“Then they passed through Pisidia and came to Pamphylia. When thy had spoken the word in Perga, they went down to Attalia. From there they sailed back to Antioch, where they had been commended to the grace of God for the work that they had completed. When they arrived, they called the church to-gether and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles. And they stayed there with the disciples for some time” (Ac 14:24-28).
The General Chapter of 2003 has given us some indica-tions of what our Institute understands Mission Promotion (MP) to be. It did not hesitate to refer to the Chapter of 1997 (CA ’03, 105) where an entire chapter was dedi-cated to Mission Promotion: “Mission is Mission Promo-tion” (CA ’97, 95-106). Mission Promotion, in the context of the important question that accompanied the theme of the Chapter, “The mission of the Comboni Missionaries at the beginning of the third millennium,” continues to hold an important place in the life of the Institute.
The 19 magazines that are currently being published, the various Centers of Mission Promotion (CAM), the in-volvement in radio and television, the cooperation with local Churches, among others, only confirm that MP is Evangelization. The Chapter reminds us: “With our com-mitment to MP, we help all Churches to discover and to nourish the awareness of their missionary nature, and open out to the universal mission in a mutual exchange of their gifts” (CA ’03, 40.2). As the Chapter has rejected the concept of mission tied up to a specific geographical con-text (CA ’03, 37), so also the MP, today, has no geo-graphical restrictions. Mission Promotion, in a mutual ex-change of gifts, is open to any local Church where there is a Comboni community.
The Ministry of Mission Promotion
MP cannot be seen simply a strategy to be followed while doing pastoral work. It is instead an ecclesial ministry in the true sense of the word. The missionary vocation placed at the service of the Christian community, be-comes the ecclesial ministry of MP. “MP is the ecclesial ministry (understood as described in Evangelii Nuntiandi, 73) practiced within the ecclesial community, so that this community may be amenable to the promptings of the Spirit, take on mission as its essential aspect, and be open to its universal dimension” (José Valdavida, Dic-cionario de Misiologia y Animación Misionera, published by Monte Carmelo, Burgos 2003).
The dimension “ad gentes” must spring as a necessary component from within the Christian community, which develops an attitude of service in the way it lives its Chris-tian vocation. This is why missionaries are an integral part of any Christian community, be it their original one or the one where they work, and perform within it the ministry of charity in its missionary dimension. The document Ad Gentes already stated that: “The grace of renewal within the communities cannot grow if it does not spread in each one the scope of charity even to the ends of the earth.” Each community must have the ministry of MP as an es-sential and irreplaceable service.
A personalized Mission Promotion
MP must be an integral part of the ordinary pastoral activ-ity of each local Church, but it will be effective only when it will take shape in the person of mission promoters who provide this ministry. Occasionally we meet Comboni Missionaries who, having been assigned to MP, ask themselves: “What must I do?” “How one does MP to-day?” “With so many NGOs, has MP lost its meaning?” “How do you inspire young people so that the missionary message will touch their heart?”, and many more such questions. MP must be personalized, namely, the first di-mension to be sought must be the personal one, the per-sonal witness. Paul reminded his young disciple Timothy: “I remind you to rekindle the gift of God that is within you through the laying on of my hands; for God did not give us a spirit of timidity, but rather a spirit of power and of love and of self discipline. Do not be ashamed then of the testimony about our Lord or of me his prisoner” (2 Tim 1:6-8).
MP is basically a matter of personal witness from one’s own experience of what God has done with each one of us. The entire Christian community needs to be awak-ened, informed, inspired about the personal witness of the apostles of Jesus, the missionaries who, by vocation, have been called to proclaim the Kingdom.
Each one of us, beginning from our own experience, tal-ents, age, health condition and missionary and Comboni vocation, can be a mission promoter. It is not the pro-moter who adjusts to MP, but rather MP that is carried out with the gifts and talents of the promoter.
Continental Councils of MP
In the years between the 1991 and the 1997 General Chapters, 7 Continental Councils were held: 2 in Europe, 3 in America + Asia, 2 in Africa. But since 1997 and by a decision of the Chapter delegates no further Continental Councils were held. In chapter V, on Missionary Method-ology, the last General Chapter has decided to once again give importance to these continental councils through the general secretariat of MP (CA ’03, 129), in order to:
1st Contextualize MP. The Chapter insisted on a global vision of our being and living as missionaries. However, within this global vision, it is useful to contextualize the missionary message within the concrete realities of where we work (CA ’03, 1005.5). For this reason, the Continen-tal Councils of MP are the best venues where to ask our-selves: “What kind of MP must we do on this particular continent?” The answers and proposals will be dealt with during the upcoming Continental Assemblies of 2005 and from there the Charters of MP will evolve (CA ’03, 132) as a point of reference and a tool of continuity for efficient planning. They will also be a good working paper for the preparation of our “Ratio Missionis.”
