Message from General Administration on Foundation Day

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Rome, December 8th, 2017

For: Missionaries of the Sacred Heart.

Dear brothers.

On the 8th of December 2017, we will celebrate the 163rd anniversary of our MSC Congregation.  As expected, this letter contains echoes of our XXV General Chapter. During this Chapter we discerned movements of the Spirit that can help us to celebrate this Anniversary of our MSC Foundation.

“Look, I am doing something new, now it emerges; can you not see it? Yes, I am making a road in the desert and rivers on the wastelands.” (Is. 43:19).

Once again, we confirm our need for growth in personal and community discernment. We need to listen to each other, in order to hear the clamour of the reality that cries to heaven from all over the world.  So it is important for us to hear the call that Pope Francis made to us in our audience with him during the General Chapter: “I ask you not to yield to the temptation of clericalism that, as I have often remarked, alienates people, especially the young, from the Church”.  He invited us to live “a common life marked by true fraternity, which welcomes diversity and values the gifts of all”.  These words of Pope Francis help us to see that there is a danger of losing our identity as Missionaries of the Sacred Heart of Jesus.  We are aware that clericalism is an expression of the abuse of power and the ambition for prestige that is often confused with our ministry, forgetting that “we have come to serve, not to be served” (Mt 20,28).

We are invited to continue being a prophetic presence, “new wine” in the peripheries and liminal spaces of the different realities and cultures where we try to live out our mission. (cf. MSC CS# 22)  We share with you the impulse that we felt in the General Chapter to continue being present where life calls us.  Places where we see the faces of abused people, the excluded, victims of the different “wars”, in the life of nature that cries out in the many islands that feel the consequences of global warming, and in countries where the different ecosystems are being destroyed because of the ambition for money (mines, destruction of forests etc.)

“Reality is a way that God communicates with us. It is through reality that       God comes to meet what is human”

During the General Chapter in September, we set out the following priorities for each and every MSC in the world. We will develop these priorities, adapting them of course, to the different cultural contexts in which we MSC live. We believe that in celebrating this Anniversary of our MSC Foundation it is important for us to name the priorities that we wish to develop over the next six years.  In a short time, you will receive details of these priorities when we publish the Acts of the General Chapter.

The following are the priority areas:

  1. Formation, both initial and ongoing
  2. Integrity in Ministry.
  3. Protection of children and vulnerable adults.
  4. Finances and Accountability.
  5. Justice, Peace and the Integrity of Creation. (JPIC)
  6. The Laity.
  7. Restructuring and Ageing in some provinces.
  8. Communication and Apostolate.

Consecrated Life not only has a glorious history to be recorded and recounted. Consecrated Life ha a great history still to be constructed, (VC 110)

In the General Chapter, our hearts were also touched by the experience of our provinces that are going through the process of chronological ageing, but not the ageing of the Missionary Spirit.  We hope the whole Congregation feels the call to solidarity with our “Elder Brothers” who, when they heard the call of Christ to “come and see” (Jn 1:39), they came and stayed all their lives. They dug the foundations of many young provinces in Asia, Oceania, Africa and South America.  As Pope Francis said: “our MSC Brothers are our treasure.”  We can say that our provinces in Europe and North America are also “new wine” even though they have to manage the painful processes of rethinking and reorganising their structures and their actual mission (cf. MSC CS# 25). At the end of the 163 years of our Congregational life, we wish to say to them that these processes are, and should continue to be, spaces and opportunities for hope.  We take this opportunity, on this the 8th of December, to tell these MSC provinces that they are not alone.  They are part of a valiant tradition of our missionary identity. You have loved like Christ: with a human heart.

We are living in at a turning-point in history. These are certain moments that can point out new directions we can follow. These moments are pregnant with new life. A new life that frequently rises up from what appears to be the ashes of reality.

Basing ourselves on one of the clearest exchanges of the General Chapter, we feel duty-bound to require all MSC to prioritise the ongoing formation of our life and ministries.  At the same time, we must give attention to initial formation so that it is both solid and inclusive and will help the growth of our humanity.  In this way not only those in initial formation but also those in ongoing formation can continue our commitment, especially towards the poorest and the marginalised.  We can carry out this commitment, networking with the different projects carried out in all the different countries in relation to Justice, Peace and the integrity of Creation: JPIC.  A great deal of our future depends on how seriously each of us takes this area of initial and ongoing formation. We must take account of our past in order to live the present and foresee the future.

We note again that we need processes of conversion in order to play our role as servants of the laity. United with the whole Chevalier family we reiterate our support and accompaniment of the Lay vocation of the Chevalier Family. When the laity can fulfil their role, it helps us to redefine even our authentic consecration. This General Chapter invites us to take seriously the fact that we are Missionaries of the Sacred Heart and as such, we must review and actualise our awareness and our language about the Evangelical Counsels.

We want the whole Congregation to realise that the Charism we received from Fr. Chevalier is not exclusively ours.  It is a Charism for the world, for life, for the Kingdom and for the Church. It will then continue to live in so far as we live it as a Charismatic Family in communion with our sister congregations and the laity of the Chevalier Family. In this respect Pope Francis advised us: “Do not hesitate to continue and expand your communion with the laypersons who participate in your apostolate. Let them share in your ideals and projects, and in the rich spirituality arising from your Institute’s charism”.

At all times Consecrated Life has the responsibility to read the signs of history and to interpret them prophetically in the light of the Gospel. This is an essential dimension of our mission.

We believe that Spirituality of the Heart continues to be a power for healing so many wounds of the world of today.  This is why we need to change from a local vision, mission and mentality to a more global one. It is necessary to propose in the documents and projects of every MSC entity a “Glocal” vision which, while not neglecting the consolidation of the local mission, will open us up to internationality in the mission. We need to “deconstruct” everything that is an obstacle to getting out of our “local” mentality so that we can be open to a mentality that is more congregational and international.  In this way we will be disposed, like in the times of Fr. Chevalier, to go anywhere especially where nobody else wants to go. If we are to respond to the challenges which global reality places before us today, we must become more aware of the need for international, interprovincial, intergenerational and intercultural collaboration.

The world is now becoming more and more interdependent and fragile, and a new planetary culture is coming to birth. This demands a new way of being, of believing and of carrying out our mission as MSC.

There are many tasks and we are called to carry them out in a world that is changing, complex, virtual and interconnected but at the same time a source of loneliness, sadness and injustice. Let us try to use, in a critical and mature manner, the different media of communication and the social networks because in them the present and future of our world is played out.

We are making an urgent appeal that we live and manage Integrity in our Ministry and that we have clear protocols in place for the protection of minors and vulnerable adults.  What better way of celebrating the 163rd anniversary of our foundation than committing ourselves both personally and as a community to this aspect that is so essential for our mission today?

We cannot continue to be “new wine in old wineskins”.  We want to be “new people” who build new structures that are open and flexible but at the same time solid structures that help us to face reality as it is presented to us; realities of ageing in some continents and rapid expansion in others.  Our history may appear complex to us but it is pregnant with life… are we attentive enough to notice what is emerging among us – a new humanity?

May Our Lady of the Sacred Heart “help us to say our “yes” to the urgency of resounding the Good News of Jesus in our times; may she intercede for us so that we can acquire the holy audacity of seeking new ways to ensure that the gift of salvation reaches everyone”. (Message Domund 2017)

We take this opportunity to wish you all a Happy Christmas; may 2018 be full of hope and missionary planning.

United in the Heart of Christ.

Abzalón Alvarado
André Claessens
Paulus Pitoy
Chris Chaplin
Humberto Henriques

General Administration MSC

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