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October 2, 2012

The Future of Maryknoll

Sunday, September 29, 2012

Maryknoll Sisters Motherhouse
This weekend I have been attending a Symposium put on by the Maryknoll Sisters at Maryknoll, New York regarding the future of mission. The purpose is to look to the third millennium and see how we should do mission differently if need be. Several distinguished guest speakers were present, including Most Reverend Alvaro Leonel Ramazzini, JCD, Bishop of Huehuetenango, Guatemala; Dr. Patricia Benitez-Licuanan, who was chair of the UN Commission on Women and the UNESCO National Commission of the Philippines; Dr. Anna Kajumulo Tibaijuka, the first African woman appointed Under-Secretary General and Executive Director of the United Nations Human Settlements Program; and Dr. Joe Holland, professor at the St. Thomas University School of Law and the Florida Center for Theological Studies, and President of Pax Romana/Catholic Movement for Intellectual and Cultural Affairs USA.

Other panels of speakers were also present, most from the larger Maryknoll world of Fathers and Brothers, Sisters, Lay Missioners and Affiliates. Some of the key and interesting points that should be heeded as we look to the future of mission are as follows:

1.    Be Bold and Take Risks! We must remember our heritage in mission and recognize that if we are to be successful in our work, we must be willing to take risks and fail occasionally. This can be scary, especially when we are going to a place that may be hostile to our message or where we have not previously been. However, this is the heart of mission, and leads to the next point:

2.    The Needs Should Determine the Ministry, Not the Ministry Determine the Need. We can very easily get complacent in our work, especially as we grow older in mission. Once we have established infrastructure and planted our roots, it can be very difficult to get up and move or change again. Yet that is what we are called to do. Our life in mission should be very fluid to adapt to and meet the needs as they come. We cannot determine that we will only provide one kind of ministry and not another. For instance, one area may need priests to be sacramental, while another may be satisfied with other ministry work. We should adapt to what is necessary to fill the void. This also means that we should be willing to go where we are needed, even if this may seem difficult to do. Sometimes the paths are not easy or even visible. However, as the Spanish proverb says: We create the path by walking.

3.    Mission Is Not Territorial, It Is Situational. We need to recognize that the world has changed. No longer do borders determine mission. Great need can be found all around us, and all of it are included in our call to mission. We can never become complacent or decide that we have left “the missions”. Mission is everywhere, and we are never called to leave it behind.

4.    Collaboration. We must be willing to work with those who are willing. This may mean that we are in an area with a priest, a Sister, a Brother, or a lay person. All are ministers of the Gospel and can create community. We must find support and community among ourselves and even trans-community, working with whichever groups are around. However, our collaborative efforts should be freeing, not restricting. If we stop taking risks or going to where the need is for the simple sake of collaboration, then we are missing the point. We also need to be willing to extend that collaboration to other areas as well. We MUST bring the US Church into the missions with us. This means that we must go beyond Church dates to Church involvement. Each and every missioner should find ways of attaching themselves to a Bishop, a diocese or a parish. They should encourage and allow the parish to support them financially, while continually updating and providing pictures to the parish of the work taking place. Missioners should encourage youth groups or other parish groups to come for short-term mission projects (1-2 weeks, possibly more) where parishioners get their hands dirty with the missioner they are supporting. This type of short-term mission is not meant to bring major change to the people in mission. It is meant to bring great change into the hearts and minds of those who GO on mission. This type of set-up mimics the success of the Evangelical mission and keeps mission on the minds of the average American parishioner.

In the end, we need to recognize that the call to mission is as strong as ever. We need to be relevant to the needs of the modern world and proactive in our involvement in the American church. We can no longer be lone rangers who disappear into the mission field. We must be constantly encouraging others to join us or to participate in other ways. We must be bold, daring, innovative and willing to go where we are needed at all times, not just where or when it is convenient. We also should allow for the diversity of the missioner and not pre-determine what he or she will or will not be able to do. We must always keep in mind the needs of the diocese and the bishop that we serve. And finally, we must be willing to drop models and ways that are not productive. There is great need out there everywhere we look. They never disappear, they just simply change. That is why I believe that the third millennium is not the sunset of mission or the Church. It is simply the dawn of a new beginning.

by Seminarian Jonathan Hill

1 comment:

Fr John Eybel said...

Good job, Jon, synthesizing values presented in the Maryknoll Sisters' Symposium. May I add how Peter Morin was quoted characterizing wholesome church development, that "the new will grow in the shell of the old."