost dignity of the excluded. 1.2 Many congregations have already adopted to this essential dimension of mission today and many more are grappling with this reality. Holy Spirit Sisters have already taken a great leap in forming the future missionaries in this new paradigm Sr. Shalini, Provincial, India South Province, during the formation board meeting held at Jharsuguda mentioned about this shift in their functioning and formation). OFMs have set a clear-cut programme to form their future friars and many more congregations are embracing this hard way of witnessing instead of being only ministers of the Church and institutional representatives. 1.3 The XV General Chapter (2000) defined our mission today as “Prophetic Dialogue.” 1.4 Paradigm shift in the understanding of mission necessitates different approach to life and mission. We are called to move from a Church centered to a Kingdom centered approach to mission. There is a need for us to move from a geographical mission to a frontier mission where human situation is much more relevant than the geographical or numerical expansion. That’s why the issues related to justice, peace and integrity of creation urge us to move in that direction all the time. 1.5 We have to look at our future mission in the light of the growth of our congregation and in the context of globalization and secularization. SVD is a growing congregation in the church with relatively young membership. In the recent past our Society is becoming more and more ‘third-world’ in origin, particularly Asian and so we need to address the problems and struggles of our people in Asia in our future missionary endeavours.
2. Sings of the Times
2.1 Missionary challenges for SVDs Touched and affected by the realities of our globalizing and secularizing world, we are challenged and urged as a congregation to give an effective response to the concerns and needs of our times. We ourselves are not immune to the impact of globalization and secularization. The speed of change, the flow of information, the conveniences of travel, the availability of material goods, the focus on personal comfort and individual rights, the diminishing respect for life, the mobility of people, the fragmentation of families and societies, the search for meaning in life, the breaking down of national and cultural borders through economic and interdependence, and the struggles of peoples to maintain their rights, dignity and identity touch us as persons and as community. We are urged to reread the signs of the times. The passing of Christendom In more and more places, active church-going Christians will live as a minority. This trend is nothing new. This is observed in many traditional Roman Catholic countries since Vat. II. While the change is coming quite unevenly in various parts of the world, it threatens many Christians. We live increasingly among neighbors who feel no pressure toward religious affiliation, and many of the children of religious parents are not churched in any active way. In these changes, Christians are being forced to question if they are to have a religious future at all. How can we make an appeal to this section of the population without the benefit of a position of privilege or advantage? The unchurched as formerly churched The task is greatly complicated by the fact that so many of the people who are outside the church were at one time church members. It is a great challenge to take the Christian story to those who have never heard it, but a double challenge to convince those with earlier and negative experience of the Christian community to give the church another try. Residential religious pluralism Our world mission is now a local mission in the cities, and even to some extent in smaller towns, as one's neighbours and co-workers may be Muslim, Buddhist, Hindu, or adherents of other traditional religions. When people are co-workers, children attend school together, and intermarriage looms as a real possibility, the confident sense of living as a Christian is deeply challenged. I see many more signs of conflict at this point than evidence of local congregations dealing positively with how to live together in this new situation. The minimal first step would be to provide opportunities to learn more about the religions of these neighbours. Challenges posed by Globalization and Secularization Globalization and Market economy: With its extreme focus on profit, a market economy fosters competitiveness that leads to greater gaps between rich and poor. The numbers of socially excluded people – like immigrants, refugees, the imprisoned, asylum seekers, the homeless, street children and the detained continue to increase. Trafficking of women, prostitution and the spread of HIV/AIDS are among the symptoms of market economy trends. Environmental destruction and ecological
imbalance result from the use of natural resources for immediate profit without consideration for the future. 2.5.2 Globalization and Technological development: Though providing us with fast and convenient ways of keeping informed and maintaining contact with one another, mass media also affect how we see and understand the global society and ourselves. Technological development has contributed to the misuse and manipulation of media, to violence, to consumerism, to concentration of power. It has given rise to moral and ethical issues surrounding techno-medicine, genetic engineering, cloning and other social justice concerns. 2.5.3 Globalization and Ethno-consciousness: As globalization moves the world toward a mega-culture, ethno-consciousness – the desire for a sense of cultural identity and belonging – often causes unstable political and economic situations, corruption, oppression, ethnic and tribal conflicts, violation of human rights, racism, religious fanaticism, poverty and terrorism 2.5.4 Secularization: Secularization has led us to lack of respect for persons and their values. Its most obvious symptoms are erosion of moral values on the personal, familial and societal levels. Individualism, loss of faith, loss of meaning in life, changing concept of the family and its disintegration, and the degradation of women are also consequences of secularization.
