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Mission Ad Gentes – Group VIII

07/11/2011: Philippines

I had the chance to spend Mission Sunday, 23 October 2011, with the VIII group of Mission Ad Gentes. It is a bit bizarre to speak of a ‘group’ when there is only one Brother in the process of following his missionary formation at the Missionary School in Madrid.

Br César Henríquez shares with the readers of the WEB site some of his feelings before setting out on mission. This is an extract of a long interview conducted by Br Teófilo Minga, co-ordinator of Ad Gentes.


1. Your situation in Madrid…

Thank you, Br. Teófilo, for coming to see me. In this way, I feel your closeness but also the closeness of the Institution. I feel accompanied.

The Community who hosts me has exaggerated in my regard: the Brothers have always been very good to me. Every time I have needed something, the Brothers were there, all of them; I feel at home. I have always taken part in the community life, even in the drawing up of the community project; I have been one more in the community, taking part in all community activites.

The School’s schemes of work are similar to the ones in the schools of my Province – « América Central »: the organisation of the communities is very similar; so everything seems familiar to me.

 

2. The Missionary School of Madrid

The formation given at the School is excellent, very serious. It has been preparing missionaries for 20 years. It has the experience and a good solidity. But I find its perspective quite  « Eurocentric », since the majority of the participants are Europeans, preparing themselves especially, to go to Latin America and Africa ; one religious sister going to Philippines and I, we are the only ones heading for Asia.

It is clear among all the lecturers that missionary activity does not consist in imposing Christianity, but in proposing the experience of the crucified and risen Jesus. This point, common to all the lecturers and all the lectures, I have found very pleasing. Apart from respect for the local cultures, all the teachers have insisted on inter-religious dialogue. That is an essential aspect for me; I am sure that will be very useful to me in my future missionary activity. The content and structure of the course seem very interesting to me.

The School is also transformed into a centre of friendship; very quickly we felt we were friends. After the first week, we already had the impression of being in family. There is a very beautiful atmosphere among the 20 participants: 11 religious and 9 lay persons. These 9 lay people live in community, which is very interesting.

As one can deduce from what I have just said, the course seems very good to me; I would recommend it for other candidates. For me, there is only one « but »: it is not taking place in Asia. That is a pity. I was not expecting to come to Europe for formation; this was not in my plans; however I have accepted it as part of God’s surprises.

 

3. Personal experience on mission : sentiments, questionings…

My missionary concern is not new, I already had it in the Scholasticate. I spoke about it several times with Br Seán. I was in Rome when the first letter of invitation was published. Since then this subject, already in me, has returned again with more force.

So this current decision is a response to the missionary call; I do not doubt that have a missionary vocation; the call seems to me to come from God. And my commitment is very clear: to offer myself for a minimum of 9 years, subject on the renewal of my   « contract »; that does not pose any problem for me. My attitude is to be available and open. « Doesn’t that make you afraid? », some people ask me. And I reply: « Afraid? Why? No! » Perhaps a little anxious…

 

4. What would you say to future candidates?

I would tell them that the missionary vocation has to start from a personal experience of God and with God; that it should not be a personal adventure due to any other reason – to know new lands, discover new cultures, contact new people, intellectual or religious curiosity, even single dialogue with other religions… All that is valuable and   very positive, but should not be the deep motivation for a missionary vocation. On these bases alone, the missionary could be discouraged at the first difficulties, which will not fail to arrive…

I insist: the great motivation has to come from God, knowing oneself loved by Him, and knowing, with the help of the various mediations which assist in us in our discernment, that it is He who is calling us to this missionary adventure to give Him our life in giving it to the others who are our brothers and sisters.

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