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Thursday, 26 October 2023 11:55

Mission Day explores ways to be faithful & creative disciples in a wounded world

Mission Day 2023 speakers 550The annual SVD Mission Day in Melbourne has been hailed a big success, attracting more than 300 people who gathered to explore the theme: “Your Light Must Shine Before Others: Faithful and Creative Discipleship in a Wounded World”.

The guest speaker was Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv and the Response was given by Anglican priest and theologian, Rev. Dorothy Lee of Trinity College, the University of Divinity, with the discussion moderated by Sr Patricia Fox NDS.

Fr Albano Da Costa SVD, Vice-Provincial of the SVD AUS Province and Dean of Studies at Dorish Maru College, said the theme was chosen to align with the theme of next year’s 19th General Chapter of the Society of the Divine Word.

“Reflecting on the context of the world today and in view of the 150th anniversary of the Society of the Divine Word in 2025 and the 19th General Chapter in June 2024, we together decided that the theme of this year’s annual SVD Mission Day celebration would be ‘to enhance our growing in authentic discipleship by strengthening our identity, being creative in our ways of proclamation and witnessing to Christ in a wounded world’,” he said.

Mission Day 2023 seminar crowd 550“The implications, therefore, for a missionary Church are not for the faint-hearted. A prophetic call is now at hand to see the cracks and respond with renewed purpose attuned to an integral vision of humanity envisioned by God. It’s now or never for prophets and healers to rise.”

In his presentation, Bishop Vincent said that being a Christian is not merely being concerned with the afterlife rewards and individual salvation but has a much broader focus and lofty vision.

“The God that Jesus revealed impels us to build the kingdom that embraces all of life in the universe,” he said.

“Following his footsteps, we are called to be people who are on the side of truth, justice, dignity, starting with the oppressed, with those who are most impacted, including creation.”

Bishop Vincent said the theme for Mission Day was taken from the Gospel ‘Your light must shine before others’.

“We are called to be a beacon of light for the world by the measure of our authentic witness. This authenticity lies in our courage to be the voice of the minority and the conscience of those who are marginalised by society,” he said.

Mission Day 2023 Eucharist 550“We are called to be like the prophets of old who have the burning passion, urgency, discomfort and the itch to speak God’s alternate vision for humanity. Now we need to embody that vision in living as contrast communities, avoiding cultural accommodation and demonstrating a different way to be a society.

“At a time when the global structures are faltering, the world needs more than ever the witness of a Christian community united in its effort to honour the dignity and worth of every human person, to serve the common good and live as one with God’s creation.”

Bishop Vincent said Pope Francis is leading the way in terms of encouraging the Church to focus its attentions on healing wounds, as characterised by his description of the Church as a field hospital that treats the wounded after the battle.

“The Pope said: ‘The thing the Church needs most today is the ability to heal wounds and to warm the hearts of the faithful; it needs nearness, proximity’,” Bishop Vincent said.

“That is his vision of the ideal Church. Not a perfect society, nor the enclosure for the privileged but a refuge for the poor, an oasis for the weary and a hospital for the wounded.

“The field hospital is not concerned about defending against threat of encroachment and loss of its status and privileges. Instead, it goes out of itself to respond to the needs of those whose lives are at risk. It engages with the world rather than withdraws into enclaves. Our desire to be counter-cultural witness should not imprison us in a ghetto. Indeed, as Pope Francis reminds us, we need to be in prisons, hospitals, the streets, villages, factories. “I prefer a church which is bruised, hurting and dirty because it has been out on the streets, rather than a church which is unhealthy from being confined and from clinging to its own security.”

The Pope’s call for a more synodal Church is part of this vision, Bishop Vincent said.

Mission Day 2023 meal 550“We cannot speak of faithful and creative discipleship without its reference to synodality,” he said. “If synodality is the new way of being Church for the third millennium as Pope Francis teaches authoritatively, then it necessitates an appropriate form of discipleship.

“Indeed, for him, synodality is ‘not some of the bishops some of the time, but all of the people all of the time’. This means that the Church cannot be fully itself without involving everyone as co-responsible for its life and mission.”

Responding to Bishop Vincent, Rev. Lee looked at his comments through the lens of her area of academic study, John’s Gospel.

She said John’s Gospel has a strongly cosmic perspective, “that, like Bishop Vincent, challenges our current individualism as well as theological views that see this life as a mere preparation for the life to come”. The healing of wounds was another Johannine motif, apparent in the healing and raising ‘signs’ or miracles of the Gospel. The fourth Gospel also points us to a need to embrace newness, led by the Spirit and it is a Gospel full of hope “grounded in the glory revealed in the incarnation and in the life and ministry, but above all, in the cross and Easter events”.

“John pictures an inclusive community grounded in synodality: women as well as men, Jews and Gentiles, all gathered around ‘the Saviour of the world’ (Jn 4:42),” Rev. Lee said.

At the heart of this community is love and friendship, she said.

“For John, we are drawn into the life of the Trinity and sent out for mission, a mission that is based on the command to ‘love one another as I have loved you’ (Jn 13:34).”

Mission Day 2023 dancing 550Following the seminar, the Mission Day Eucharist took its usual multicultural flavour, featuring musical and other contributions from a range of different cultural groups, including the Vietnamese, Indonesian, Indian, Chinese, Spanish, and Fijian communities.

The program culminated with a multicultural meal at Dorish Maru College, followed by entertainment from different cultural groups.

Fr Albano said the day was a big success and the SVD continued to believe there was great value in holding such an annual event to bring about greater awareness of God’s mission.

“People today are thirsty in looking for mission formation programs such as this and I felt the passion and excitement in the participants,” he said.

“The Mission Day Annual event has become such an important event in the calendar of many and the friends and benefactors of Dorish Maru SVD Community and circle just keeps widening.”


TOP RIGHT: Rev Dorothy Lee, Sr Patricia Fox FDS, Bishop Vincent Long OFM Conv, Gusty Siga SVD, Fr Albano Da Costa SVD.

TOP LEFT: The Mission Day attracted a strong crowd.

MIDDLE RIGHT: Multicultural celebration of the Eucharist.

MIDDLE LEFT: Fr Yon Wiryono SVD with guests at the multicultural meal at Dorish Maru College following the Mission Day seminar.

BOTTOM RIGHT: Multicultural dancing followed the meal.