About 150 mission scholars, practitioners and interested people gathered in Melbourne last October for the International Mission Symposium – an event aimed at celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s decree on Mission, Ad Gentes.
The Symposium explored the ways in which the understanding and practice of Mission has developed since Vatican II, but also looked to the future and considered some of the challenges of Mission in the world today.
Fr Jacob Kavunkal SVD, who was the key organiser of the event, says a highlight of the Symposium was the number and variety of people who attended. “The participants consisted not only of Divine Word Missionaries and Holy Spirit Sisters in sizeable numbers, but also other religious, laity, theologians, scripture scholars and even a bishop,” Fr Jacob says.
Key themes to emerge from the Symposium included: the idea that the Church is Mission, even as God, as the fountain of love is Mission; this Mission is expressed through the communication of love in different forms, like hospitality to the migrants and asylum seekers; care of those at the margins, including that of creation; equality and inclusiveness of all; a dialogue of rootedness and openness among the followers of religions; and the prophetic mission of the religious.
The speakers included prominent SVD/SSpS mission theologians from different parts of the world: Stephen Bevans (USA), Mary John SSpS (Rome), Lazar Stanislaus (India), Thomas Hughes (Brazil), Zenon Szablowinski (PNG), Jac Kuepers (Taiwan), Christian Tauchner (Austria), Martin Ueffing (Germany), Joseph Eilers (Philippines), Paul Steffen (Rome), Leo Kleden (Indonesia), Gabriel Afagbegge (Ghana),and Jacob Kavunkal (Australia).
The Symposium is also part of the SVD mission animation activity for the Church in Australia, as well as the SVD contribution to Missiological formation at the Yarra Theological Union and through it, to Melbourne’s University of Divinity.
AUS Provincial, Fr Henry Adler SVD, noted that the Symposium was an important event for the Divine Word Missionaries. “The response is that the Church now truly sees itself as Missionary by its very nature and the Symposium also confirmed that we have moved even further and deeper in our understanding of that. As Fr Steve Bevans says: “The Mission has a Church”
Divine Word Missionaries Australian Province holds special ceremonies and festivals to commemorate Mission Sunday every year. The International Mission Symposium was Melbourne’s commemoration this year. SVD Communities and parishes hold special liturgies, multi-cultural events and enjoy “feasts” which the lay partners and parishioners generously provide to honour the day.
A very important ministry of AUS Province is collecting donations for the Overseas Mission Projects. Our benefactors are very generous, especially when we appeal to them in an emergency situation like the Vanuatu Cyclone Appeal this year. The funds raised enabled the people of Tanna Island to buy much needed supplies after their island was devastated.