Redemptoris Missio 66: More On Missionaries And Their Institutes

So, we’ve been talking about “Missionaries and Religious Institutes Ad Gentes.” I know it’s traditional, but I find the term “institute” weird. Are these not religious orders? And even those not, are they communities of like-minded, like-oriented mission?

From Vatican II:

Missionary institutes, drawing from their experience and creativity while remaining faithful to their founding charism, must employ all means necessary to ensure the adequate preparation of candidates and the renewal of their members’ spiritual, moral and physical energies.(Cf. Ad Gentes 23, 27)

And from the Paul VI curia:

They should sense that they are a vital part of the ecclesial community and should carry out their work in communion with it. Indeed, “every institute exists for the Church and must enrich her with its distinctive characteristics, according to a particular spirit and a specific mission”; the guardians of this fidelity to the founding charism are the bishops themselves.(Cf. Sacred Congregation for Religious and Secular Institutes and Sacred Congregation for Bishops, Directives for Mutual Relations between Bishops and Religious in the Church Mutuae Relationes (May 14, 1978), 14b; cf. n. 28)

Not all bishops are familiar with all the charisms of all the institutes/communities. But if they are to be true to this charge, they must be. Or embrace the strongest trust in them.

The “present” situation, or rather, that of 1990:

In general, missionary institutes came into being in churches located in traditionally Christian countries, and historically they have been the means employed by the Congregation of Propaganda Fide for the spread of the faith and the founding of new churches. Today, these institutes are receiving more and more candidates from the young churches which they founded, while new missionary institutes have arisen in countries which previously only received missionaries, but are now also sending them. This is a praiseworthy trend which demonstrates the continuing validity and relevance of the specific missionary vocation of these institutes. They remain “absolutely necessary,”(Ad Gentes 27) not only for missionary activity ad gentes, in keeping with their tradition, but also for stirring up missionary fervor both in the churches of traditionally Christian countries and in the younger churches.

Necessary, but not alone.

The special vocation of missionaries “for life” retains all its validity: it is the model of the Church’s missionary commitment, which always stands in need of radical and total self-giving, of new and bold endeavors.

The focus is not ideally on the institutes themselves, but on the fruitfulness of the ministry. I have to say: if “temps” could handle the apostolate to the tune of, say, ninety percent, then we would be looking at a shift. Let’s keep in mind” institutional maintenance is a losing game. The Church and its missionaries must be flexible, able to adapt quickly.

Therefore the men and women missionaries who have devoted their whole lives to bearing witness to the risen Lord among the nations must not allow themselves to be daunted by doubts, misunderstanding, rejection or persecution. They should revive the grace of their specific charism and courageously press on, preferring – in a spirit of faith, obedience and communion with their pastors – to seek the lowliest and most demanding places.

This is true. But lifelong missionaries worth their salt do not object to a wider net for service. Sometimes young people can be drawn into the life from a good example in active ministry. Not just watching it on tv or the internet. Or from overseas religious rotated to the home front for a parish talk. And sometimes a missionary returns home after a year or few with important connections and links to foreign lands.

This document is available online here and is © Copyright – Libreria Editrice Vaticana


About catholicsensibility

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