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    Evangelizing in a CICM Spirit

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    Jean Gracia ETIENNEby Jozef Matton, cicm 

     

    In this article, I would like to share some experiences that have caused me to reflect and question myself. These experiences are rooted in the last few months’ events, personal encounters, and visits to some of our beloved Congregation’s Provinces.

    Covid-19

    We have all been living under the health crisis of the Covid-19 pandemic for more than two years. This pandemic has had and continues to have a significant impact on us. Many restrictive measures have been implemented worldwide to limit the spread of the virus and ensure that we live as healthily as possible in society. Restriction measures have also been implemented in our communities, particularly those with elderly and disabled confreres. This has necessitated a great deal of creativity and flexibility on the part of the confreres and staff.

    Some specific measures or arrangements, which were only temporary, have remained permanent in some communities, such as table arrangement in the refectory, the way meals are served at the table, and eating alone in one’s room.

    I also noticed that some confreres wanted to return to the situation before Covid-19. They felt that community life was deteriorating, and physical contact became even more limited. However, many other confreres wished to keep the provisional as the permanent. And for what reason? Was it because the temporary fit them best? There is indeed a need to consider a balance between each confrere’s physical health and healthy community life.

    Covid-19 also introduced the ZOOM videoconferencing application. We have all had the experience that ZOOM can be an effective means of communication for meetings, etc. For example, the SEDOS (Service of Documentation and Study on Global Mission) sessions through ZOOM have drawn a larger global audience. Many of these participants would not have been able to attend these sessions if they had been held (only) face-to-face in Rome because of travel costs or visa issues.

    However, we were also aware of Zoom’s limitations. We all felt the importance of physical and personal meetings. We must cherish our personal and physical encounters in Europe and also elsewhere. We all learned how confinement was a painful and challenging experience for many people. Fortunately, we religious have a community. We must take care of it.

    Covid-19 has had a significant impact on our Congregation. To begin with, some confreres died directly or indirectly as a result of Covid-19, even in countries where the existence of Covid-19 was denied.

    Second, for more than a year, members of the General Government have been unable to travel to visit confreres in several Provinces and countries where CICM is present due to the Covid-19 pandemic and all of its restrictions.

    Finally, many young confreres also had a challenging experience. Some, for example, had to wait two years before entering their mission countries. Others did not even make it to the countries where they were appointed as missionaries. The mission assignments were even changed for the latter. It took a lot of patience and effort to adjust to new realities. To face these new realities, patience and creativity were required. Having a missionary spirit and conviction aided greatly in the adaptation process. Perhaps this experience will be helpful in the future when other challenges and difficulties arise that require the same adaptation. Dear confreres, let us not be afraid of challenges. This is not a missionary attitude. It is not a CICM attitude either.

    In addition to the Covid-19 pandemic, Europe is facing another crisis. With Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Europe has realized that the dream of permanent peace in its midst is a pipe dream. What a horror in Ukraine! Thousands of dead and wounded on both sides! No call for peace has been heard. What is the role of the churches that claim to be Christian? Religion should unite and build rather than divide and destroy. What is the future of ecumenism?

    During this time of war in Ukraine, we see conflicting reactions in Europe. On the one hand, the European Union responds by sending arms, supposedly “to protect itself,” while on the other hand, it expresses deep support for the Ukrainian people. Large sums of money have suddenly become available for humanitarian aid and the refugee reception. As a result of the European Union’s stance, some question why there is such strong solidarity with the Ukrainian people and a refusal to accept Syrian and other refugees.

    All can work together to build

    a more peaceful world,

    starting from the hearts of individuals

    and relationships in the family,

    then within society and with the environment,

    and all the way up

    to relationships between peoples

    and nations.

     

    Pope Francis, Message for the celebration

    of the 55th World Day of Peace. January 1, 2022

    Experiencing Hardship

    Earlier this year, my cousin was diagnosed with a brain tumor. The doctors told him he only had six months to a year to live, depending on the tumor’s development and the effectiveness of chemotherapy.

