The extraordinary missionary month embraces the universality of the Church. First of all, celebrating this month helped us to renew the missionary sense of our adherence of faith to Jesus Christ, faith freely received as a gift in Baptism.
During this time, the whole Church is able to feel more the universality, passion and enthusiasm in the proclamation of the Gospel.
The Missionary Cooperation Office between the Churches and the Missio Foundation organized at the conclusion of the Extraordinary Missionary Month, a Forum at Fraterna Domus of Sacrofano (Rome) from 28th to 31st October titled as “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World”. The forum was organized to continue to reflect on the missionary month and to present the pastoral theme proposed to the Italian Church. The participants were the Bishops in charge of the Regional Missionary Commissions, the directors of the Diocesan Missionary Centres with their equip, the representatives of the Missionary and Religious Institutes, the Fidei Donum priests, the International volunteers and the lay missionaries came together for a common discernment.
The nature of the Church is missionary and is missionary by vocation. This Extraordinary Missionary month was a very enriching experience for me, a missionary sister who works in Italy, to be more and more aware of my vocation and the joy of belonging to this “Church which goes forth”.
In these days, we have been able to rediscover how the life of a baptized and sent person is a richness to be given, announced and communicated. Each of us are the fruit of the love of Jesus. He asks us to walk together in the Church with a spirit of dialogue, confrontation, prayer, communion and sharing. As the core of this experience, we are called to convert our lifestyle, relationship with God and with others, to be a Samaritan Church that goes forth to encounter the other, a Magdalene Church that announces with joy the risen Jesus and a Church of Mary that walks and accompanies her children.
Being baptized invites us to recognize that God is the creator of all peoples and we are His children and limited creatures. This makes us as brothers and sisters whose reciprocal presence is a call to care for the other freely, to witness the joy of the Gospel. Faith is not a shirt to put on and remove easily, but it must be integrated, a faith that saves and bears witness.
In trying to assume the configuration of Christ and to resemble Him, every Christian must commit himself to be a stone in the construction of the Church, which identifies itself – like Jesus – with the poor, the abandoned, the prisoners, the sick and the excluded. The life must be continually regenerated in order to be a transfigured persons in Christ and to make His humanity visible. In this faster and ever-changing society, every Christian is called to be aware of the gift received and to become a configuration of the Gospel in his life, without excluding anyone, but welcoming everyone freely and without reservation.
Therefore, baptism is not only a gift, but also an identity, as we can clearly understand from the words of Anita Cervi at the end of the workshops:
“Baptism is an identity that has the face of Christ and makes us children and brothers. It is also martyrdom and at the same time a joyful awareness of being a Church that welcomes and integrates missionary experiences. The Church must be welcoming, and be able to live in the light of the Gospel, not just written words but encountered through others”.
Therefore, “Baptized and sent” are not just two words, but are two movements that characterize the baptized persons that cannot be separated. They are two movements that are actually opposite, but in reality, complement each other. In fact, the dimension of being sent makes sense only starting from the experience of life lived, we can ask ourselves to go out of the schemes, restricted plans and calculations.
Another important point arising from the workshops is the hope of an authentically missionary Church because today it is no longer “doing” mission but “being” a mission that listens to God and the brothers and sisters. A Church that is “all-inclusive”, interconnected, a Church that is a bridge, ready to encounter the other and to treasure the experiences of those return from the missions.
The conference concluded with a desire to move forward and to look with hope towards the future. It hopes that all of us may undertake even risky ways which help us to start new ways, support us to be able to walk together, to take the initiatives, and to place ourselves in the world in which something that is not there and then accompany, to be concrete, to bear fruit. In short, not to accommodate ourselves in the forms that already exist, but to celebrate the joy of the Gospel in newness even at the ends of the earth.
Sr. Mary Susila Antony Pillai, Italy Province