2nd Organization of courses for the formation of mis-sion promoters (CA ’03, 129.1). During the last Conti-nental Assemblies of MP it became clear that we need to organize these courses at continental level, in order to prepare the mission promoters to exercise their ministry of MP. Today, more than ever, we feel the necessity of preparing our mission promoters, both those who work in the younger Churches, since in some places it is a minis-try that is not fully developed, and for those who work in the countries of the North (CA ’03, 133.2), where fast so-cial, political and religious changes make it necessary to revise and carry out MP from the grassroots.
3rd Training of skilled personnel. We urgently need skilled personnel for the two areas where MP is carried out:
Magazines: During the Consulta of last June the General Council has decided that over the next few years five con-freres will be prepared as journalists, to take up the re-sponsibility of some of the 19 magazines the Institute cur-rently has. “The General Council intends, starting now, to involve the continents in this discernment process” (Fa-milia Comboniana, July-August 2004, p.3).
Communications Media: “Specialization of qualified peo-ple in the field of the means of social communication” (CA ’03, 129.2). The Comboni presence in various means of communication in the local Churches makes us think that the technical preparation for this skilled missionary activ-ity is more and more necessary.
4th Improving the sale of and the collaboration among the magazines. The progressive decrease in subscrip-tions of the majority of our magazines is a warning sign that we have to start “preparing plans for the distribution of our magazines” (CA ’03, 129.3). The Continental Councils will be bodies to oversee and facilitate the coop-eration and the exchange of material, such as it already exists in some continents.
1. The need for an direct proclamation. A MP that does not directly proclaim Christ, will be a stunted MP that, even though not completely negative, will deprive the lo-cal Church of what is most essential in the entire process of evangelization: the incarnate witness of Christ (CA ’03, 40.1) (RM 44). Number 22 of Evangelii Nuntiandi reminds us that: “The Good News proclaimed by the witness of life sooner or later has to be proclaimed by the word of life. There is no true evangelization if the name, the teaching, the life, the promises, the kingdom and the mys-tery of Jesus of Nazareth, the Son of God, are not pro-claimed.”
2. Kerigma. The proposed evangelizing MP must have all the kerigmatic elements that proclaim the Paschal Christ, suffering in many situations of “Nigrizia”, who died crushed by the injustices so much present in many of the countries where we work and who rises in the hearts of many Christian communities where the missionaries be-come mainly witnesses, rather than protagonists of the evangelizing processes (CA ’03, 36).
3. MP within a catechetical process. MP at the beginning of the third millennium and with our gaze focused on to-day’s mission in the Church, must stick to a clear line of evangelization, placed into a catechetical process, where what was till now the “mission appeal day” has to give way to “days of mission catechetics” or, in the best of cases, will become part of a catechetical process in each of the local Churches (CA ’03, 105.6).
4. Comboni as Mission Promoter. Our MP is ongoing and living presence of the charism of St. Daniel Comboni. Comboni belongs to the universal Church just as MP opens each local Christian community to the entire local Church.
For personal and community reflection
The Word of God
- “Do not be ashamed then of the testimony about our Lord” (2 Tim 1:6-8)
- “When they arrived, they called the Church together and related all that God had done with them, and how he had opened a door of faith for the Gentiles.” (AA 14:27)
- “When the apostles returned, they told him all that they had done.” (Lk 9:10)
The Writings of Comboni
- S 1089 “I was inspired to found a small seminary”
- S 1785 “Men and money, money and men”
- S 1888 “That I may succeed in planting the cross of our holy faith in the heart of Africa”
- S 4166 “Truly great is the love that has been awak-ened for the Missions of Central Africa”
- S 5145 “It is proper that science and religion go hand in hand”
Questions for Reflection:
· Which elements of the activities of Mission Promotion of Comboni do you consider still relevant today?
· Contextualizing MP. What aspects do you think should be underlined in the ministry of MP today?
· MP is evangelization. Do I pay attention to the cate-chetical contents, so that evangelization be always present?
· If there are magazines in my province and delegation, do I cooperate in their distribution? Do I plan to get new subscribers?
Fr. Jaime Calvera Pi, mccj
Secretary General of MP