Catholic Church in Southern Africa would like to invite all the people of God, according to their different parishes and dioceses, to start now preparing for the Extraordinary Celebration of October Mission Month. Follow the explanations and instructions below on how to prepare for this special month. The website is also provided if one wants to find more about the plans in place regarding the Mission Month of this year of the Lord 2019.
Why are we celebrating an Extraordinary Missionary Month in October 2019?
“On 30 November 2019, we will celebrate the hundredth anniversary of the promulgation of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud with which Pope Benedict XV sought to give new impetus to the missionary task of proclaiming the Gospel. In 1919, in the wake of a tragic global conflict that he himself called a “useless slaughter,” the Pope recognized the need for a more evangelical approach to missionary work in the world, so that it would be purified of any colonial overtones and kept far away from the nationalistic and expansionistic aims that had proved so disastrous. “The Church of God is universal; she is not alien to any people,” he wrote, firmly calling for the rejection of any form of particular interest, inasmuch as the proclamation and the love of the Lord Jesus, spread by holiness of one’s life and good works, are the sole purpose of missionary activity. Benedict XV thus laid special emphasis on the missio ad gentes, employing the concepts and language of the time, in an effort to revive, particularly among the clergy, a sense of duty towards the missions. That duty is a response to Jesus’ perennial command to “go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk 16:15).
Obeying this mandate of the Lord is not an option for the Church: in the words of the Second Vatican Council, it is her “essential task,” for the Church is “missionary by nature.” “Evangelizing is in fact the grace and vocation proper to the Church, her deepest identity; she exists in order to evangelize.” The Council went on to say that, if the Church is to remain faithful to herself and to preach Jesus crucified and risen for all, the living and merciful Saviour, then “prompted by the Holy Spirit, she must walk the same path Christ walked: a path of poverty and obedience, of service and self-sacrifice.” In this way, she will effectively proclaim the Lord, “model of that redeemed humanity, imbued with brotherly love, sincerity and a peaceful spirit, to which all aspire.”
What Pope Benedict XV so greatly desired almost a century ago, and the Council reiterated some fifty years ago, remains timely. Even now, as in the past, “the Church, sent by Christ to reveal and to communicate the love of God to all men and nations, is aware that there still remains an enormous missionary task for her to accomplish.” In this regard, St John Paul II noted that “the mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion,” and indeed, “an overall view of the human race shows that this mission is still only beginning and that we must commit ourselves wholeheartedly to its service.” As a result, in words that I would now draw once more to everyone’s attention, Saint John Paul exhorted the Church to undertake a “renewed missionary commitment,” in the conviction that missionary activity “renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive. Faith is strengthened when it is given to others! It is in commitment to the Church’s universal mission that the new evangelization of Christian peoples will find inspiration and support.”
In my Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium, drawing from the proceedings of the Thirteenth Ordinary General Assembly of the Synod of Bishops, which met to reflect on the new evangelization for the transmission of the Christian faith, I once more set this urgent summons before the whole Church. There I wrote, “John Paul II asked us to recognize that ‘there must be no lessening of the impetus to preach the Gospel’ to those who are far from Christ, ‘because this is the first task of the Church.’ Indeed, ‘today missionary activity still represents the greatest challenge for the Church’ and ‘the missionary task must remain foremost.’ What would happen if we were to take these words seriously? We would realize that missionary outreach is paradigmatic for all the Church’s activity.” I am convinced that this challenge remains as urgent as ever. “[It] has a programmatic significance and important consequences. I hope that all communities will devote the necessary effort to advancing along the path of a pastoral and missionary conversion that cannot leave things as they presently are. ‘Mere administration’ can no longer be enough. Throughout the world, let us be ‘permanently in a state of mission.’” Let us not fear to undertake, with trust in God and great courage, “a missionary option 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 evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation. The renewal of structures demanded by pastoral conversion can only be understood in this light: as part of an effort to make them more mission-oriented, to make ordinary pastoral activity on every level more inclusive and open, to inspire in pastoral workers a constant desire to go forth and in this way to elicit a positive response from all those whom Jesus summons to friendship with himself. As John Paul II told the Bishops of Oceania, ‘All renewal in the Church must have mission as its goal if it is not to fall prey to a kind of ecclesial introversion.’”
The Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud called for transcending national boundaries and bearing witness, with prophetic spirit and evangelical boldness, to God’s saving will through the Church’s universal mission. May the approaching centenary of that Letter serve as an incentive to combat the recurring temptation lurking beneath every form of ecclesial introversion, self-referential retreat into comfort zones, pastoral pessimism and sterile nostalgia for the past. Instead, may we be open to the joyful newness of the Gospel. In these, our troubled times, rent by the tragedies of war and menaced by the baneful tendency to accentuate differences and to incite conflict, may the Good News that in Jesus forgiveness triumphs over sin, life defeats death and love conquers fear, be proclaimed to the world with renewed fervor, and instill trust and hope in everyone. In the light of this, accepting the proposal of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, I hereby call for an Extraordinary Missionary Month to be celebrated in October 2019, with the aim of fostering an increased awareness of the missio ad gentes and taking up again with renewed
fervor the missionary transformation of the Church’s life and pastoral activity.
