Mission is Relationship, Solidarity and Communion

Mission has changed a lot over the years as the Church has evolved and learned more about culture and our inter-connectedness as part of one universal church, one global family.

Old stereotypes of mission being only for priests or religious, being a life-long journey to another country, and being about converting other cultures to our faith and our cultural ways are no longer acceptable.  The Second Vatican Council document Ad Gentes described the Church as “missionary by her very nature” (2) and explains that mission is part of our baptismal promises.  This means that all baptized are called to be missioners.  For some this will mean traveling to other parts of the world, while for others it means welcoming guests and strangers here, and for others it means supporting mission efforts through prayer or sacrifice.  Regardless of how we live it out, we are all called to mission!

Mission is no longer an “us above them” or “material wealth-and-poverty” dichotomy; we now see that everyone has wealth to share, and we too have poverty that we need others’ gifts for.  Peoples, cultures and faith communities are called to MUTUAL exchanges of gifts and relationships.  As Bishops from around the world have often stated, “No church is so poor that it has nothing to give; and no church is so rich that it has nothing to receive.”

In addition to Ad Gentes, another guiding document we turn to in understanding mission was put out by the United States Bishops; “Called to Global Solidarity” helps us see our brothers and sisters all over the world as just that – family.  It challenges us to walk in solidarity and relationship with others, rather than seeing them as mere statistics or as nameless/faceless/story-less issues we only throw money at or easily ignore in times of both joy and struggle in their lives.  Solidarity, one of the themes of our Catholic social teachings, reminds us that we are all CONNECTED; this word, when understood in terms of connectedness and relationships, in terms of walking together with others, is the best model of mission.  The Bishops document reminds us again that solidarity and mission are the call and baptismal responsibility of all Catholics, not simply a few agencies or committees- but every parish, every believer.  How are you answering the call?

And why do these documents and our Church leaders stress solidarity and the call of all to mission?  Simply put, we were created in the image of a Triune God.  Our God is made up of three persons, each with their own gifts and charisms, yet each giving to and receiving from the other, completing and being completed by the other.  And when God created humans, it was done in God’s own image – not that God has human physical form, but man and woman were created because God’s image is a relational one, one who longs to be with and share with others, and so too we were created along with others that we are called to be in relationship with.  If truly living out our divine image, we cannot help but be relational and respectful and walk and share in mutual ways with others!  Our belief in the Eucharist too calls us to mission; as we say “Amen” to the Body and Blood of Christ we receive at Mass, so to we are to be saying “Yes!” to the body of Christ in our world and communion with others.

Documents on current missiology:

  1. Vatican II document Ad_Gentes_Summary (pdf)
  2. US Bishops document Called-to-Global-Solidarity (pdf)
  3. Seven themes of Catholic Social Teachings CST (pdf)
  4. CRS’s Global Solidarity Partnership_Manual
  5. St. Cloud Diocese’s International Clergy Policy-Diocese of St Cloud
  6. Global_snapshot   and the Catholic Perspective worksheet

A Prayer for Mission

O gracious and loving God,
you work everywhere reconciling, loving,

and healing your people and your creation.

In your Son and through the power of your Holy Spirit,
you invite each of us to join you in your work.

We ask you to form us more and more in your image and likeness,
that our eyes will be fully opened to your mission in the world.

Then, God, into our communities, our nation, and the world,
send us to serve with Christ,
taking risks to give life and hope to all people
and all of your creation,
and gracing us with the life and hope others offer as well.

Help us this day to discern your call for us, and for our brothers and sisters around the world.

We ask this in the name of Jesus your son.