Calling the laity to bring the joy of the Gospel to all
Since the publication of Evangelii Gaudium (the Joy of the Gospel), Pope Francis’ first Apostolic Exhortation on 26 November 2013, there has been a renewed call to put everything within the Church in the “missionary” mode. Pope Francis said: “I dream of a ‘missionary option’, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation” (#27).
He went on to remind us that this missionary calling is not just reserved for a few chosen ones but is in fact the duty of every baptised person (#120).
There had been occasional mention of missionary activities but for many, this was something for those who had a special vocation. When people talk about missionaries, there is a likely chance they are referring to priests and religious, those who have dedicated their whole life to the service of the Church in another country. Even among the priests, there are missionary priests in contrast to diocesan ones. Even those lay people who felt called to mission life are obliged to seek out a group that specialises in accepting lay people to become missionaries, albeit, through a stringent selective process.
In all these, a strong message is being sent out that only those who are qualified and have special gifts can become missionaries. This runs contrary to the fact that as disciples of Jesus, we are all called to be missionaries.
Without a doubt and with due respect, missionary groups have the right to impose their own requirements for membership to preserve their uniqueness and identity, but what about all those who do not have the necessary requirements? Are they not eligible to be missionaries?
While the Church insists that all the baptised must do their part in evangelising, what structures have been put in place to encourage her members to participate in the evangelising work of the Church? Often, many Catholics feel inadequate and lost for ideas on how to realise and carry out the call to mission, both at home and abroad.
It was with this thought in mind that the Missionary Community of Corpus Christi (MCCC) was founded more than eight years ago. The foundation of this group was laid in Sabah even though it started as a mission group from Brunei. Since then, it has spread to many parts of the Philippines and now it has found its root in Sarawak.
Fr Ivan Fang MHM, who started MCCC as a parish group in St John’s Church, Kuala Belait, Brunei, wanted to bring home to his parishioners that it was time for the laity to do mission work, whether on short or long term. There was an urgency about the Church’s mission and it must not be left to priests and religious. It was time also for the local Church to take up the missionary challenge as a sign of her maturity. The Church was, in a way, too inward-looking and had lost her sense of mission.
What MCCC is seeking to do is to provide a platform for those who feel called to mission abroad and to facilitate them by providing them with some training and support. No stringent requirements are sought after and those who enrolled for training are given various skills and an opportunity to discern if they are geared towards missionary life.
For those who do not wish to go abroad as missionaries, the opportunity exists for them to carry out mission in their own parish. MCCC is setting up units in parishes to promote and foster support for missionary activities both locally and abroad. These units are really in the mould of Basic Ecclesial Communities so there is nothing so new about MCCC. Anyone can become a member of MCCC by joining a unit, even though he or she is already a member of another group.
MCCC hopes to instil the missionary spirit within the local parish. What MCCC is insisting on is that these units carry out mission animation and outreach programmes locally. These units are also the support groups for the missionaries working abroad.
There are presently four units in the Philippines, two in Brunei, one in Kota Kinabalu, another in Sibu and another has just started in Kuching. MCCC missionaries are working in China, Cambodia, the Philippines and in the near future, in Myanmar.
With the opening of a Training Centre for missionaries in Sibu (reported in Today’s Catholic in July), MCCC is hoping that more Malaysians will take up the opportunity to take the challenge to go abroad as missionaries. The next training programme begins on 22 September. Those interested or needing more information can contact Fr Ivan Fang MHM via email: firstname.lastname@example.org.
Fr Ivan Fang MHM