Bogota, March 2018: Assembly of the Consolata Missionaries in America

The first week of March all the participants in the Assembly of the IMC American Continent met in Bogota, Colombia. We come from all the countries of the continent where the IMC is present. Brother Nelson Murillo yesterday shuttled to and from the airport from dawn to night to meet us. We have the grace to have with us the whole General Direction, accompanied by Fr. Rinaldo Cogliati: the General Administrator. For some – like him or like Fr. Peter Ssekajugo, and others who have worked for a long time here – coming to Colombia is like coming home! Others have studied in this city … and have good memories of the younger years!

The Regional House of Colombia welcomes us. Next to it is “our” parish of Maria Madres de las Misiones. The Parish Priest, p. Orlando Hoyos, invites us. The church overflows with people applauding at the sight (and at the words) of the “guest” missionaries.

Besides the conviviality at our meals, we all enjoyed the daily moments of prayer. On the last day, for instance, in our chapel, we were plunged in the noisy and violent atmosphere of some of our urban presences. Cellphones ringing, people selling at the door, somebody entering and menacing us with a knife and running away robbing one of us of her cellphone. Our prayer was it disrupted …or had it become more “incarnated”? Fr. Reuben Lopez gives an account of the team work done in our huge Parish at Merlo, in the outskirts of Buenos Aires, where many poor people, made up of locals and immigrants (from Paraguay, Bolivia and Peru) live; Fr. Pacho Pinilla opens our eyes on the migration of many young people who leave their families in the forest to go to Leguizamo, Colombia, where he works; and finally Fr. James Mwaura shares with us his personal experience about the time he was a theologian in Eliopolis, a favela in San Paolo, Brazil, and highlights the challenge of dealing with people with a great mobility, a volatile belonging to the Church, and often living in a violent environment.

The hours of the day flow as we discuss on the priorities we should adopt, being missionaries today, in America. Thanks to the excellent atmosphere of prayer, to the presentations and discussions, we managed to work in depth on the following missionary options and services assumed in the Continent:

1. Missionary Disciple (the person and formation);
2. Fraternal Life in community;
3. Services (Youth and Vocation Missionary Animation, Communications and Education);
4. Mission ad gentes (Afro-descendants, Indigenous, the Amazonian world);
5. Migrants and refugees, urban peripheries, existential peripheries;
6. Economy for the mission;
7. Transversal values: justice and peace, care for creation and inter-religious dialogue;
8. Journeying together with the Consolata Sisters and with the Lay Consolata Missionaries.

In search of a new common vision, as Assembly, we highlighted the following challenges along our way of revitalization and of restructuring:

Vocation Promotion: to hold a continental Biennium on Vocation Promotion with the purpose of raising the awareness of forming and of encouraging our missionaries about this priority.

Formation: to follow with attention the sense of belonging to the Institute and the charismatic identity of each missionary.

Our missionary presences: follow the Chapter mandate to review and evaluate our presences in America in order to close some of them and open others, more in line with the charism ad gentes and our mission today in our continent.

Continental Solidarity: create a flexible Missionary Team every time a humanitarian crisis arises in the Continent.

Communications: build a continental Web site with common contents, linked to the Circumscriptions sites.

Given the migration of thousands of Warao from Venezuela (also from the missions we work in) to Brazil, the Assembly approves a proposal to create a temporary team to help deal with these immigrants in Roraima.

At our week long meeting took part 31 members: the six members of the General Direction and 25 other missionaries – 23 IMC priests and 2 lay women – representing all those who carry out the mission in the 9 countries where we are present in our continent. Among the members of our Assembly who work in the continent: 12 are from Africa, 11 from America and 2 from Europe. Source of hope and food for thought!

We close our Assembly with the Eucharist, presided over by our Superior General, Fr. Stefano Camerlengo. In his homily, he says: “Walking along with the people, we discover the role of our presence in the Continent, to be “the arms of the Church”. If the Church is like a house, we as Consolata Missionaries are at its door, doing everything possible for Her to stay open in order to welcome and to go out at the encounter of the others, favoring reciprocal enrichment”.

Spirit of Jesus, companion in our life and our mission,
you who abide within the heart of your missionary disciples
illuminating, encouraging, strengthening, defending and comforting
Come, assist us in the process of revitalization, Come!

Wisdom of the Father, revealed in the Son,
Pedagogue of the creative and innovative existence,
able to enter the room, even if the door is locked,
Come, help us in the restructuring, Come!