Mission ad gentes
Someone once asked me what that word really means and I responded jokingly that I am a “missionary” ad gentes. In fact, we as Comboni missionaries are people prepared for the evangelization in the world; mission ad gentes. Although we always think that it’s only the work of the missionaries to spread the gospel, we have to remember that the church is by its “nature” missionary. In the gospel of Mathew 28:19, Christ sends his disciples to spread the good news to the whole world. Also in his letter to the Ephesians 3:8, St. Paul recognizes the necessity and the concern to preach the gospel not to his fellow Jews, but to the gentiles, “To me, though I am the very least of all the saints, this grace was given, to preach to the Gentiles the unsearchable riches of Christ.”
The church on exit
We are living in the times of grace where the whole church especially here in Latin America is asked to move out and meet the poor, the most abandoned and rejected people. The Holy Father Pope Francis in these words clarifies this: “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.” In fact, there is a saying here that: “difficult missions are for the combonis”.
My missionary journey
My journey to priesthood started when I moved from Ibanda to Mbuya parish. For the six years at St. Kizito S.S.S Bugolobi, I saw many Comboni missionaries and this increased my desire for missionary life. In my vocational journey, I had different missionary experiences in Jinja, Zambia-Lusaka and lastly Brazil – São Paulo. There is nothing impossible in this life. St. Daniel Comboni says that “a Comboni missionary needs to fix his eyes on the one who was crucified for us.” After finishing my vocational journey to priesthood, I was posted to Brazil.
When I arrived in Brazil, the provincial council of Brazil requested me to assume the responsibility of a vocational promoter and mission animator. I welcomed the new responsibility with faith saying here I am Lord. My missionary work is to search for the youth who are interested in living a comboni missionary life in and outside Brazil.
I move to parishes and dioceses meeting youth groups, celebrating mass and giving testimonies about missionary life. In my missionary journeys when I meet people, the shock remains “Ugandan- African missionary in Brazil”!
Most times, I am meant to answer questions of the kind: are you happy? –YES IAM, do you earn money? – NO, don’t you want to marry? –NO, don’t you miss your parents and family? – I do but am now used. Such are the questions, which many youths are not ready to hear or want to answer.
Current Catholic Church
Although Brazil has for many years been known as the most catholic populated country, there are currently approximately 210 million people of which “64 percent” are would be Catholics. There are also many mushrooming American Pentecostal churches. In the slums where I stay, people like to say: “here a bar may fail, but the church will not”. Our parish has got 13 Christian communities but there are approximately 200 dominations of Pentecostal churches. On the other hand, there are places with dioceses as big as the half of Uganda. The state of Amazonia is like the whole of East Africa. This makes it difficult to reach some places especially where the few ordained ministers/ priests can’t reach.
We recognize that the church in Brazil lacks ordained and religious missionaries. Once I went for a missionary experience in northeast of the country in a certain parish with 50 Christian communities (chapels/ Ebisoomesa) and only one priest to take care of all of them. I remember celebrating in one of the communities and the people had last had a Eucharistic celebration 6 months ago. Just to say that most of the youths in the big cities are not aware of such situations in their country gives my missionary life a lot of work to fulfill.
From the various public events held, I can say that the church in Brazil has many youths. The main concern is that many of these youths are after temporal things. They want quick mass celebrations, but would prefer to be in the nightclubs and parties for many hours. Many times, I have given talks to youths in many parishes about missionary and religious life, just to inspire in them a missionary spirit. Therefore, the need for the great message to the young people: “God loves you. Christ saves you, Christ is alive” (synodic apostolic exhortation Christus Vivit chapter 4 by Pope Francis).
My mission as a missionary priest
I am called to be a witness of God who loves, of Christ who saves and of Christ who is alive so that his good news may be known to the entire world. This is the call to all the youths to change their mentality and begin to embrace missionary life. My stay among the youths is nothing other than to say that missionary life is possible. The Old Testament reminds us of prophet Jeremiah: “I knew you before you were born… and I made you prophet to the nations”. A comboni missionary is called to be a prophet who announces the presence of God in situations of difficulty and lack of faith.
In this missionary month, let us create a missionary mentality as baptized young and old people so that the church of Christ never lacks missionaries in the whole world. This is my prayer. Like St. Paul, I end this experience with these words: “woe to me if I don’t preach the gospel.” Cor 9:16)
By Fr. Vincent de Paul Asiimwe mccj
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