The second meeting of missionaries in Europe took place at Valdocco from October 31 – November 3, 2013. 44 missionaries from Ireland, Great Britain, the Netherlands, Belgium, France, Portugal, Italy, Austria, Hungary, Lithuania and Bulgaria were present, together with some Salesians who have been accompanying them in their respective countries (Ireland, Great Britain, Belgium, France, Austria and Bulgaria).
Fr Vaclav Klement, the General Councillor for the Missions, spoke about the Church in Europe – Mission Land. Fr Alfred Maravilla of the Missions department presented his Salesian reflections for Project Europe based on a survey by the Divine Word Missionaries about the non-European SVD missionaries in Europe since they stated their own Project Europe in 1990. Fr Francis Cereda, the General Councillor for Formation, addressed the assembly on the dynamics of sending and reception of missionaries. Fr José Miguel Nuñes, the Regional Councillor for Western Europe also took part in the meeting.
Reflecting on their own experience, the missionaries shared that it is a privileged responsibility to be a missionary in Europe at a time when a new model of the Church is appearing in this continent. They recognized that a missionary in Europe today can make a positive difference. Their background makes it easier for them to accept the reality of Europe’s multicultural and multireligious diversity. They act as bridge between migrant youth and the confreres of the country. They dare to do things with young people that the local confreres no longer dare, and in this way they reinvigorate the Province and are catalysts for change.
It is fact, however, that since most European provinces have had a long and strong tradition of sending missionaries to Africa, Asia and South America, they are used to sending missionaries rather than receiving missionaries. That is why the missionaries of Project Europe are perceived differently: they are welcomed as individuals, not as missionaries. Europeans tend to look at missionaries from non-European countries with a certain curiosity and sometimes even suspicion: why are they here? Or, there is a tendency to see missionaries as persons who merely fill some gaps in communities.
However, the participants also recognized that concept of “mission” is gradually changing, slowly mission is beginning to be seen not anymore solely in unidirectional geographic terms but primarily as the proclamation of Jesus Christ in interpenetrating contexts where there is a need of either missio ad gentes, ordinary pastoral activity or new evangelisation as pointed out by John Paul II in Redemptoris Missio nn. 33-34. Thus, Europeans are slowly beginning to accept missionaries. However, there is still some way to go. Missionaries need to be involved also in some creative thinking and planning of the province’s mission for the future. Finally, the participants engaged in a reflection on the specific profile of a missionary in Europe.
Originally publish: InfoANS.org