Ad Gentes 20

Ad Gentes lays out in a hierarchical way the tasks of a “young church.” 

Since the particular church is bound to represent the universal Church as perfectly as possible, let it realize that it has been sent to those also who are living in the same territory with it, and who do not yet believe in Christ. By the life witness of each one of the faithful and of the whole community, let the particular church be a sign which points out Christ to others.

Sensible. In other words, the responsibility is not with missioners alone, but also with the clergy and faithful of the region. Next the role of the bishop is described:

Furthermore, there is need of the ministry of the word, so that the Gospel may reach all. The bishop should be first and foremost a herald of the Faith, who leads new disciples to Christ. In order that he may properly fulfill this noble task, let him thoroughly study both the conditions of his flock, and the private opinions of his countrymen (and women) concerning God, taking careful note also of those changes which urbanization, migrations, and religious indifferentism have introduced.

Then the role of the clergy, with a special consideration of unity among local and immigrant or visiting priests:

The local priests in the young churches should zealously address themselves to the work of spreading the Gospel, and join forces with the foreign missionaries who form with them one college of priests, united under the authority of the bishop. They should do this, not only with a view to the feeding the faithful flock, and to the celebrating of divine worship, but also to the preaching of the Gospel to those outside, let them show themselves ready, and when the occasion presents itself, let them with a willing heart offer the bishop their services for missionary work in distant and forsaken areas of their own diocese or of other dioceses.

Preferential option for the poor …

Let religious men and women, and the laity too, show the same fervent zeal toward their countrymen, especially toward the poor.

Bishops need not tackle the challenges of ministry formation in isolation, but should rely on a collective effort with neighbors: 

Episcopal conferences should see to it that biblical, theological, spiritual and pastoral refresher courses are held at stated intervals with this intention, that amid all vicissitudes and changes the clergy may acquire a fuller knowledge of the theological sciences and of pastoral methods.

The council bishops refer to Presbyterorum Ordinis as a source for more guidance on priestly formation and ministry:

For the rest, those things which this council has laid down, particularly in the Decree on the Life and Work of Priests, should be religiously observed.

What do you think of the prescription of the following paragraph? I’m sure the council bishops were well aware of various cultural practices outside of Europe that would seem to be in conflict with moral values. How long does one continue practices at serious odds with Church discipline?

In order that this missionary work of the particular church may be performed, there is need of qualified ministers, who are to be prepared in due time in a way suited to the conditions of each church. Now since (people) are more and more banding together into associations, it is very fitting that episcopal conferences should form a common plan concerning the dialogue to be held with such associations. But if perchance in certain regions, groups of (people) are to be found who are kept away from embracing the Catholic Faith because they cannot adapt themselves to the peculiar form which the church has taken in there, it is hoped that this condition will be provided for in a special way, until such time as all Christians can gather together in one community. Let individual bishops call to their dioceses the missionaries whom the Holy See may have on hand for this purpose; or let them receive such missionaries gladly, and support their undertakings effectively.

“Young Churches” also have a role to play in the continuing effort toward a universal salvation in Christ. Note the expectation for the charism of missioners even in a young diocese with its own shortages.

In order that this missionary zeal may flourish among those in their own homeland, it is very fitting that the young churches should participate as soon as possible in the universal missionary work of the Church, and send their own missionaries to proclaim the Gospel all over the world, even though they themselves are suffering from a shortage of clergy. For their communion with the universal Church will be somehow brought to perfection when they themselves take an active part in missionary zeal toward other nations.

Any thoughts?

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About catholicsensibility

Todd and his family live in Ames, Iowa. He serves a Catholic parish of both Iowa State students and town residents.
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