Catholics worldwide will celebrate World Mission Day on Sunday. In Macau, the alms collected at the local churches will fund the Church’s missionary activities. Formerly an advanced outpost of evangelization in the Far East, Macau is nowadays mission territory and an incubator of new vocations. O Clarim spoke with four Macau-based missionaries about the challenges of Evangelization at the beginning of the third millennium.
The Diocese of Macau celebrates World Mission Day on Sunday with an appeal to the generosity of local Catholics. The Diocesan Curia will send to the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples the second round of alms collected in the local Churches and encourages the local faithful to benevolently give their contribution to the missionary work of the Church. The amount raised, the Diocese assures, will contribute to the Church’s missionary activities, an endeavor which was, at a certain moment, very dear to Macau.
Once an advanced outpost in the efforts of the Church to evangelize the Far East, namely Japan, Macau is nowadays an incubator of new vocations and a sought-after destination for missionaries from countries such as India, Brazil, Mexico, Argentina, Poland, Indonesia, the Philippines or Italy. There are currently dozens of male and female missionaries – and an almost as large number of seminarians – based in Macau.
The men and women that faith brought to Macau were born in very different parts of the world, but all of them have something in common. At a certain point they felt “a personal call,” an invitation to seek God’s will: “The missionary vocation comes from the Holy Spirit that awakens life in the Church and is the fruit of a community of faith, of communities in which the Lord touches people’s hearts. But it is also a personal call,” Father Eduardo Aguero, missionary of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart told O Clarim: “The call to mission is made to everyone, baptized and confirmed, but when Jesus calls, the Spirit arouses that missionary response in people who have a great intimacy with Jesus and feel the need to answer. These are people who are tempted to leave everything, like Abraham did and seek beyond every sort of borders – cultural, national, racial borders – with the purpose of announcing Christ. The idea of mission nowadays in the Church is not made up of people acting alone, it is not made up of adventurers or personal adventures. Nowadays, the Church’s mission is carried out in communities of faith,” the Dehonian missionary explains.
Born in Argentina, Fr Eduardo Aguero was a member of the group of missionaries of the Congregation of the Priests of the Sacred Heart who founded, in 1989, the Dehonian mission in the Philippines, where he remained for many years. More than the capacity to uproot himself and the courage to cross borders, Father Aguero says that humility is the only essential quality when embarking on a mission: “The most important quality of the missionary is humility. Humility to accept that we are weak and that only the strength of God can encourage and help us. Humility and discernment – the capacity for spiritual discernment – are important qualities,” he argues. “The ability to discern the ways of God, the ways of the Holy Spirit, because any mission is inspired by the spirit. A missionary must have the ability to listen to the voice of God and to reject, to refuse what is not of God, the lust of the flesh and its passions,” the Argentinian priest concludes.
A member of the Society of the Divine Word, Father José Ángel Hernández sings from the same hymn book. Currently at the helm of the Parish of Our Lady of Fátima, the Mexican priest says that the biggest challenge missionaries face is to remain attentive to the signs of the Holy Spirit and focused on the mission that was entrusted to them by God: “The most difficult aspect, in my opinion, is to remain focused on Jesus Christ,” Father Hernández claims. “Nowadays, due to this situation that we are going through, it is easy to notice that people live in fear. The economy is collapsing, businesses are closing. Given these circumstances, I believe that the idea of mission takes on a new meaning. And why is that so? Because in an increasingly demanding scenario, to be a missionary is to be a witness for Jesus. This is the most important aspect,” the SVD missionary says.
Born in Loikaw, in Myanmar, the Dominican missionary Lawrence The Reh reminds us that the idea of mission is not exclusive to the ordained clergy and does not always involve a step into the unknown. The Burmese priest, a teacher at Saint Paul’s School, says that all Catholics can be missionaries. Father Reh claims that to be in a mission sometimes involves something as simple as making God known to those who do not yet know him: “All Catholics can be missionaries and honor the teachings of Jesus Christ and the Word of God. For this to happen, it’s enough that they remain faithful to the commitment they made when they were baptized. The main challenge nowadays is to proclaim the message of Christ in global societies in which materialism and technology are rampant,” the Dominican missionary states. “Through the work made by Catholic schools we have the opportunity to bring the Good News to non-Catholics. This is one of the methods missionaries have always used to bring the Good News to people who are not yet aware of God. Whether the mission is successful or not, is in God’s hands. As missionaries, we do what we can and leave the rest in God’s hands. I feel very grateful and very privileged to be a missionary in a school where most of the teachers and students are not Catholic,” the Burmese priest assumes.
Whether through teaching or practicing charity, whether helping those in need of physical solace or spiritual comfort, the purpose of missionary work, Father Peter Lee In Ho claims, must always be to encourage the voluntary acceptance of the Gospel: “Evangelization, the missionary’s mission, cannot be achieved through one-sided education, that is, teaching. What is needed first is to help people voluntarily accept the gospel. This is what missionaries are supposed to do. People should be able to feel the value of the gospel for themselves through the lives of missionaries. If you try to teach only Western church traditions and cultures that are unfamiliar to them in Macau and other Asian regions, you will never achieve complete evangelization,” the South Korean priest affirms.Father Lee, a member of the Clerical Congregation of the Blessed Korean Martyrs – a religious group that came to Macau in 2011 and has four priests working in the Special Administrative Region – says that the success of the missionary work in a place like Asia depends, to a large extent, on dialogue and consensus: “The target of evangelization is everyone in the world. In other words, evangelization is the acceptance of the gospel of God by all people. In that sense, dialogue with other religions is essential and very important. We should basically always respect them and talk to them. Mission is not about breaking with others. Mission is always reaching out to others with the heart of Jesus Christ. Just like the apostles of the early Church did. And as many martyrs of the Church did,” Father Lee concludes.