In late April, Catholic Religious Australia in conjunction with Catholic Mission, will convene a three day Conference on Mission to be held at the Salvation Army’s SCH Function Centre in Sydney.
The conference will be within the context of the Year of Grace and Year of Faith and will complement the ‘new evangelisation’.
The conference is for people committed to and involved in mission, working for the Kingdom/Reign of God in Australia; people teaching in Catholic Education, caring for people in Catholic Health, Aboriginal Ministry, Saint Vincent de Paul, Catholic Social Services, ACRATH, Catholic Earth Care, Migrant Chaplaincy, Mercy Works, MacKillop Family Services, work with refugees or battered women, building Christian communities in their parish and other ministries.
I fear that their work and commitment may seem tangential to the Australian Church’s efforts to promote new evangelisation, which some restrict to explicit proclamation. But new evangelisation will be less effective if it is limited to a narrow definition of evangelisation.
John Paul II in his encyclical letter, Centesimus Annus (1991) taught ‘the new evangelisation, which the modern world urgently needs and which I have emphasised many times, must include among its essential elements a proclamation of the Church’s social doctrine.’ (# 5)
In Evangelii Nuntiandi, Paul VI had earlier linked liberation, evangelisation and integral development. ‘As the kernel and centre of His Good News, Christ proclaims salvation, this great gift of God which is liberation from everything that oppresses man but which is above all liberation from sin and the Evil One, in the joy of knowing God ….’ #9.
‘But evangelisation would not be complete if it did not take account of the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and man’s concrete life, both personal and social.’ #29
Benedict XVI in Caritas in Veritate [#15] develops Paul VI’s teaching on the unceasing interplay of the Gospel and ‘man’s concrete life’, reaffirming the profound links between evangelisation and human development and development and liberation.
Proclamation is the ‘permanent priority’ (RM #44) but ‘Mission is a single but complex reality, and it develops in a variety of ways. Among these ways, some have particular importance in the present situation of the Church and the world.’ (RM #41) Proclamation must be done along with work for the Kingdom such as justice, peace and the integrity of creation; interreligious dialogue; and reconciliation.
At the Synod of Bishops on Justice in the World  they described ‘action for justice and participation in the transformation of the world’ as a ‘constitutive dimension of preaching the Gospel’. Dialogue and the other aspects of mission are also constitutive of mission and so in practice mission cannot be restricted to only one aspect.
Proclamation without work for justice will be empty and possibly ineffectual. It will probably be seen as self-serving. In Australia it will lack credibility. Australians admire religion ‘with its sleeves rolled up’, religion that practices what it preaches. They respect practical, involved Christian groups like the ‘good old Salvos’ and ‘Vinnie’”. It was possibly part of the enormous appeal of St Mary MacKillop shown during her canonisation.
The broader approach to mission may also have the added advantage of speaking to and involving the very people new evangelisation is primarily addressed to, namely disaffected Catholics. Many of these, whatever they feel about the Church, still have a strong commitment to justice, dialogue, ecology, reconciliation etc.
For these reasons, Catholic Religious Australia and Catholic Mission have called the mission conference, Mission: One heart many voices for late April 2013. [Cf. www.mohmv.com.au] We hope that the conference will give a vision that will affirm, encourage and inspire all those working for the Reign of God and that this will build on other attempts at furthering new evangelisation.
Noel Connolly is a Columban missionary priest. He is a member of the Columban Mission Institute, Strathfield, in Sydney, and of the Broken Bay Institute. He also lectures in mission at the Catholic Institute of Sydney.
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