Rome (Italy). From 10 to 12 February 2023, the meetings for the provincial Coordinators and the missionaries ad gentes of the world organized by the Missions Sector of the Institute of the Daughters of Mary Help of Christians took place.
Sr. Ruth del Pilar Mora, General Councilor for the Missions, together with the Sisters of the Sector and the members of the GLOBAL MISSIO TEAM, composed of an FMA Provincial Missions ad gentes Coordinator and a lay person for each continent, with the task of preparing and animating the animation and formation meetings coordinated by the Sector implement these animation and formation meetings foreseen in the planning of the six-year period of the General Chapter, addressed to the Provincial Missions ad gentes Coordinators and to the ad gentes missionaries of every continent.
The theme developed was “Missionary volunteering, as a vocational path” with the charismatic missiological intervention of Fr. Pascual Chavez, Rector Major emeritus of the Salesians of Don Bosco, and the sharing of the good practices of the “missionary week” by Sr. Monaliza Bernardino Machado, of Our Lady Aparecida Province (BAP).
In the initial greeting, Sr. Ruth invited us to reflect on this theme “in the perspective of the presence that generates life, as General Chapter XXIV has invited us. In this sense, strengthening or undertaking paths that promote missionary volunteering means rediscovering how important it is to ‘be there’ as FMA, lay men and women called to live Baptism as a gift and response to God who makes us feel His love and pushes us to go out of ourselves, to meet the other to find together the meaning of life in Jesus.”
The Councilor explained, “Missionary volunteering is a school of life in which it is concretely possible to place together heart, head, mind, weaving positive relationships with the other, children, adolescents, young people, and adults. It leads us to learn the art of taking personal care of the other, of creation. It also helps us to be responsible for the growth of solidarity in people and communities that know how to ‘put on an apron’ to serve Jesus in every person, especially those who are more tried by poverty and sufferings of every kind”.
Fr. Pascual Chavez, starting from the insistence of Pope Francis to be an “outgoing Church”, missionary and synodal, gave a brief discourse of the main documents of the Church on the vocation of the lay person engaged in the world and in society. “The Church does not live on the margins of being the People of God but is committed to the project of the new evangelization and we FMA and SDB, in harmony with the thought of Don Bosco, do not intend to live alongside, but within this ecclesial movement, living with the people”.
The 9th successor of Don Bosco highlighted that “voluntary service is above all an attitude, a kind of ‘sacred fire’ which should permeate all our actions, if we want to live in a world worthy of being lived. The volunteer is the true apostle and lives without any distinction between selfishness and generosity, between self-giving attitude and donation to the other, and always graced by the desire to want to give meaning to one’s life, which is the true root of every action.”
Fr. Pascual concluded by saying, “We are not philanthropists but missionaries who reveal that God is Love. Intimate personal participation in the need and suffering of the other thus becomes a participation in myself. So that the gift does not humiliate the other, I must give not only something of mine but myself; I must be present in the gift as a person. Love and the universal law of gift, which is born from love, are the most complete, noblest, and most evolved ways of getting out of the self.
The meetings, with good participation and involvement not only of the sisters concerned, but also of many FMA communities, were lived in simplicity and fraternity, in rich sharing in Zoom groups, which made people aware of the experiences of the good present in the FMA communities in every corner of the world. At the same time, they encouraged the participants to become aware of the importance of going out, to walk with young people, and to be multipliers of hope, artisans of mercy with their hands, with their eyes, with attentive ears and closeness.