South IndiaMathew Kpchuparambil of the Province of South India offers some personal suggestions addressing issues raised at the recent meeting of Visitors

Perhaps others would like to join this conversation. He writes…

The Article, “The present and proximate future of the Congregation of the Mission”, presented at the recent meeting of the newly elected Visitors, drew my special attention, especially those points from 1.1 to 1.4.

I see in those paragraphs, certain undue worries, lack of confidence in the Providence of God, lack of openness and failure to accept the changes taking place around us. Certain inappropriate judgements arising from the fear of losing something precious is quite visible.

In my humble view, the Spiritual legacy that we should boast about should be that which is still vibrant, creative and full of life and not a dead one. A spirituality which is not lived out is not worth teaching. It should help us to live out our charism with vigor and enthusiasm. First of all, the experienced must show by their examples that they have something productive and worth sharing. The Vincentian Spirituality is not something that should be born on the round table conferences; it should be born from the day to day experiences, from our meeting with the Christ in real situations. A Vincentian missionary should be judged on the basis of what he lives and what he achieves in a given situation.

I would like to share some of my reflections:
1. The fear about the inculturation of the charism: The inculturation of the charism has to take place in the very culture where the Congregation works. The process of inculturation might demand certain reinterpretation of the charism where it is to be lived out. As long as it remains a foreign entity, it has no place in the lives of the people. If certain provinces have more vocations that is due to their success in inculturating the charism in their proper situations. As it happened in the United States and in the Latin America, it would happen in the provinces where the Congregation is on the rise. This change is inevitable. After a few decades a “reinculturation” of the charism might take place in Europe, perhaps!

2. Some Undue Worries: The worries reach its height in 1.3. “What aspects of Vincentian spirituality will be emphasized? What aspects of our spirituality will be weakened? What form of ecclesiology will be imposed? What kind of Missionaries will we have?”

I don’t think that the growth of the Congregation in Asia or Africa would be at the cost of weakening its spirituality but rather enhancing its core values and spiritual teachings. Of course, the way of thinking will be much influenced by their proper culture and situations and that has to take place to have good missionaries.

“What form of Ecclesiology will be imposed?”  The term “imposition of ecclesiology” appears to have a colonialist hangover.  Missionaries should teach, impart, and live in the church as “people of God” and not as someone who imposes a model of the Church. Church is universal. It is neither European nor American nor Asian nor African, and there is only one ecclesiology for the church. But unfortunately, until now the church was controlled by the European ideologies. It was greatly imposed on others and it was accepted for long time as it is, but today the situations have changed. I think it is time to stop imposing and start accepting and appreciating. The Congregation does not decide an ecclesiology for itself. It takes roots where it is planted and gets inculturated there.

“What kind of Missionaries will we have?” This question shows the kind of desperation which disturbs the author. A missionary is one who responds to the call of Jesus Christ and His mission. If I have received the call, I believe firmly that the Lord has chosen me and set me apart for his works. The Lord calls from wherever he likes. Therefore, the kind of missionaries produced largely depends upon the local church and the culture.
Becoming a missionary in the Congregation of the mission depends upon how much a confrere is capable to inculcate the spirit of the congregation in his proper vocation. The kind of missionaries should be evaluated upon the way one lives out the charism. It should not be evaluated on the places of origin. God calls the kind of missionaries he wants according to the needs of the church. Some may be more fervent to their call than his confrere, which is normal. All cannot be Vincent de Paul! It is time that we think that there can be good missionaries from outside Europe.

  1. Some inappropriate judgements: “The greatest number of vocations is seen in the youngest provinces, that is, where the missionaries have less experience.” Learning to accept and appreciate others is the first sign of a good missionary. The author would have defined what it means to be a missionary, for him, before making the judgement. What are the criteria of his judgement? I would say that the number of vocations is more, where the church is more vibrant and where our confreres are more active. Missionary experiences should be judged on what they have achieved concretely and are still achieving in the given situations. It is not the tradition alone which makes the good missionaries, but the faithfulness to the call and dedication to the mission entrusted to one. I would like to ask a very simple question to the author, why is it that the so called experienced missionaries are not able to find vocations? In my opinion, there are two possibilities; either they claim to have the experience but never use it really or else they don’t have any experience but claim to have it holding on to their traditions.

“The provinces with large numbers of candidates do not have a sufficient number of prepared formators to guarantee a good formation in the Vincentian spirit and in Vincentian spirituality.” Again the question is what are the criteria for judging a formator good or bad? It is very much correct that there is a lack of well-qualified formators, with academic degrees/diplomas. If it is the degrees that decide the standard of the formators then of course there is a lack. But, now I admire the formation that I received from my formators. Though they weren’t super “qualified”, they succeeded to instill in us, I would say, the Vincentian Spirit, which could be lived out in our daily life.

I don’t think that to teach Vincentian spirit or Vincentian spirituality one needs to have a Doctorate or post doctorate degrees, rather, sufficient readings and understanding and living of its spirituality. Therefore what the experienced provinces can do is to give, to those who would work in formation, possibilities to read and understand it better.

A Concrete Suggestion: Establishing a center, under the General Curia, to form the formators of the Congregation in its Spirituality could an appreciable and helpful thing for the provinces. 6 months to 2years of training, where we have access to the Vincentian Litrature, materials, without being at the mercy of some particular provinces, could be thought about. A few experts can animate the center. The difficulty we face often is the big expense to realize such programs. Can we not choose certain provinces (countries), where the living is less expensive, for example the south Indian Province?