Thursday, January 15, 2015
“We address you with this letter to present the theme that we want to accompany our reflection during 2015. As we did in previous years, it is our desire to indicate some paths which each one, in their own context, may develop and translate into life-transforming action.” General Council.
Fr. González Galarza Fernando,
in South Sudan.
TO GOD FOR THE MISSION
Cordial greetings and best wishes in the Lord Jesus!
We address you with this letter to present the theme that we want to accompany our reflection during 2015. As we did in previous years, it is our desire to indicate some paths which each one, in their own context, may develop and translate into life-transforming action.
We found it hard to choose the theme, due mostly to the various events that await us in the coming months and the various proposals coming to us from all sides.
We think especially of the journey we have begun in preparation for the General Chapter, of the dramatic situations being gone through in several of our Provinces, the situations of violence and war present in our countries and all sorts of crises everywhere in the world.
We also see and welcome with joy the signs of hope, of courage, of strong witness by so many people, including that of many of our confreres, in the peripheries of the mission entrusted to us.
From among the many possibilities presented to us, we have decided to take the words of Pope Francis, through his Apostolic Letter to all religious on the occasion of the year of consecrated life, and we wish to propose this document to you as the theme of our journey during the year we are now beginning.
The reason for this choice is that it seems to be a text that can help us to deepen our reflection and preparation for the next Chapter, focusing our attention on one of the basic dimensions of our life, that of our consecration as Comboni religious for the mission.
We place ourselves before the Apostolic Letter to all Consecrated People as consecrated missionaries and accept the challenge to begin an examination of our being and acting to see how faithful and joyful we are in our consecration.
Among the aims Pope Francis sets out for the year of consecrated life, we may apply three to our situation and our experience as persons, as communities, as provinces and as an Institute.
The first of these aims is to look to the past with gratitude. It would indeed be wonderful if, in our community meetings, we were to keep the memory of the good that Our Lord has done to us and the good we have been able to do for others, sharing our experience with our confreres, simply to acknowledge the one who is the author and protagonist of our mission.
We look to the past with gratitude, acknowledging, in all humility, even our frailties and weaknesses as an opportunity to join in the journey of conversion that helps us to admit that we are vessels of clay that carry a precious treasure.
We look to the past to recognise the unfailing presence of the Lord who has never abandoned us and continues to make use of us in many parts of the world to progress his project of love for the poorest and most abandoned.
We look to the past to discover where the Lord expects change on our part, change in our mission, our habits, in everything that has become fixed and untouchable; to understand where the Lord waits for us with his newness and his surprises.
We look to the past of our mission and our consecration to see that the Lord has done marvellous things in us and through us. For this we are grateful.
The second aim is to live the present with passion. We cannot forget how many times Pope Francis has invited us to live in joy and to take care that the hope, enthusiasm and happiness that come from the knowledge that we are people consecrated to God, his work and his property, may not be stolen from us.
Certainly, living the present may become for us an occasion to appraise all that we do as missionary work in the different fields where we are present: pastoral work, mission promotion, formation and the promotion of missionary vocations, the service of the poor, witness and dialogue with other religions and in commitment for justice and peace. We wish to live all this with passion today, as Daniel Comboni would have done, whose dream it was to have a thousand lives to consecrate to the mission.
We look to the present with passion, dismissing the temptation of pessimism, the danger of fatalism or discouragement when we see that the number of missionaries is going down and that vocations are not as numerous as in other times. This is not the time to allow ourselves to be overcome by sadness but rather an opportunity to show that, when faced with difficulties, Our Lord makes us strong; when faced with crosses, humble; when faced with mistakes and sins, causes us to become people of faith.
We live the present with passion to show by our lives how beautiful the missionary vocation is and how the realisation that we belong to God and his mission fills our hearts with joy. This can only show itself in missionary creativity and the ability to involve many people who see us as repositories of an extraordinary vocation to which it is worth devoting all our energies. It is a vocation that takes no account of age; it becomes a passion for the young with a dream for the future, but also for the elderly who have savoured both the sweetness and the bitterness of this calling that consists of joys and crosses, of encounters and sacrifices, of embraces and abandonments.
The third aim, Pope Francis says, is to embrace the future with hope. We are convinced that we need to embrace the future with hope and it is for this reason that we do not wish to avoid the challenges launched against us by the world and the mission. We wish to be signs and witnesses of hope among the peoples and in the peripheries where we are sent. Through the radical form of our consecration, we wish to state that we do not share the vision of a world that is closed and concerned only with its own problems and that we do not believe in a society that seeks violence, only to make power and wealth the masters of our age.
Through our consecration, we wish to state that we are people who go against the tide because we believe in God’s plan for humanity.
The question we must surely ask ourselves is what we must do to translate this beautiful desire to live in hope into action, into works, into transforming our life and the life of our Institute. What are the signs of this hope that we already see in our midst? What can we do to become a ferment of joy, of serenity, of brotherhood and of justice in a reality that wants to make us part of the dynamics of discouragement?
In his letter, besides the aims, Pope Francis has added his hopes that they may become a guide for our reflection and evaluation.
What possible meaning does each of these expectations have for us, our communities, our Institute and our presence in mission?
1. – “Where there are religious, there is joy”. Are we religious Combonians who transmit that joy which is born of the encounter with the Lord, the Gospel and the poor?
2. – “I am counting on you to wake up the world”. Are we credible witnesses, capable of saying something that opens the way to the truth of the Gospel? Are we ourselves sufficiently awake or do we sleep, dreaming of comfort and the denial of sacrifice?
3. – “Experts in communion”. Do our communities speak of authentic brotherhood, of a true spirit of communion? Have we removed from among us the “monkish and gossiping” environment that Comboni had no time for when thinking of his missionaries?
4.- “Go into all the world”. Are we missionaries who are always ready to accept obedience, always ready to go where others will not, always ready to accept the mission as a gift, to leave all that would tie us to one place, to people or personal interests …?
5. - “I expect that each form of consecrated life will question what it is that God and people today are asking of them”. How attentive are we to the signs of the times both within and without our small reality? Do we allow ourselves to be questioned by what happens beyond the doors of our houses? Do we feel the effects in ourselves of modern forms of poverty? Are we sensitive to the search for God of many of our contemporaries or are we content with following the routine of our daily prayers? Are we sensitive to the need for the honesty, transparency, responsibility, coherence and radicality demanded of us, as people consecrated to the mission by our brothers and sisters? Does our lifestyle show the reason for all that we promised God and our confreres on the day of our consecration?
We feel that these three aims and these five expectations may be a genuine guide in the course of our personal, spiritual and Comboni formation.
We wish to invite everyone to allow themselves to be questioned by this letter that Pope Francis has written with such great affection but also with great clarity, reminding us of the urgent need to make a qualitative leap in living our consecration.
We, as Comboni Missionaries, are particularly concerned with taking the words of Pope Francis as an opportunity to live better our journey of preparation for the XVIII General Chapter, so that we may convert into works our desire to become true “Comboni missionary disciples, called to live the joy of the Gospel in today’s world”.
We wish you all a year full of blessings in the Lord and it is our hope that it will also be a year of profound growth in the desire to be people truly consecrated to God for the mission, just as St. Daniel Comboni expects from each of us.
With our very best wishes,
Fr. Enrique Sánchez G., mccj
Fr. Alberto Pelucchi, mccj
Fr. Antonio Villarino R., mccj
Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse, mccj
Bro. Daniele G. Giusti, mccj