2019 is an exciting year. His Holiness Pope Francis has declared a special month of prayer and action, to strengthen and grow God’s mission through the Church. And the Extraordinary Month of Mission (EMM2019) is nearly here.
‘Africans should be missionaries towards themselves’
While we in England and Wales reach out as part of the global Church, we’re also constantly inspired by the work our sisters and brothers overseas are doing to build the Church of the future.
For the Church in Africa, this year also marks the 50th anniversary of the Bishops’ Conferences of Africa and Madagascar (SECAM). So as well as remembering Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud, the continent will commemorate Pope Paul VI’s appeal in 1969 that ‘Africans should be missionaries towards themselves’.
Fr Donald Zagore, a missionary theologian from Ivory Coast, expressed his excitement about this special occasion, which he calls an opportunity to reaffirm commitment to mission across Africa. ‘In the past, thousands of Europeans came to Africa to evangelise,’ he said, ‘The Church of Africa is now mature. Nobody, in the name of the mission, will be able to speak and act for the Africans better than themselves’.
Africa leads the way
At Missio, we witness first-hand how vibrant the Church in Africa is, and how missionaries from Africa are igniting Christ’s love across their own continent and beyond.
Missionaries like Fr Santos: a priest in Malawi who looks after a parish of 9,000 people. He uses the motorbike Missio supporters helped to buy, to reach sick and elderly parishioners, ensuring they receive the Sacraments as well as companionship, love and practical help.
Earlier this year, we also shared the story of Bigard Memorial Seminary in Enugu, Nigeria. Here, with your help, young men like Kelvin are committing their lives to bringing God’s love to their own communities and beyond. Once ordained, Kelvin shared that his mission would be to reach out to society’s poorest and most rejected people.
And in May, we shared stories of the seminary in Bamenda, Cameroon, where vocations are flourishing and students undertake vital pastoral work in some very poor areas, bringing the love of Jesus to people on the very outskirts of society. Fr Fons Eppink MHM described how the young men training were learning to ‘take people where they are and accompany them to where the Gospel invites them to go. To love and to serve.’
You make it possible
The missionary spirit is strong in Africa. But missionary parishes still need our support. Your donations and prayers help us train 25,000 seminarians and 11,000 Sisters across that continent and around the world: without you, mission dioceses would struggle to train the Priests and Sisters they so urgently need.
And everywhere we see the effects of your support through Missio, whether it’s in the training of tomorrow’s Priests and Sisters, giving hope to the world’s poorest children, or meeting specific practical needs like providing a motorbike or a parish hall.
Baptised and sent
This October, parishes and individuals around the world will be recommitting to live out the call of Baptism: to share in the Church’s universal mission.
Fr Anthony Chantry, Missio’s National Director, says: ‘All of us who believe in Jesus Christ as Son of God and Saviour received our faith from God through those missionaries, who long ago left their homes and families to share their faith with those in foreign lands.
‘I have seen the fruit of that work in many countries in Africa and Asia, where there is a host of young and dynamic Catholic communities committed to following Jesus Christ. Yet we must not make the mistake of assuming that mission abroad has no place in our modern world.
‘The Holy Father challenges us to be in a permanent state of mission, for “each of us is a mission to the world, for each of us is the fruit of God’s love”’.
What’s your mission?
A century after Maximum Illud, the call to missio ad gentes is as urgent as ever. This is an incredible opportunity for all of us to reflect on and pray for the Church’s mission, and for the whole Church to fully realise that in our rapidly changing world the Gospel is needed now more than ever.
So come and join us as we prepare for EMM2019! Find out more about our worldwide #MyMission campaign, and perhaps take some time to reflect and find your own mission during this special month. Maybe you can see a need in your own community. Or maybe you feel moved to help and pray for missionaries overseas especially this month. Maybe your mission is simply to spend time in prayer with God.