Letter from the Provincialate – June 2016 Missionaries are evangelization heroes*.
On a lovely afternoon on 24th May I was at one of the largest gatherings that I have seen taking place in the Upper Room in Kimmage. Bringing together associates, confrères, co-workers and staff, the occasion was to celebrate the life and mission of four confrères: James Duncan, Paddy Foley, Pat Murphy and Paddy M. Ryan.
But more than just celebrating four individual confrères we were honouring the rich tradition and legacy of mission in Ghana, Mauritius, Nigeria and Sierra Leone. Organised to mark the passing of Irish Spiritans from these places one could look at the event as marking the end of an era. Our Irish Spiritan footprint in Africa and elsewhere is getting smaller. But as we diminish, so others are growing and flourishing. In a recent communication from the Formation Desk in the Generalate we are reminded that the Congregation has nearly a thousand young members in formation. Many of these are in the very missions that were presented to us by the four confrères:
- Ghana has seen an extraordinary growth of Spiritan life and mission in the forty years since Irish Spiritans first started working there;
- Mauritius, while just a tiny island, has a very strong Spiritan presence and Mauritians have worked with Irish Spiritans in Pakistan and Papua New Guinea;
- Nigeria now has four Spiritan provinces whose members are serving in mission across the world;
- Sierra Leone will become the Province of Sierra Leone & Liberia at its chapter in July.
We are living a time of great transition and change in our Congregation. Not for the first time. And like all change it can be difficult not only to manage but to welcome and journey with it.
One of the thoughts that struck me while listening to the presentations was the great faithfulness of confrères to mission even when that required major adaptation and adjustment in their lives. It is this same fidelity that is called for today as our circumstances change but the call to mission remains.
I would like to thank the team at the Spiritan Mission Resource and Heritage Centre for their great work and creativity in organising this event and I look forward to future events where we are invited to celebrate our rich Spiritan heritage and to look ahead in hope and confidence to the new realities that are emerging in our life and mission.
* Pope Francis on May 10, 2016 – See https://zenit.org/articles/popes-morning-homily-missionaries-are-evangelization-heroes-of-our-times/
See also http://www.spiritan.ie/2012/index.php?id=330