America in mission: The Gospel is joy!

on 31 Jul, 2018
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Santa Cruz de la Sierra (Bolivia), 07/15/2018, Sr. Adelaida Alba.- With the slogan above, we were called from all corners of the American Continent, to live the experience of the Fifth American Missionary Congress. The gathering took place at Santa Cruz de la Sierra, Bolivia, from July 10-14, 2018 with 24 countries participating, 95 Bishops, 2,509 missionaries, 1,500 Missionary Houses and 221 volunteers.

In an atmosphere of missionary joy the program opened out with introductions, prayer, talks and reflections, sharing and cultural appreciation. Five major presentations set the tone opening the way to the main focus of the Congress: The joy of the Gospel, heart of the prophetic mission, source of Reconciliation and of Communion:
 
1. “The passionate joy of the Gospel” by Msgr. Guido Charbonneau (Honduras)
2. “Announcing the Gospel to the world of today” by Msgr. Santiago Silva (Chile)
3. “Witnessing Disciples of communion and reconciliation” by Fr. Sergio Montes S.J (Bolivia)
4. “Prophetic Mission” by Msgr. Luis Augusto Castro (Colombia)
5. “Mission Ad Gentes in America from America” by Msgr. Vittorino Girardi (Costa Rica)
 
Based on the above reflections group break-outs followed to explore in depth the various topics and to bring forth questions over the vast field of Mission. Among the rich liturgical celebrations special mention is made here of the opening of the new Plaza of St. Lawrence Cathedral and the closing ceremony at the Christ Plaza, where Papa Francisco presided at the Eucharist in his visit to the country of Bolivia. Each day would greet us with praise, signs and symbols representing the various distinctive elements of parts of the Continent and in the evenings, participation and sharing at the parishes which graciously received and lodged the different delegations.
 
Life in the Family and in the Parish: The parishes of Santa Cruz organized themselves to be places of faith celebration, of culture and of camaraderie. Families offered hospitality and became ideal places to share life and friendship. They opened their homes to us for rest, for sharing bread and mission, creating then fraternal bonds of love and of support in the mission.

The Experience of Mission: It was for each participant a half day of wonderful learning. First, the mission as community: by being able to exchange with persons of another place and to visit families from the parish was enriching for all of us. Second, the gift of dialogue, of prayer and of sharing with the families who opened their doors to us offering a greeting of peace and of receiving with joy the gift which each person or family wants to offer, room for ecumenism and the union of hearts in faith. Third, the gift of Jesus Himself in the face of the missionary, of the person who welcomes you, and of the person who greets you on the street, it is a confirmation of the presence of God and the most appropriate place for his revelation.
 
In the midst of this experience, the Dominican Sisters of the Presentation had to look for each other in the crowd, to find moments of rest, food, photo-memories and greater knowledge of each other, as we were together at the Missionary Congress. Present among us were: Sr. María Olga Gómez and Teresa Márquez Solis (Prov. Andes), Sr. Cleta Marina López (Prov. Caribe), Sr. Clara Pastora (Prov. Bogotá) Sr. Adelaida Alba (Prov. Bucaramanga).
 
Three proposals of symbolic actions were made before and during the Congress as paths to a missionary destination:
1. Eucharistic Koinonia with the poor.
2. Creation of a lay missionary ministry for men and women.
3. Creation of an American Ecclesial Observatory of Human Rights.
 
The Congress ended with a strong call to search for freedom and for a true participative democracy in the Continent (we felt the support for the Church in Nicaragua living at this time a Prophetic risk); to repel “irrational and indiscriminate exploitation of natural resources” and an outcry for justice to triumph over poverty. We thank our Provinces for giving us this marvelous experience which compels us into the mission of the Church.
 
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