Statement of the CRI mission congress 2012
“LET YOUR LIGHT SHINE BRIGHTER!”
CRI Mission Congress 2012
Dharmaram College, Bangalore
Having received the command from Lord Jesus Christ to preach the Good News to the ends of the earth and to evangelize all peoples, as we prepare for “the year of faith” (October 2012-September 2013), the Priests’ Section of the Conference of Religious of India (CRI) convened a Mission Congress to rekindle and energize the commitment of the religious priests to evangelization of the world at large. With the motto, “Let Your Light Shine Brighter!” the CRI Mission Congress, held on 17-18 April 2012, at Dharmaram College, Bangalore, called for consciously involving in the evangelization mission in and through the personal and institutional involvement in the social life of the people. This coming together of CRI members aimed at inspiring and empowering each other with personal presence, prayers and testimonies, which in turn should enable the consecrated religious to rededicate them to the mission of Jesus. Thus, this grand celebration of our faith aims at enlarging the horizons of Christian mission and deepening of the missionary commitment in the Church.
In the context of secularization and institutionalization, Catholic religious life has undergone tremendous transformation in recent times. This has adversely affected their commitment to Christ’s mandate to evangelize. As "the process of secularisation has produced a serious crisis of the sense of the Christian faith and role of the Church," there is a necessity to "promote a renewed evangelisation" wherever the Church has long existed "but which are living a progressive secularisation … and a sort of 'eclipse of the sense of God' (Pope Benedict XVI)." In order to remedy such a malaise in the heart of Christian life of witness, there is a necessity to animate and rejuvenate our faith in God so that the missionary mandate received by us could be lived to its fullness.
The Church, “being missionary by her very nature” (Ad Gentes 2), has been established by the proclamation of the Good News by the Apostles and the subsequent generations of committed missionaries. However, today, as our contemporary society relies more on reason and is getting more secularized, it is in a greater need for the Gospel. Both Blessed Pope John Paul II and Pope Benedict XVI maintain that the Church is in need of a new evangelization. In the secularized world, even the baptized seem to be losing track of the Gospel message; hence, the call for new evangelization in an attempt to reach out to all with the Good News of Jesus Christ. New evangelization is an invitation to move forward from maintenance to mission; re-evangelization or new evangelization should address who are Christians only by name; if the baptized have lost their sense of being genuine Christians, they must be assisted to rejuvenate their faith. Many baptized Christians shy away from their responsibilities as members of the Church; hence, the call to revitalize the life of witness on the part of religious priests, based on their double commitment as religious and ordained ministers of the Catholic Church to the duty of evangelization in and through their words and deeds, and by their very being. Then, they will become the light of the world and will become truly self-diffusive, shining brighter through their authentic life of witness.
Telling the story of Jesus in relation to the vicissitudes of the lives of people is the primary task of evangelization; it is both an invitation open to all Christians and a challenge especially entrusted with the religious priests. It is a challenging task to infuse our socio-cultural settings, civic, economic, and political life and means of communication with values of the Gospel. As modern man listens more to the witnesses than to teachers and as no Christian can exempt himself from the duty of life witness to the person and values of Jesus, we need to interculturate our personal as well as socio-cultural lives through person-to-person communication of the Word of God.
While caution needs to be exercised to avoid proselytization and uncharitable confrontations in the efforts of evangelization, such unfounded accusations alone shall not become the reason for shying away from our foundational Christian call of ongoing life witness through a life of charity and empowerment of the other. In the pluralistic context of India, our appreciation and open-mindedness to the brethren of other religions shall not come in the way of our readiness to share the Good News with them in and through our existential engagements. If anyone were to encounter Jesus Christ through our witness and proclamation, we shall also exercise our responsibility to lead them to the Church, as joining the Church is not an option but a necessity since the Church is inseparably connected to Christ (LG 14).
As building a stable society calls for the establishment of institutions, consecrated religious shall resist the temptation for institutionalization. Institutions and their professional programmes should not eclipse the Good News of Jesus; instead, they must be designed in such a way that they would ultimately serve the purpose of proclaiming Christ. In the given context of many religious carrying out their mission in the ambience of institutions, they shall consciously strive to avail their institutional resources for the establishment of God’s Kingdom. Moreover, it is not by running away from institutions and structures, but by infusing them with the values of the Gospel and by employing all available facilities and resources for the more effective proclamation of the Word that the religious of India will succeed in fulfilling the God-given mandate to evangelize. Institutions, if creatively used, can offer us wonderful opportunities and tools for successful evangelization. If the services offered by our institutions are capable of facilitating an encounter with Jesus, our beneficiaries will become the messengers of the Good News in their own families and in the wider society.
Consecrated religious have a prime place in the heart of the Church, as they are completely set aside for the mission of the Church. Their responsibility, therefore, is not only to maintain the established Church, but also to go to the ends of the earth to proclaim the Word of God, especially to those who have not yet heard and encountered Christ in their lives. Although consecrated religious have a leading role to play in the foundation of the new Churches and the maintenance of the already established Churches, being placed within the ecclesial communion, they shall fulfil their role in collaboration with the Church leadership and the laity. Contributions of the laity and other non-ordained religious in the ministry of evangelization are of great importance, as they offer their whole-hearted services in the Church without having any official leadership role. But without them, the Church’s mission of evangelization of the world would be a handicapped one. In our attempt to involve in the acts of new evangelization, there is a significant place for family visits, youth animation ministries, empowering Basic Christian Communities, other-empowering ministries to the marginalized, etc.
Further, in the age of media communication, we the consecrated religious shall enter the domain of digital media to effectively announce the Good News, especially targeting Christian and non-Christian digital generation. As effectiveness in this area depends on creativity and expertise, the young religious especially must be trained in using the media communication, including the traditional print media and the internet based platforms, for the proclamation of the Word of God.
As "the Church has a duty everywhere and at all times to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus Christ," the CRI Mission Congress, along with all Christians, reaffirms the necessity to re-launch the evangelization thrust of the Church with a new vision of mission. An evangelizing spirit needs to be integrated into all our activities; indeed, the life and ministries of the consecrated religious should be seen through the lens of evangelization. However, as there is the danger of manipulating Christ and his message for the sake of our vested interests, we shall be intent on facilitating genuine encounter with Jesus Christ, not on our terms, but on Jesus’ own terms. Instead of concocting selective encounter with Jesus, a series of ongoing encounters with Him should be aimed at so that transformation in the personal lives of each religious will ultimately enable us to ‘mirror’ Christ. Then, we will live up to the expectations of the masses of India who consider the men and women of consecrated life as men and women of God. If it were to happen, the life of every consecrated religious will be powerful enough to touch and transform the lives of others by infusing them with values of the Gospel.
We firmly believe that despite all the human frailties that the consecrated religious experience in their existing missions, with Jesus Christ and his Church, we will succeed in effectively continuing the proclamation of the Word of God aiming at the redemption of humanity and the entire creation and the establishment of the Kingdom of God for the good of all. As we are our mission, together we shall go forward in fulfilling the mission of Jesus, for the humanity and for the entire creation.
May Jesus Christ, the missionary par excellence, whom the Father has sent to the world to preach the Good News, and the Holy Spirit who continues to abide in us to empower and establish God’s Kingdom through the Church accompany us!
May Holy Virgin Mary, the star of new evangelization, be our unstinting support and inspirational model!
May Apostle St. Thomas, our father in faith, St. Francis Xavier, the great pioneering missionary of India, and saintly and blessed missionaries of our country intercede for the success of the life of evangelization carried out by the consecrated sons and daughters of the Indian Church, wherever they may be and whatever they do.