by Fr. Denis Carter SSC
Readings: Gen. 9: 8-15 Covenant with all creation after the Flood.
Ps. 24(25) 4-6,
1 Peter 3:18-22 The Spirit saves through Water/ Baptism
Mk. 1:12-15 Jesus led by The Spirit to be tempted by Satan
Since it is not possible for me to be with you today, I have written my appeal to you.
Having listened to these powerful words of scripture, I cannot help seeing that they are so appropriate for me in speaking to you about the Missionary Society of St. Columban.
The Columbans were founded over 100 years ago by young Priests inspired with the call of God and led by the Spirit to go out to the world and evangelise, beginning with China.
The challenges of being a missionary in those days were many and dangerous.
learning new languages and cultures. risking ones health and life by living with and sharing the suffering of the poor .
The Columbans were soon asked to take on new missions to other countries mainly in the Far East and eventually Latin America. Vocations from Ireland, the UK, Australia and America, grew to meet the demand.
As the Society grew our purpose and way of being on mission was shaped and refined by the people we served and by the conditions that they had to endure. Recalling the Temptation of Jesus, He was driven by the Spirit into the desert and tested to refine his understanding of what God was asking of him and what kind of Messiah he should be. Jesus rejected the common expectations of what kind of Messiah the ruling class of his day wanted.
Jesus saw the suffering people, the sick and outcast, those with little or no hope. He touched their lives with healing and acceptance as the suffering servant, not as a ruler.
After much discernment, the Columbans accepted a mandate from the Church.
It was the challenge of Crossing boundaries, boundaries of preconceived ideas, languages, culture and attitude, to Stand with the Poor and Marginalised, to help them understand and experience the love and healing of God.
We are to help people experience that Love God has for every individual regardless of social status, cast or ethnic origin. To realise that we are all one human race, children of a loving God.
We are to help establish the Church among peoples to whom the Gospel has not been preached;
We have to promote and encourage inter-faith dialogue between Christians and those of other religious traditions; to have the courage to listen to and hear the other.
To learn how to find common ground in our understanding of God. We have to find ways of doing this with integrity and honesty, building up communities of faith and hope, sharing our abilities and gifts, for the common good.
We are to help facilitate interchange between local Churches, especially those from which we come and those to which we are sent. So today we have young Lay-people from the mission lands, working with us in other missions.
We have to promote Justice, Peace and Reconciliation. Which means we must discover just what are the root causes of conflict and violence and then to find ways of repairing and healing it. We must use the means and method of Jesus, in confronting evil, with non-violent resistance, compassion and love.
We have to promote care for the Integrity of Creation. Remembering that the covenant God made with Noah, was with all of Creation not just with Humanity. So as the stewards of Creation and our environment, we are responsible for the earth. The earth is our home, it is all we have to sustain all life here, if we do not look after it, how will it feed us and be a home for us?
And finally we must foster in local Churches an awareness of their missionary responsibility.
That is why I am here today, to help foster that awareness of the need for the Church to be more missionary.
All that I have said here is not easy to make real and to put into practice.
We often find ourselves at odds with the powers and vested interests of those who see us as a threat. It is by our educating the poor and our non-violent fight for Justice with mercy that we risk our lives for the sake of the Gospel.
Columbans have for the last 100 years served in many countries where Martial Law and Dictators were and are the rule. And many of our members have made such a difference in the lives of so many people, some have even been killed.
It is a sad fact that when the Gospel is preached and lived out authentically, then there are forces and people who will try to stop it with violence, deadly violence. In spite of this we keep trying
We accept that there have been times we failed, but there are also many successes.
We sometimes measure our success by the number of Martyrs we are blessed with.
Missionary life is not easy, but looking back at about 40 years as a Columban, I have had pain, but I also have many memories of great Joy and knowing that I have made a difference in the lives of perhaps thousands of people, people that I was a part of and people who will always be a part of me.
I wish that I had more time to share with you some of the stories of my life in Pakistan among the tribal people of the southern province of Sindh. Some of the stories of success, such as how we were part of the campaign to abolish slavery and bonded labour. Or programmes of adult literacy, projects to immunise children in the remote villages, and celebrating 3 hour long Masses under the stars with congregations of Christian, Hindu and Muslims, where we shared our understanding of God and the joys and hardships of life.
Maybe another time?
If you would like to help us continue this work, I would like you pray for us, for vocations to the missionary life, or if you are able, to join us as a missionary.
You could help by a donation, through the collection, or through the website, details on the notice board.
If you wish to learn more about the Columbans you can subscribe to the Far East Magazine the details can be found on our website: www.columbans.co.uk or you could write to us by email: firstname.lastname@example.org or by snail-mail to St. Columbans Widney Manor Road, Solihull B93 9AB
Many thanks for having the patience of listening to this, and God Bless you and yours.