Feast of Saint Francis Xavier
Letter from the Central Council
Journeying towards the Centennial
Dear members, associates and affiliates,
This year, on the occasion of the feast of our patron saint, we invite all our large missionary family to join in a period of spiritual preparation that will bring us to the great celebration of the centennial of our Society that will take place between February 2 and December 3, 2021. To do so, we are proposing to you in the following outline a reflection to help ourselves to grasp and to appropriate the chosen theme: To run the risk of the encounter at the service of the Gospel 1921-2021.
This them wants to express the spiritual and missionary orientation that we wish to give to the centennial of the SME. It invites us to celebrate the journey of our missionary commitment. The service of the Gospel within the life of the peoples and the Churches where is committed the SME for a hundred years actually takes place in the multiple encounters that are lived out by its members and associates
Three key elements stand out in the formulation of the theme: the service of the Gospel, the encounter and audacity.
The first element, the service of the Gospel, recalls the identity of the SME according to the Life Project. More than the foundation of an establishment, we want to celebrate the vitality and the creation of an evangelizing dynamism, the fruitfulness of a gift of the Spirit to the Church and to the world. The theme also proposes some guiding points to describe the identity of the SME and its mission:
- the priority given to the formation of persons, since the beginning and until now, becoming manifest under various forms of encounter (teaching, catechesis, accompaniment, discernment, etc.) and in the works established for that purpose (minor and major seminaries, schools, college, radio and other medias, etc.);
- missionary animation and formation (ex : information magazine, ad gentes programs, formation centres, etc.)
- missionary presence and action in various environments, in a particular way at the periphery (ex. rural areas, urban quarters, indigenous people, migrants, etc.)
The second element, the encounter, stresses the encounter of persons and communities as an avenue to experience the mission in communion. That reality of the encounter is in line with the dynamic context of multiple « inter/s » (cultures, generations, ecclesial ministries, states of life, men and women) lived out among ourselves as well in our personal and community commitments in the missions:
- « Learn the encounter so as to learn from the encounter » is the basic principle of the intercultural approach. The centennial theme as such puts the accent on our experiences of the multiple « inter/s ».
- The culture of the encounter, which is so important with pope’s Francis missionary vision, becomes in that way the horizon of the animation and formation activities during the centennial.
- The narration of our encounters will allow to identify the SME in a dynamic way, beginning with its missionary action rather than a static way (ex. canonical, abstract ideals, institutional structures, organigrams, etc.).
The third element which emerges from our theme is that of evangelical audacity. We express it with the words of pope Francis who tells us : « the Gospel tells us constantly to run the risk of a face-to-face encounter with others, with their physical presence which challenges us, with their pain and their pleas, with their joy which infects us in our close and continuous interaction » (Evangelii gaudium, 88).
The theme of the centennial is then an invitation to risk the encounter at the service of the Gospel in the sense of real contact with others and not only in a virtual or idealized way:
- And so, the theme puts the accent on the courage so as to move forward towards the unknown and enter in the space of the encounter, as was the case during many decisive turning points in the history of the SME.
- For a Church «in outing mode », in Québec as well as elsewhere, the SME is called to explore new paths of the ad gentes mission by listening to the calls of the Spirit and by letting ourselves be led where he wants (Evangelii gaudium, 280).
Beside the three central elements which form out theme, our centennial also wants to be an invitation to make memory of the past with gratitude. Remembering the lived encounters with persons of diverse cultures, religions and social conditions, in the hours of joy and hope a well as in the hours of sadness and anguish, we will revisit with gratitude the itinerary covered by the SME since its foundation.
It calls us also to renew the passion to live today the mission in communion. Lived with welcoming and the respect of the differences, the encounters among us, members and associates, and also as persons in the world, are a privileged place of our encounter with Christ. They are also the concrete place of our response to that vocation which gathers us together as disciples- missionaries.
Finally, it expresses the hope while facing the future. The preparation and the celebration constitute a strong moment to rekindle the evangelical audaciousness of the missionary family that forms the great network of the SME and to open it to new encounters in the future.
In order to enable us to live this spiritual preparation well for the centenary of our Missionary Society, a process of sharing and deepening will be proposed for the year 2020. Its title will be: Journeying towards the centennial. It will take place in three stages. Each of the steps will address a particular dimension of the invitation that the Gospel makes to us to run the risk of encountering the face of the other.
1) Step 1: our personal and community experience of our encounter with God. When? In February 2020, around the anniversary of foundation of the Society.
2) 2nd step: our experience of the community and fraternal encounter between us within our own Society. When? In June 2020, around the celebration of jubilees and missionary commitments.
3) 3rd step: our personal and community experience of the encounter with the other in mission, in the cultures, religions and other dimensions... When? In October 2020, around the feast of Saint Teresa.
With this feast of Saint Francis Xavier, may the Lord open our hearts with worldwide dimensions so that, as Pope Francis invites us, we may answer with audaciousness to the call of the Gospel which «invites us to always run the risk of the encounter with the face of the other…» (Evangelii gaudium, 88).
Your brothers of the Central Council,