    When I visited him, I was struck by how calmly he and his wife deal with this painful reality. I congratulated them and inquired how they were dealing with this unfortunate experience. After looking at himself and his wife, my cousin said, “Would getting angry, rebelling, or letting go change anything?” It wouldn’t make me live any longer, let alone better. But we both have to deal with these trying times. It is each other’s support and encouragement that allows us to succeed. We are married not only for the good times but also for the bad.”

    I was pensive when I got home. I was mostly thinking about the difficult situations that many confreres face from time to time. I also reflected on my interactions with confreres who had received devastating health news. I also considered how I would react in such a situation.

    How about the CICM? Are we truly brothers or confreres? Are we capable of supporting one another in the spirit of Cor Unum et Anima Una when we encounter difficulties? Our Cor Unum et Anima Una is more than a slogan to be printed on T-shirts; it is a mission to live.

    In View of the 16th General Chapter

    The theme of the Provincial Assembly of the CICM Province of LAC (Latin America and the Caribbean), in which I participated, was: The disciples were filled with joy when they saw the Lord (Jn 20:20). This theme was very well reflected in the Assembly’s logo. And it gives me great pleasure to see how many young and not-so-young confreres working in the Province’s various countries are joyful missionaries. While they are realistic and aware of the challenges in each country, they also recognize that a permanent conversion is required for each member of the LAC Province.

    I would like to close with a few words about the memos in view of the preparation for the 16th Chapter. I have heard some comments and remarks about the three memos that the General Government sent to all CICM Provinces to help prepare for the 16th General Chapter.

    “The memos are very Ad Intra oriented,” was one of the comments. We don’t see much about our “core business,” namely our mission. What should be the missionary presence today and in today’s world? “Indeed, these questions are not explicitly asked in the three memos. However, I believe that these memos should be read in light of the theme of our 16th General Chapter, which is "Witnessing to the Gospel in a Changing World." The term ‘witnessing’ is important to me. It is the key to understanding all three memos.

    Modern man listens

    more willingly to witnesses

    than to teachers,

    and if he does listen to teachers,

    it is because they are witnesses

    Paul VI, Evangelii Nuntiandi, no. 41

    We are all convinced, and we say with great conviction, that the testimony of life is the most important aspect of our lives and missionary work. I am also completely convinced of this.

    Indeed, questions like ‘What missionary work?’ and ‘Where?’ are important questions. But, if we lack the necessary missionary dispositions, if we are not faithful to our missionary and religious lives, if we live a double life, what witness can we give wherever we are?

    Instead, we must dare ask ourselves: Is evangelizing in a CICM spirit still our joy? Are we here to serve the mission, or is the mission at our service? Are we, as CICM, ready to be reconciled on many levels of life? What kind of missionary witness is provided by two confreres who live in the same community but never speak to each other? Are we prepared to live and commit in an intercultural context while witnessing the universality of salvation? What are our criteria when we are consulted in view of appointments within our Province?

    I am convinced that spiritual renewal is also required for this. Beautiful structures and large sums of money are insufficient. In our Congregation, there are considerable Ad Intra challenges.

    To be honest, it is excruciating to see that personal ambition, personal enrichment, power, and influence are sometimes more important than our corporate commitments to the mission and greater congregational solidarity for some confreres. Our three religious vows risk losing all of their religious significance.

    During the Province of LAC’s Provincial Assembly, a young confrere asked me, somewhat unexpectedly, if I still had hope for the Congregation’s future. Certainly! Why should I have any doubts? However, the Congregation’s future will be determined not only by the Superiors at all levels of the

    Congregation but also by each of us. Regardless of our shortcomings, each of us has a responsibility. Beautiful structures and finances are secondary considerations.

    I wish you all the best in your missionary endeavors. Please pray for the success of our Congregation’s upcoming General Chapter. We are all participants. Cor Unum et Anima Una.


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