SVD Province of ARS (Argentina South)
Summer missions revive Christian communities Summer holidays in Argentina are quite long.
They start at the end of November and last until the beginning of March. Being here, it is not difficult to understand that the summer heat is one of factors contributing to the long summer break from school activities. Next to schools, many other institutions and companies also reduce the pace of their work. Even the parishes go through this experience. However, these summer months are suitable for carrying out an evangelizing mission, especially during the months of January and February. For decades, one of the movements leading the summer missions are the so called “missionary groups” made up especially of young people but including also adults and, in some cases, entire “missionary families”.
Summer missions were born as a response to the pastoral needs in vast regions of the country; they continue to expand just as the pastoral needs also grow. The spirit behind them is the call from the Latin American Church that in its last General Conference in Aparecida invited all baptized to be “disciples and missionaries”.
Last January, I had the opportunity to accompany the summer mission held in San Francisco Solano, our new SVD parish in Alto Comedero de Jujuy. This is a new community that is growing very fast, at the rhythm of the galloping urbanization. Every year hundreds of new houses are built in the surrounded areas of the locality. People establish themselves in the vicinity of Jujuy hoping to have better living conditions. Unfortunately, this expectation is not always fulfilled.
The parish community offers a great opportunity for a fruitful pastoral work. Among the new settlers are found Christian communities leaders, volunteer catechists and pastoral workers who were active in their respective parish communities to which they belonged before coming to Jujuy. Many of them are rediscovering their Christian vocation of service in the Church. This was the reason why many persons responded to our call for a summer mission. We were happy to see many people of different age’s brackets and conditions of life participating in the said mission. One of them caught my attention: he was an elderly man who, after every mission day, returned home very tired. However, next day, he would come back full of energy and enthusiasm and ready to start a new mission day. He repeated every day: “I cannot stay at knowing that there is so much to be done in the mission.” Among the missionaries for this summer mission were also mothers who took their children with them when they went for the home visits.
The lay missionary movement in Alto Comedero is worth mentioning because it is a way by which people become aware of their Christian commitment. Ten years ago, the summer missions were carried out by SVD missionary groups coming from different parts of Argentina. Slowly, the local pastoral agents were integrated in the lay missionary movement. Now, as it occurred in the last summer mission I just mentioned, the local Christian community assumed the full role of being missionaries to/among themselves. The community is already talking about the next step: to go out and be missionaries beyond the borders of the parish.
SVD Province of BRC (Brazil Central)
We have had many successful activities with lay people in our SVD Province. I just want to highlight, among others, the activities carried out by the team of the Characteristic Dimensions (The four Characteristic Dimensions integrated into one); the mission week held every month in our SVD parishes. Our theme for this year is the spirituality of the Bible and the Characteristic Dimensions and is being implemented in communion with the members of the parish (our confreres and lay leaders). The activities to carry out the theme in each parish include workshops and family visits. We believe that by integrating the Characteristic Dimensions into one single team is a good way to give witness to and to be with the lay people in our world today.
ArnaldoAlves de Souza
SVD Province of ECU (ECUADOR):
The social reality of our SVD new parish (Saint Arnold Janssen) in the Province of ECU, located in northwest part of the city of Guayaquil (Ecuador), is a great challenge for our pastoral work. With a population of nearly 30,000 inhabitants, the parish has parishioners from different places in Ecuador. Adding to this already difficult situation is the political impasse on the grounds in areas of irregular settlements complicates the lives of the families who participate in the pastoral life of the parish. Most live not so near the Church, with little possibility to economic activities, in constant struggle to survive against the violence in its various forms. These social realities facing the Church and our mission are hopeful presences. Most have approached the Church thanks to the visits that we do to households promoting the prayerful reading of the Bible and sharing life experiences. Thanks to these visits has been increased the presence and participation of families in the pastoral life of the parish especially in family catechesis and the participation of the mission and liturgical celebrations. It is thus that we thank God and trill for the commitment of so many lay faithful in the evangelising activity of the Church. Result of this commitment is the sending of 24 youth and adults to participate in the Mission in our and in other parishes. Some of these young people and adults actively participate in parish life. Prior to the mission the majority of youngsters attended different formations in Quito, Daule, Bahía de Caráquez and Salinas organized by the biblical Centre, Pontifical, Congregation of the Sisters of Providence. Also in the respective parishes, is give them a systematic training disciples and missionaries of Jesus-themed, training them in skills that would help them in the missionary development in the communities of mission during Holy week. Young people were very happy for the opportunity to service in churches needed.
Provincia SVD de CHI (Chile): Los pobres nos evangelizan
Las actividades misioneras de los jóvenes misioneros del Liceo Alemán del Verbo Divino en Los Ángeles Chile, consisten en ofrecer sándwiches, cafés y tés a la gente de la calle y en dialogar con ellos y ellas. Un sábado por la noche, después de la celebración de la Santa Eucaristía, invité a algunos padres, maestros y algunos miembros de consejo directivo del colegio para que acompañaran a los jóvenes en su misión.
Entre los padres de familia que nos acompañaron estaba un empresario muy conocido cuyo nombre no quiero revelar en este artículo. Él había venido para acompañar a su hijo de 16 años que estaba participando de la misión.
A la medianoche, cuando nuestras actividades estaban a punto de terminar, una persona de la calle, de mediana edad, apareció de repente buscando alimento y refugio. Le ofrecimos un café y un sándwich y cuando terminó de comer, él mismo se ofreció a decir la oración final antes de regresar a nuestros lugares. Nos invitó a ponernos de rodillas para la oración lo cual todos hicimos. El empresario que nos acompañaba, y que estaba al lado mío, se puso también de rodillas.
Su oración fue más o menos así: «Que el Señor bendiga a todos los misioneros en sus esfuerzos por ayudar y dar alegría a los demás. Señor, tú sabes que no tengo nada. No tengo un lugar para dormir ni pasar la noche. Pero yo te tengo a ti, Jesús, en mi corazón. Tengo la Virgen María en mi corazón»
Durante la sesión de evaluación antes de regresar a nuestros hogares, el empresario, con lágrimas en sus ojos, hizo el siguiente comentario: «Yo no puedo decir que a Jesús y la Virgen María en mi corazón. Lo que tengo en él son los sentimientos y preocupaciones de mi negocio: la afluencia de dinero en los bancos. ¿Cómo puede este pobre hombre demostrar su adhesión a Jesús y a María?». Mirándolo le respondí: «Los pobres nos evangelizan». Es esta la razón por cual el tema, cuando llevamos a cabo nuestras actividades pastorales,es: «Vamos a evangelizarnos a nosotros mismos».