The Missionary Month of October 2018 can serve as a good preparation for this celebration by enabling all the faithful to take to heart the proclamation of the Gospel and to help their communities grow in missionary and evangelizing zeal. May the love for the Church’s mission, which is “a passion for Jesus and a passion for his people,” grow ever stronger! I entrust you, venerable Brother, the Congregation which you head, and the Pontifical Mission Societies with the work of preparing for this event, especially by raising awareness among the particular Churches, the Institutes of Consecrated Life and Societies of Apostolic Life, and among associations, movements, communities and other ecclesial bodies. May the Extraordinary Missionary Month prove an intense and fruitful occasion of grace, and promote initiatives and above all prayer, the soul of all missionary activity. May it likewise advance the preaching of the Gospel, biblical and theological reflection on the Church’s mission, works of Christian charity, and practical works of cooperation and solidarity between Churches, so that missionary zeal may revive and never be wanting among us.”
Letter of his holiness Pope Francis – FOR THE CENTENARY OF THE PROMULGATION OF THE APOSTOLIC LETTER
“MAXIMUM ILLUD” ON THE ACTIVITY OF MISSIONARIES IN THE WORLD
The Plan in Place for Celebrating this Special Month of October 2019
The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in collaboration with the Pontifical Mission Societies has done an immense amount of preparatory work in cooperation with the National Office to ensure that we have heeded to the call of Pope Francis for EMMOCT2019.
I refer you to the special website filled with a treasure of information about Mission and which has been prepared in order that Dioceses throughout the world make use of the material and from this also come up with initiatives and commitments at all levels and in all groups of the Church. Everyone needs to get involved and it should have already begun.
There one will find amongst many other interesting features the GUIDE FOR THE EXTRAORDINARY MISSIONARY MONTH OCTOBER 2019 (EMMOCT2019)
The English version of the Guide, a very detailed and treasure of a document, is available on the Website, www.october2019.va , (it can also be downloaded) the content of the Guide is as follows:
- Pope Francis on EMMOCT2019
- Cardinal Filoni on EMMOCT2019
- Origin of the Missio in the Church
- The Mission of the Church and Missio ad gentes
Encountering Jesus—Commentary on the Eucharistic Lectionary Texts for each day of October 2019
Mission testimonies—25 persons chosen as examples of living the mission, among them our own Blessed Benedict Daswa and a number of other Africans.
Thoughts on Mission—Thought provoking writings on various aspects of Mission
If one visits the EMMOCT2019 Website and Social Media it is clear that many countries have already begun their activities for this special Missionary event. It is important that we in the SACBC region take the initiative in our Dioceses, Parishes, Movements, Small Christian Communities, Seminaries, Sodalities, Catechesis, Groups (Adults, Choirs, Youth , Children), etc to organize activities at all levels and in all structures of the Southern African Church, using as a guide that which has been presented to us by the Congregation of the Evangelisation of Peoples and the Pontifical Mission Societies and freely adapting it to our specific situations and languages.
The Holy Father indicated four dimensions or ways to prepare for and live out the Extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019, in order to overcome divisions and opposing views between ordinary and missionary pastoral work, and between the challenges of evangelization in previously Christian areas that are now secularized and indifferent to religion and the missio ad gentes among cultures and religions to which the Gospel is still foreign (EG 14).
These four dimensions are:
- A personal encounter with Jesus Christ alive in His Church: Eucharist, Word of God, personal and communal prayer,
- The witness of the Saints, the Missionary Martyrs, and the Confessors of the Faith, who are unique expressions of the Churches throughout the world,
- Biblical, catechetical, spiritual, and theological formation regarding the missio ad gentes,
- Missionary charity as a material support for the immense work of evangelization, especially the missio ad gentes and Christian formation in Churches that are most in need.
The special Website (www.october2019.va) set up by the Vatican specifically for this special event is already functioning. All Catholics are invited and encouraged to visit the Website regularly during this year to get updates on what is happening throughout the world in dioceses and parishes with regard to preparations and celebrations related EMMOCT2019.
In this regard I would also kindly request that Dioceses, Parishes, Religious Congregations, Movements, Sodalities, Small Christian Communities, Houses of Priestly and Religious Formation, etc. to please send me details with regard to initiatives and activities taking place and the outcome of these events as I need to inform the Vatican in this regard in order that the information may too be placed on the website. It would also be good to send some digital pictures of the event – please send all information to our email address, firstname.lastname@example.org marked: “EMMOCT2019”, please also furnish details with regard to exactly where the event took place, who organised it, who participated, etc. The Website also has the Guide which has a treasure of texts to prepare for and live EMMOCT2019 throughout 2019 and beyond if we so desire.
Prayer proposed by Pope Francis
for the Extraordinary Missionary Month October 2019
when your only begotten Son Jesus Christ
rose from the dead,
he commissioned his followers
to “go and make disciples of all nations”
and you remind us that through our Baptism
we are made sharers in the mission of the Church.
Empower us by the gifts of the Holy Spirit
to be courageous and zealous
in bearing witness to the Gospel,
so that the mission entrusted to the Church,
which is still very far from completion,
may find new and efficacious expressions
that bring life and light to the world.
Help us make it possible for all peoples
to experience the saving love
and mercy of Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever.