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“All the dioceses of the world enter into our plans.”

 

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Ad gentes – Interview in Porto Alegre

23/11/2010: Brazil

On October 22nd the Commission on Consecrated Life and Laity of the Province of Rio Grande del Sur, taking advantage of the presence of the Coordinator of the Mission Ad Gentes Project, organized a meeting to emphasize the significance of the project. We wanted to show the importance of this work so that people of diverse groups and sectors of the Province would be able to know about and perhaps become part of the AG project, especially since the Province itself is the fruit of the strong missionary spirit of three Brothers who founded it some 110 years ago. The missionary spirit has always been present in southern Brazil; all we need to do is remember the time from the 50’s to the 70’s when the missionary presence of the Province was so important in terms of “quantity and quality” in the countries of Angola and Mozambique, which then belonged to the Marist Province of Portugal. Until today the presence of the Brothers in that Province is very visible in Angola, while they still collaborate with the Ad Gentes Project. Intending to give new vigor to this missionary spirit, the commission on Consecrated Life and Laity put together a small video-clip with an interview, in order to make this project known. It was produced in both English and Portuguese. The interview with Brother Teofilo was made by Sergio Luis Schons in Portuguese, and by Jessica Feijo in English. Brother Roque Puhl was in charge of filming the video.And the video was born….At the start of the interview we encounter the expression AD GENTES: which treats of the first evangelization to those who have never heard the words of Christ. In classical and Biblical language it is the proclamation of the gospel “to the Gentiles”, “to the pagans”. Saint Paul was, without a doubt, the great apostle AD GENTES in the early Church. We noticed that the one interviewed was very happy at the mention of Saint Paul, particularly now when we have just celebrated the Pauline Year. This Apostle was truly “a giant”, that is not to say that he did not have his problems. His writings show the portrait of a brave man who suffered all for the sake of the Gospel. There was no one who could discourage him. At a conclusion almost spontaneous – at the end of the first group of questions – Brother Teofilo added: “I would like all my Brothers and laymen and laywomen in Mission Ad Gentes to look up to this special missionary so that he may be a light for all.” This will just not happen through sheer will power. It will happen if we center our lives radically on Christ. It is not an accident that the expression “in Christ” appears dozens of times in the Pauline scriptures.Then he gave a quick review of the history of Mission Ad Gentes, the start of which is fairly recent. We all remember its launching and the enthusiasm with which it was received in Sri Lanka in 2005. The name AG is real, but it is fair to remember that the spirit of mission Ad Gentes always existed in our Congregation. What we relaunch today is the defense and the development of a patrimony that was left to us by the thousands of Brothers who gave their lives for the Kingdom of God on all continents. The Congregation in general and a new generation of Brothers, now enriched by the presence of laymen and laywomen, has a serious obligation to revive the missionary enthusiasm of the Institute. Without this dimension the Marist Institute would diminish in meaning. It would not respond to its rich history of 200 years of existence and still less to the desire of our Founder: “All the dioceses of the world enter into our plans.” The Mission AG is not a fad or a whim of some general Administration: it is an historical imperative in the life of the Congregation.The Mission AG is directed, above all to Asia, but exclusively so. A triple reason justifies this option: • An ecclesial reason: Pope John Paul II returned various time to this theme: that Asia may be the evangelized continent of the third millennium, as Africa and Latin America were in the second and Europe was in the first.• A congregational reason: the number of Brothers and laypeople working in Asia is very low in comparison to those working in Africa, in Latin America or in Europe. A more equitable distribution would bring more Brothers and laymen to Asia.• A social reason: In Asia we find greater concentrations of youth and of poverty. It ought therefore to be a field of choice for the Marist apostolate so attentive to these two confluences: youth and poverty. The option for the Asia as a priority continent does not eliminate other centers of attention and need where the Marist presence is weaker and more fragile. A good discernment will lead us to respond to these needs which are within the spirit of Mission AG. This project may bring to the Institute a greater vitality. The primary reason of Mission AG is always to announce the WORD, the construction and consolidation of the Kingdom of God in the mission lands. This does not stop that which from the beginning has been a preoccupation with local vocations, because only local vocations will succeed in bringing about a true “inculturation” of the Gospel which we speak about so much today. The term is new, but the reality is certainly long standing. The European Jesuits and Franciscans who left for Japan in an Ad Gentes missionary adventure in the XV, and XVI centuries were called: “the Japonisized”. They had been profoundly become one with the cultural elements of the Japanese people and culture. The same thing happened in other ways in Asia. So it is today, the AG missionary has to pay close attention, almost total attention, to the culture. However, two things must be kept in mind:• There is no compromise when the culture clearly offends the Gospel.• Be concerned with the development of local vocations: for reasons that are evident, they will always be the ones who are better able to inculturate the Gospel.The experience of producing this small clip offered us much more than can be explained in this short article. There are some elements which allow us to dream of other small articles such as the formation of missionaries, the fascination of the missionary vocation, without forgetting the difficulties, the relative nature of contracts, the novelty of having laypeople in the mission….Two written booklets accompanied this interview:• “Project Mission AD GENTES – Testimonies” (the statements of the members of Group VII who just left for their missions).• “Project Mission AD GENTES – Four Texts” (a letter of the Vice-Provincial of Brasil Centro-Sur on Mission AD GENTES).It is hoped that this outline produces the desired results for the Province and for Brazil.________________Porto Alegre, October 23, 2010Sergio Schons (Pastoral Delegate)Jessica Feijo (Commission Secretary)

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