Querida Amazonia 89-90: Priestly Ministry In The Amazon

89. In the specific circumstances of the Amazon region, particularly in its forests and more remote places, a way must be found to ensure this priestly ministry.

This is the key issue.

Lay people can do some things, validly:

The laity can proclaim God’s word, teach, organize communities, celebrate certain sacraments, seek different ways to express popular devotion and develop the multitude of gifts that the Spirit pours out in their midst. But they need the celebration of the Eucharist because it “makes the Church”.[Catechism 1396; Ecclesia de Eucharistia 26; cf. Henri de Lubac, Meditation sur l’Église, Paris (1968), 101]

As if we need it, Pope Francis reminds us of the importance of Mass:

We can even say that “no Christian community is built up which does not grow from and hinge on the celebration of the most holy Eucharist”.[Presbyterorum Ordinis 6]

We can certainly cite experiences in other mission lands, Japan going decades without clergy, for one example. I don’t think we need to roll the spiritual dice on things like that. Not these days.

If we are truly convinced that this is the case, then every effort should be made to ensure that the Amazonian peoples do not lack this food of new life and the sacrament of forgiveness.

The Holy Father concludes, first with a go-to bit of advice. Pray:

90. This urgent need leads me to urge all bishops, especially those in Latin America, not only to promote prayer for priestly vocations, but also to be more generous in encouraging those who display a missionary vocation to opt for the Amazon region.[It is noteworthy that, in some countries of the Amazon Basin, more missionaries go to Europe or the United States than remain to assist their own Vicariates in the Amazon region.]

Do you detect a bit of chiding on this? Maybe we should. I can’t imagine a situation in which large numbers of clergy would move from one diocese to another, let alone across continents.

After the orations and criticism, we get to advice that’s at least equally important:

At the same time, it is appropriate that the structure and content of both initial and ongoing priestly formation be thoroughly revised, so that priests can acquire the attitudes and abilities demanded by dialogue with Amazonian cultures. This formation must be preeminently pastoral and favor the development of priestly mercy.[At the Synod, mention was also made of the lack of seminaries for the priestly formation of indigenous people.]

Seminaries within these diocese? I remain a skeptic on seminaries, and certainly ones that operate in child, teen, or university education structures. The best formation is apprenticeship as a lay disciple to clergy and other lay ministers. It’s one reason why bishops should be paying much closer attention to campus ministry, especially at secular universities. Why do I say that? I’ve said it before. Look it up.

Pope Francis post-synodal exhortation in full is on the hyperlink and it is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana

About catholicsensibility

Todd lives in Minnesota, serving a Catholic parish as a lay minister.
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