Saturday, April 12, 2008

Re-Orienting CMI Mission Thrusts

These are the excerpts from the paper, I have submitted to the CMI General Synaxis 2008:

Re-Orienting Our Mission Thrusts
Position Paper Submitted to the CMI General Synaxis 2008

1. Introduction
When we put the General Synaxis 2008 in the perspective of the needs of the universal Church and the emerging importance of India in the new world order, we shall perceive an urgent need to re-orient our mission thrusts. This paper discusses the emerging need to shift our mission policy and proposes relevant suggestions to equip ourselves to take up those challenges.

2. Background
• Changing World Order: Emergence of India as one of the economic super powers along with China has dramatically changed the image of India and Indians in the world scenario in the last few years. The acquisition of British and European Steel companies by Tatas and Mittal, the acquisition of luxury car brands - Land Rover and Jaguar - by Tatas and the success of Indian IT companies around the globe have triggered this movement. It is been taken up by booming Indian market index – sensex and success of Indian corporate firms and Indian CEOs around the globe. The world now believes that India and Indians can do something and no more they are considered to be ‘under-developed’.

The ripples of this booming effect are seen in the Catholic Church too. The appointment of Cardinal Ivan Dias as the prefect of Congregation for Evangelisation - for the first time by an Asian - is to be seen as a sign of growing confidence in Indians by the Catholic Church hierarchy. Very recently, a Syro-Malabar priest from Ernakulam diocese – Fr Francis Kolenchery is appointed as the Dean of the Cathedral at the capital city of Australia – Canberra.

The world is ready to accept Indian leadership in almost every realm.

• Re-evangelisation Needs of the West: Though the church was originated in Asia, it was the conversion of the West, especially Europe that gave its tremendous growth. The European Church took the needs of universal church on its shoulders for most of the time in the history. But the heavy responsibly is taking it’s own toll at the moment. The human mistakes made during this process – the failures in the Middle Ages till the recent sex scandals of Catholic priests in the West – have alienated Western Church from the main stream of the society. So, now there is great need for the re-evangelisation of those (Western) cultures. The local churches in those cultures are not able to take up leadership in this area for many reasons viz, lack of vocations, the disintegration of the institution of family in those cultures, etc. Without the re-evangelisation of the West, the future of Catholic – universal- church seems very gloomy.

• Mission Challenges in India: The mission in North India is also facing new challenges. With the apparent Hindu extremist revival, chances of direct evangelisation has hit an all time low. What we can do is to concentrate on the indirect means of evangelisation to prepare the culture till we get a breakthrough. There is a need to calm down and to go slow (It does not mean that we are giving up or retreating. It’s only a strategic reflective period).

3. Re-orientation Strategy
Church is missionary. It cannot stop preaching. The present context of the world order and the mission context in India urge us to redirect our zeal and resources to more productive and urgent areas. The re-evangelisation of the West emerges as the most impending and viable challenge for the Indian church for the time being.

This is because of the following reasons: firstly, the seeds of faith are already in Western culture and the field is getting fertile enough to re-embrace the religious and Christian values. The overheated Western culture (in terms of economy and social life) because of it consumerist and individualistic value system is looking for a break and they find it in their roots – the Christian foundations. What is challenging is the incapacity of the Western Church to take leadership in this changing time, because of its lack of vocations and the cultural baggage.

Indian church, with its 16 million Catholics, vast pool of personal and material resources and the new found acceptance in the new world order is in a very good position to take up this challenge. The Indian Church – especially Syro-Malabar Church is still youthful and does not carry a cultural baggage of inquisitions or crusades so that we can talk to the confused Western youngsters in a convincing manner. As the major religious congregation in the Syro-Malabar church, it becomes the duty and opportunity of CMI congregation to take the lead in this leadership quest.

Secondly, the re-Christianisation of the West will have the most far-reaching positive impacts for the Catholic Church. Whether it is the evangelisation of Africa or the Asian countries, a re-Christianised West will be the key to its future. A dying Western Catholic church will be an irreparable loss.

4. Practical Steps
  1. Take up more meaningful mission tasks in the Western world, like forming CMI communities, Retreat/Spirituality centres, youth initiatives, investments in Western catholic resources, etc.
  2. Start/Takeover educational institutions, especially in English speaking Western countries, with our expertise in educational field in India and out-side India (Most of our fathers working in those countries help running the Catholics schools along with the Parishes).
  3. Increase the percentage of priests who can go and serve in Western countries.

5. Conclusion
What we are aiming at is the true globalisation of our mission works by which we shall serve the universal Church better. This will also provide reasonable challenges for the coming young generations to motivate them to take up CMI vocation in a dramatically changing world.

Jaison Paul Mulerikkal CMI
29th February 2008