3. Our Future Mission
3.1 His mission our Mission We, the Divine Word missionaries are called upon to continue the mission of Jesus in today’s context. Jesus Christ was born outside the town; he lived on the road and died outside the city. We should be encouraged to go beyond the gates of our institutions and structures in a prophetical manner so that it might be possible for us to meet the excluded. Jesus had started the movement of establishing the Kingdom of God and we need to revitalize this movement in our future mission. He started movements of leading the people back to the Father, fighting against unjust structures, fighting against selfglorification and pro-life movement. So once again we need to pledge to make His mission our mission. Mission to the Restless Souls Many people today may not publicly profess their faith by certain worship patterns but we see in them greater thirst and hunger for values and for God. People are fed up and empty in a way after having gone behind the world and its pleasures. They are looking forward to live by the word of God and life enhancing values. We, the Divine Word missionaries first of all, need to be challenged by this phenomenon and take up our responsibility seriously in proclaiming the values of the Kingdom as manifested in the Scriptures.
Net working and Collaboration We need to examine the signs of the times critically and venture out to work along with others: religious, laity, NGOs and people of good will. To be effective and to with stand the pressures, of anti-life, anti-culture, anti-religious and anti-nature elements, in our mission we need to join hands with others. We need to work together to raise the status of women and the marginalized. We need to hear the cry of the unborn babies, children working in unjust and unhygienic conditions, oppressed women and the lost youth and lonely aged persons. We need to be part of many movements, passing of international and national legislation, the development of innovative programmes, and greater awareness of crimes committed on humanity and attacks on cultures and creation as a whole. Stewards of God’s Creation Creation is an on-going process and human beings are active partners with God in nurturing and caring for life. We need to acknowledge the environmental degradation and ecological imbalance that are the result of greed and exploitation of life and nature. This reality calls us to care for creation by taking concrete steps to preserve the environment, promote sustainable development, defend human rights, ensure respect for life and cultivate a stronger commitment for the integrity of creation. We need to take a stand for life especially with regard to ethical issues such as abortion, cloning and euthanasia. Global Warming: At the present rate of warming it is predicted that in 25 years there will be 25 million permanent refugees in Bangladesh alone due to permanent flooding. The UN says there are now 25 million refugees in the world. This ecological nightmare scenario is a sign of the times and is a wake up call to those of us who profess to defend and promote life, to get moving before it is too late. What good will our evangelization policies, or plans and priorities be, if the people to whom we minister are too busy filling sandbags all day long to keep the floods at bay, or are trying desperately to leave their countries with nowhere to go due to the increasing level of intolerance against refugees and asylum seekers in the world. Prophetic Dialogue Mission today must first and foremost be prophetic dialogue and not a monologue. It is a dialogue ...with People Who Have No Faith Community and with Faith-seekers ...with People Who Are Poor and Marginalized ...with People of Different Cultures ...with People of Different Religious Traditions and Secular Ideologies. Since it is a dialogue it has to be carried out in the atmosphere of openness and respect for the other, recognizing that God was present before our arrival, that the Spirit has sown the seeds of the word among all peoples and all cultures, and that we missionaries need to be evangelized by those whom we evangelize. However, we do have something to say, and we speak, like the prophets of the Old Testament, not in our own name, but in God’s.
Cyber Mission One of the most exhilarating frontiers of mission today is cyber-mission; the frontline use of IT to evangelize and create awareness among people. Years ago I heard a statistic that, at any one moment in time, generally two-percent of any audience is at the point of conversion and ready to receive Jesus. Now two-percent of the Internet is a LOT of
people. That means that on any given day ten million people online are at the point of conversion. Thus it’s a place where missionaries must be. Through this innovative mission, we can focus on cross-cultural mission web sites and strategic approaches to ministry online such as web-evangelism, email discipleship, web-based TEE (Theological education by extension) and icafes as a dialogue strategy. 3.7 Mission Youth Present world has many prodigal sons and daughters and many more rich young persons (Lk.15: 11-32; Mt. 19: 16-22) and they need someone to look into their eyes with compassion and embrace them so that they can rise and inherit eternal life. Pope John Paul II of happy memory held the youth in high esteem for he knew; if our world has to be safe it has to be through the value-based lives of these young persons. Our mission is not only to the lost but it has to be directed towards each and every young person in the world. Those who are lost we have to gain them back and those who are good we need to sustain them through appealing and innovative means of communication.
Conclusion: Going out to-encounter-change
“Going out to-encounter-change”, is the dynamic which is necessary to live our vocation at the present time. It means “going out” of the habitual, leaving our security, comfort and every form of possession and separation; “encountering” the excluded brothers and sisters and restoring the wounded creation, allowing ourselves to be evangelized by them as we witness joyfully to our faith in a spirit of love and openness and creating with them, spaces of hope and love. We are called to a kind of prophetic choice, in the sense of placing ourselves totally on the side of the excluded and sharing in their process of liberation. We need to embrace the excluded, the wounded humanity and the creation and work for justice, peace and integrity of creation, in our future mission. It is not enough to be concerned about them. It is a matter of sharing their life. It is a question of analyzing the causes of exclusion and of entering into the movements, (pro-life, environmental, justice, human rights movements) which the excluded themselves create in order to construct together possible and dignified alternatives of life. Therefore, we are called to re-root ourselves in Jesus and His values with creative fidelity. Walking in the footsteps of our founding generations, we, as committed men in mission, are challenged to be there for others in total availability to do the will of God. As a community of disciples today where is the Spirit leading us?
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