'Be Disciples and Missionaries of Jesus Christ'
Mission Congress 2010 focuses on Christian unity.
ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CNS) — Catholics’ faith and their mission to evangelize “all begins with Jesus Christ,” Cardinal Oscar Rodriguez Maradiaga of Tegucigalpa, Honduras, told participants at Mission Congress 2010 in Albuquerque.
“(All) are called to be disciples and missionaries of Jesus Christ,” he said in an Oct. 30 keynote to the more than 400 congress attendees.
“Being a Christian does not begin with an ethical decision or a great idea, but with an encounter with a person,” the cardinal said. “To be a missionary is not looking for more people to come inside our galleries. It is to nourish the faith of our flock.”
The congress had as its theme “God’s Mission, Many Faces: A Portrait of U.S. Catholics in Mission.”
The participants — men and women dedicated to the promotion of mission and global solidarity — came from the United States, Italy, Australia, Samoa, Marshal Islands, Zambia, the Philippines, Dominican Republic and Asia.
In opening the congress, Father Michael Montoya, executive director of the Washington-based U.S. Catholic Mission Association, said: “Look around. The entire world is right here in Albuquerque, N.M.!”
Held every five years, the Mission Congress is designed to bring together Catholics and other Christians in the mission field to talk about the face of mission in today’s world.
The Oct. 28-31 gathering included a bus trip to the Indian Pueblo Cultural Center in Albuquerque; a trip to the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi in Santa Fe, the nation’s oldest U.S. city that is a state capital; panel discussions and group dialogue.
The agenda also included workshops with topics ranging from mission in the United States, global trends and mission in other traditions; ecumenical perspectives on mission; international missionaries serving in the United States; and other issues affecting mission today.
Archbishop Michael Sheehan of Santa Fe and his staff welcomed congress participants to the “Land of Enchantment,” as New Mexico is known, and to the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, which, through its liturgies, music and prayer, reflects the nation’s many ethnic and cultural heritages — Native American Indian, Hispanic, Anglo, African-American and the new immigrant.
Bishop Gerald Kicanas of Tucson, Ariz., vice president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, was the principal celebrant of the opening Mass.
During his homily, Bishop Kicanas referred to “The Calling of St. Matthew,” a painting by Italian artist Michelangelo Merisi da Caravaggio (1571-1610).
In the painting, Matthew the tax collector and his colleagues are gathered at a table. An image of Christ can be seen pointing at Matthew, who in turn points at himself, as if to ask, “Who, me?”
“Matthew, the tax collector, undeserving as he was, was chosen, picked by Christ to be his disciple,” the bishop said.
“Not unlike the early apostles, we too, imperfect as we are, have been entrusted with the same mission to go forth to bring the message of Christ ... to proclaim it to anyone who will listen,” he continued. “It is now it is our turn, our responsibility.”
The message of St. Paul, “the great apostolic missionary,” was that “Jew and Gentile were to be in one universal church embracing the whole cosmos,” Bishop Kicanas said. “We are ... members of the same body, partners in the promise in Christ Jesus through his Gospel. The message is: We are called to proclaim the unity of all in Christ.”
According to St. Paul, he said, “division is not of God. ... We are members of the same household.”
He expressed sadness at the polarization experienced in the United States right now, saying the country has become “a household divided,” seemingly incapable of coming together to address the many challenges facing the country, the world and even the Church.
He closed his homily with an appeal to the congress attendees to bring all into the household of God.
He added, “So as we gather for the Mission Congress 2010 entrusted with God’s mission ... let’s get about the mission Paul has reminded us about.”