Reflecting on their life experience as missionaries, a large group of retired CICM missionaries wrote the following reflection on the values that make up our CICM identity.
We CICM missionaries of the European Region are grateful for the history of our Congregation. In the first place, we would like to express our appreciation for the labor and the great dedication of all those who preceded us in the missionary work, and above all of our Founder Théophile Verbist. We find traces of their work in the history of the churches of Asia, Africa and America, as well as in that of Europe. We thank God for what was accomplished by them and by us, and we recognize the errors that we have committed in the past.
In the following pages we present in broad lines what has inspired us through the years: “We transmit what we have received from the Lord and from those who have gone before us” (cf. 1 Co 11:23). We hope that these words will give strength and life to those who come after us.
1. The sharing sessions that preceded this Chapter demonstrated once more that our union with God is at the center of our CICM missionary life. Jesus Christ who is the Incarnate Word of God, is at the heart of all that we are and of all that we do. Personal and community prayer life and the daily Eucharist are for most of us a lasting source of life and vigor. We know that all our labors and pains at the service of the Kingdom have value only if the Lord of the harvest blesses them. And when all is said and done, we recognize that without Him we would be useless servants.
2. The Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary has been much more for us than just a means to realize our work at the service of the Kingdom of God. Within this Congregation, we have found and passed on to others brotherhood, mutual faithfulness and solidarity, especially during difficult times, in sickness and in the sorrows of old age. Our cordiality toward one another has been recognized as extremely important both for ourselves and for others. Our motto cor unum et anima una (one heart and one soul) is our strength and our first witness.
3. For us, forming a community is indispensable. This does not necessarily require that we all live under the same roof. On the occasion of the Centenary, the Superior General wrote: “Even if we cannot live together, we often seek each other out. We are welcome everywhere as members of the same big family, this is a great help to each of us. The family spirit which we owe to our CICM religious formation has always been the strength of our missionary Congregation and thus has a great apostolic value.”
4. When the Holy Spirit during the Chapter of 1974 invited us to a life of universal brotherhood, a completely new dimension was added to the idea of community. This is how our generation sensed it. We admit that we fell short in different ways of this invitation, especially during the first years after the 1974 Chapter. But later on we felt enriched by this gift of the Holy Spirit to our Congregation and we learned how to appreciate the value of the witness of international teams. However, a lot still needs to be learned. We are confident that the same Spirit will guide the 2005 Chapter and will show our Congregation the way toward the future that God has in store for us.
5. Building up a community with all those who collaborate with us in our work, our parishes, our schools and our missions has always been an important and enriching element of our life. Sharing the joys and sorrows of those to whom we were sent has brought us from the very beginning something precious: we learned to respect other cultures, to ‘feel at home’ in other cultures, to join and walk side by side with people of other cultures. We were ready to leave our family, our people and our culture in order to devote ourselves forever to another people, to learn their language and integrate ourselves to the extent possible into their culture. Our mission country became a second homeland for us.
6. The majority of us entered CICM simply because we wanted to become missionaries. To reach this missionary goal, we accepted the vows, like our Founder had accepted them before us. Only later on the vows became for many of us the source of our missionary life. In a world of egoism they continually challenge us. They make us free in order to be able to live for God and for other people, in solidarity with each other, with the poor and the most vulnerable. They make us available to go and work where the needs are most urgent and to incarnate the love of God in our own love for our neighbor.
7. The ad extra (going to another country) which attracted us when we were young, and which to this day constitutes our specificity, should perhaps receive a new interpretation. We are convinced that leaving our country as CICM missionaries and making ourselves vulnerable as foreigners in the midst of a different people, still is a valuable testimony, especially in this age when the world is full of migrants.
8. Availability for service to the local church is an important attitude for us. Especially caring service to the poor and the marginalized was seen and experienced as a priority since the beginnings of our Congregation. “One of the basic reasons for the missionary engagement for the majority of the confreres is their concern to serve the poorest, to struggle with them and for them, so that the poor may live a liberated life, in dignity and solidarity. Christ was on the side of the poor and in our being with the poor, we meet Him. For many confreres, the joy of their vocation is to live in the midst of oppressed and crushed peoples, with whom they feel very close and whom they deeply love.” (Silhouettes and Profiles, coll.: “CICM Spirituality”, no4, We cherish the spirit of the radical availability of the first generations of CICM missionaries who left their home country, often to never return, and placed themselves at the service of the poorest and most vulnerable in Mongolia or Congo. We dare to hope that in any case this radical availability will remain specific for the CICM of the future.
Made in 2005 in preparation for the 13th CICM General Chapter