At the opening Eucharist of the 19th General Chapter of the Mill Hill Missionaries celebrated that the church of Our Lady and St Edmund, Abingdon, General Superior, Fr Michael Corcoran, reflected on our missionary calling taking his cue from the inspired and inspiring writings of Pope Francis – The Joy of the Gospel, Laudato Si’ and Fratelli Tutti.
True Missionaries who never cease to be disciples, know that Jesus walks with them, speaks to them, breathes with them, works with them. They sense Jesus alive with them in the midst of the missionary enterprise. Unless we see him present at the heart of the missionary commitment, our enthusiasm soon wanes and we are no longer sure of what we are handing on; we lack vigour and passion. A person who is not convinced, enthusiastic, certain and in love, will convince nobody (EG 266).
The horizons of evangelisation and the urgent need to witness the evangelical message to all, without distinction, constitutes the vast field of our Mill Hill Apostolate. Such an urgent mission requires personal and communal conversion opening our hearts to interpret the signs of the times and to be receptive to the appeals of hope and peace of needy humanity. Our ‘genetic code’ as Mill Hill Missionaries drives us to come close, with simplicity, to those who suffer most: the sick, the children, the abandoned, the elderly and the poor…all. Whilst we continue in areas where we have had a long and cherished, we must continue to move to the edge and seize the new opportunities for mission presenting themselves. I am heartened that we continue to launch out to the scary edges, the outskirts.
The Holy Spirit needs us. Ant this is true: the Holy Spirit needs us. Like the forthcoming Synod to be held in 2023, our missionary apostolates, our Chapter cannot be a mirage, but a dream to be realised – dreaming together, praying together, participating together. To those gathered here in St. Edmunds, Abingdon and those following on livestream, I want to thank you for all you have contributed in preparation for the 19th General Chapter – personal views, reflections, hopes and dreams for the Church and for our mission as a Mill Hill Society. I am sure you also carry the opinions, concerns and hopes of the people we serve and the communities to which we belong.
We have a future, we have a vision, we have a project, and I am sure we all have fears – perhaps whether we will see our dreams, our visions completed. In planning for the future, we need to be wise and deal with the right issues which will stand us in good stead as we go into that future. Let us not be afraid to share frankly about what the Spirit is saying to us at this moment in time. As all of us on Society level. Have been part of the lengthy preparations for the Chapter with no written conclusions, no imposed way of thinking but an encouragement to listen and in the process discover the voice of the Living God.
Let this be done in all simplicity moved by the Holy Spirit, always having a sense of co-responsibility. This is a call to “look others in the eye and listen to what they have to say, striving “to become experts in the art of encounter.” Hopefully this has begun from the convocation of the Chapter with opportunities provided by Local Assemblies and all other Mill Hill meetings, to raise, reflect upon and discuss the issues that will be presented and discussed at this 19th General Chapter. Encounter, Listen, Discern and managing to say what is important to and for us at this time.
Pope Francis has given us much to reflect upon. As I began writing my report for the then Chapter 2020/2021, I dealt with the Triology by the Pope, Evangelii Gaudium, Luadato Si (published in the last days of Chapter 2015) and Fratellii Tutti. These document the depth of the fault lines that run through humanity, and we must embrace them as we continue listening to the cry of the poor and of the earth and also to recognise the seeds of hope and of the future that the Spirit continues to sow in our times.
Of course, Pope Francis did not stop there as he then called a Synod, meting people and listening to their deepest concerns and being enriched by the variety of charisms, vocations and ministries. We too as a Missionary Society have to ask ourselves if we are ready for our own journey, whether it is here at the Chapter or here we are witnessing as missionary at this present time. Are we prepared for the adventure of this journey? Or are we fearful of the unknown, preferring to take refuge in the usual excuses: ‘it’s useless’ or ‘We’ve always done it this way’? It is my hope that as a Society, that in our dialogue and together in our decision making that we will move towards healing a broken world and create new possibilities for our Church and our Mill Hill Society and as such become a source of renewed life for our world and for all of us.
If that was not enough Pope Francis once again promulgates another document in recent months to come into effect on Pentecost Sunday, namely ‘Praedicate Evangelium’. Preach the Gospel, bringing the Church’s mission to evangelise to the centre of its governing structures.
Yesterday in Lyon, France, Pauline Jaricot, was beatified. She was the Founder of the Association for the Propagation of the Faith – APF – and as we know was established to support and coordinate the spread of the Gospel. This always remained its fundamental dynamism. Pope Francis in his message to those gathered at Lyon highlighted that the Dicastery of Evangelisation takes on a special role in order to foster the missionary conversion of the Church (Preaedicate Evangelium, 2-3), which is not proselytism, but witness: going out of oneself to proclaim with one’s life the gratuitous and saving love of God for us who are called to be brothers and sisters. Pauline Jaricot had the courage to found and association to support the missionary activity of the Church.
The beatification of Pauline Jaricot gave Pope Francis the opportunity to highlight three aspect that, thanks to the Holy Spirit have contributed so much to the spread of the Gospel. First: missionary conversion. The goodness of mission, he says depends on “the journey of going out of oneself, on the desire not to center one’s life on oneself, but on Jesus, on Jesus who came to serve and not to be served.” In this sense, he points to the example of Pauline Jaricot “who saw he experience as a response to God’s compassionate and tender mercy and channelled God’s mercy on the streets of the world.” Second: Prayer: Only through prayer is it possible as it is “the Spirit of the Lord who precedes and enables all our good works.” Finally: the concreteness of charity. The oblation, gifts, donations of so many simple people, were providential for the history of mission. We are called to walk in the furrow traced by this great missionary woman, letting yourselves be inspired by her concrete faith, bold courage and generous creativity.
As we move forward as missionaries in the footsteps of Vaughan, let us dream a path for a better future, moving forward with enthusiasm and creatively tapping the direction the Chapter and our missionary labours will point to. Let us be shaken out of our complacency, challenging us to be what we are; missionary disciples, called to bring others into community with God through sharing His love. This is a challenge to revitalise, refocus, rejuvenate, reach out to others and allow others, especially on the margins, to reach us. The periphery is the centre – in evangelising we are evangelised.
The global tragedy of the Covid 19 pandemic “momentarily revived the sense that we are a global community, all in the same boat, where one person’s problems are the problems of all. Once more we realized that no one is saved alone; we can only be saved together”, (FT 32).
I do believe that as Mill Hill Missionaries, we have shared and are sharing our missionary vision with countless people throughout the world, showing the mercy and love of God in practice. We have done this by welcoming, forgiving and encouraging as faithful servants of the Gospel both far and near. We have the love and respect of so many people whose lives we have touched not just for what we have done but for who we are. May the same Jesus Christ whom we witness to every day of our lives continue to bless us with joy on our missionary adventure, a joy that will last forever and ever, Amen.
Amare et Servire: AS IN THE PAST, SO IN THE PRESENT, AND INTO THE FUTURE.
Michael Corcoran MHM
23rd May 2022
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