As we come to the end of our programme I take this opportunity to salute all of you who are joining us through this live streaming. Our thanks to Rozario for making this possible.
From last Tuesday week until today we have worked hard together in a family spirit to achieve the task we set before ourselves on that opening day. We discussed two major topics: journeying with our lay brothers and sisters in the one SMA missionary family as we live a common charism; taking the next steps to find the structures that will enable us to live that missionary charism in a better way. We discussed many other topics too. Our booklet gives us the orientations we need to follow in the coming two years as we prepare for General Assembly 2019.
I think I can confidently say that our deliberations here these weeks were in line with the message of Pope Francis for the coming Mission Sunday. Let me quote some sections of this message.
“The Church is missionary by nature; otherwise, she would no longer be the Church of Christ, but one group among many others that soon end up serving their purpose and passing away. So it is important to ask ourselves certain questions about our Christian identity and our responsibility as believers in a world marked by confusion, disappointment and frustration, and torn by numerous fratricidal wars that unjustly target the innocent. What is the basis of our mission? What is the heart of our mission? What are the essential approaches we need to take in carrying out our mission?”
I believe that what we prayed in our Lectio Divina and our liturgies and what we discussed and voted for is an attempt to answer these three key questions. What is the basis of our mission? What is the heart of our mission? What are the essential approaches we need to take in carrying out our mission?”
In another section of his message for Mission Sunday the Pope goes on to say:
“The Church’s mission is enlivened by a spirituality of constant exodus. We are challenged “to go forth from our own comfort zone in order to reach all the peripheries in need of the light of the Gospel” (Evangelii Gaudium, 20). The Church’s mission impels us to undertake a constant pilgrimage across the various deserts of life, through the different experiences of hunger and thirst for truth and justice. The Church’s mission inspires a sense of constant exile, to make us aware, in our thirst for the infinite, that we are exiles journeying towards our final home, poised between the “already” and “not yet” of the Kingdom of Heaven.
Mission reminds the Church that she is not an end unto herself, but a humble instrument and mediation of the Kingdom. A self-referential Church, one content with earthly success, is not the Church of Christ, his crucified and glorious Body. That is why we should prefer “a Church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a Church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security” (ibid., 49).
If we substitute SMA for ‘Church’ in the quotation above, the sentiments apply seamlessly to our context. Over the coming two years in our preparations for GA19 we will adopt the methodology of Appreciative Discernment to help us move into the future in a spirit of hope. As a missionary family we are constantly challenged to move out from our comfort zones to the peripheries of our world. The SMA family has been doing this since its inception. Our task is to ensure we remain faithful to that tradition. We have selected as our topic of conversation A family faithful to its missionary charism in the changing and complex context of today. Through the stages of Discovery, Dream, Design and Doing we will hopefully arrive at the end of GA19 at a position from where we can continue the missionary journey by living out of what we are at our best. And we do it all while continuing to rely on God’s infinite providence.
We were truly blessed this year to have the presence of Dympna and Mara throughout the meeting. They engaged with us not just in questions of lay participation but in the entire mission strategy. I am grateful to both of you for your willing and generous participation. Hopefully it will result is ever greater levels of participation in the one charismatic family for the African Mission.
Each of us is implicated in the decision made at this Plenary Council. As is to be expected, many topics have been referred to the General Council for further elaboration. The General Council will do its best to honour these demands and I know that it can count on the cooperation of all in their execution.
What ensured that our debates never generated into personal animosities was the overall convivial atmosphere in which the entire meeting was conducted. For that we have to thank our hosts in the Great Lakes District-in-formation and the Region of Kenya and especially the staff of this House of Formation. I extend sincere thanks on behalf of you all to Frs Mohan and John, to our students Joel, Oscar and Herve and to all the other staff of this house. Accommodation, food, health, internet, domestic service were all excellent.
I wish to thank some others too for their good work. The facilitators and secretaries of the groups; our translators, Remi and Jonathan. I wish to thank Justin and Tiburtius for their work on redacting the texts and their willingness to bring this forward to completion. I wish to thank our secretaries, Sylvère and Steve. You will see that there is a huge amount of work done by the secretaries in preparation for a meeting such as this. Our paperless meeting succeeded without a single glitch. Thanks and congratulations to your both for this.
Lastly it remains for me to say a word of thanks to Antonio for his excellent facilitation of our gathering. I repeat what I said last year that Antonio is a man of endless patience; it is very hard to ruffle him and he keeps his calm and composure through long sessions when others might be tempted to lose their cool. His careful attention to detail meant the task we set before us was achieved.
I wish you all travelling mercies as you return to your place of work. Some are leaving this afternoon and later tonight while others leave over the coming days. God willing, most of us will meet again in Rome for General Assembly 2019. In the meantime we will work together so the mission will bear fruit.
With these few words I declare Plenary Council 2017 closed.
Fachtna O’Driscoll SMA
9 June 2017