Annual meeting of EAO Missions Animators in Cambodia
By Fr Ding Cortez
Provincial delegate for Missions Animation FIN
Sihanoukville, Cambodia, 23 November 2018 -- The gathering of EAO Provincial Delegates for Mission Animation (PDMA) here in Sihanoukville are days of graces. I felt I was standing with the giants of missionary spirit, living out the missio ad gentes (going to non-Christians to proclaim the Gospel of Jesus) of the Church and of the Salesian Congregation. Listening to their different experiences of difficulties, challenges and wants and yet with them able to say with a big "yes" to proclaim Jesus in Don Bosco, are "theophany moments", i.e. manifestations of the Lord. Who cannot be amazed at the generosity of Salesians assigned to one of the remotest provinces in China, who rely only on Divine Providence for rain, to be nourished and cleansed (other than that, no other source of water on those highlands)? Who would not admire the evangelising work of Salesians way below zero in temperature, with only their burning hearts for the love of God and of the young in the areas of Mongolia and Siberia keep them going? Who would not be inspired by a lay person (Lauren Hichaaba of the Cagliero Project, Australia) for the first time sitting with her Salesian counterparts sharing the many wonders their volunteering work has done for hundreds of people touched by their experience of sharing a year or two with young people and the poor of Asia and Oceania? Who would not be fired up by the animating presence of Fr Basanes and Fr MC George as they guide the baby steps our mission animators in the EAO region are taking to arouse enthusiasm for this very important element in our Salesian vocation--LOVE FOR THE MISSIONS!
One big grace Mission Animators will get from these meetings is the consolation that we are not alone in this work. That all that we do for our provinces in mission animation is part of a bigger reality of the saving mission of God in his son, Jesus in the way of Don Bosco. That all the setbacks and difficulties are nothing compared to the knowledge that what we are doing is the God's work. The tall order now is how to translate all these realisations and learnings into our different contexts. The challenge is to fire up the hearts of the Salesians and of our lay mission partners with the urgency of helping out in realising the saving LOVE of God not only in countries we are in but more so in the pressing need to bring this Good News to other parts of the world who have not heard nor accepted it (it is surprising to know that there are a lot of continents to go including the new "continent" of the hearts and minds of Gen X). Take courage, confreres and lay mission partners! The harvest is truly plenty but as always, the labourers are few. Let us open our minds and hearts to the tiny and yet persistent call of Jesus to "put out into the deep" and share more closely in the Sacred Heart's aching for love for the least, the last and the lost. The missionary heart of our dear Don Bosco is also calling us to join him the "pergola of roses" not counting the pains and the thorns, knowing that the crown of salvation of our souls and the souls of the young will be ours.
With the special mission month called by Pope Francis next year (October 2019), we hope to "renew the face of the earth" by our renewed commitment to pray, to support, and to be continually challenged by missio ad gentes, asking from us heroic generosity to go where no one dares to go. For us Salesians to touch that special part of our vocation, the love of Don Bosco to the missions and with right discernment to say "yes" to be a missionary to where the Spirit will lead us. For the young and for the lay mission partners in our settings, may we help them to see "signs of the times" that volunteering work is their way of intimately participating in the saving mission of Christ and in the mission of Don Bosco. It is "maximum illud" (a letter of Pope Benedict XV written on November 30, 1919 which the Church will celebrate next year as the source of the special mission month called by Pope Francis) meaning a matter of great importance, to heed with renewed vigour the command of the Lord: "Go into the whole world and preach the gospel to all creation" (Mark 16:15).
The time is ripe. NOW is the time.