Fr. Tesfaye Tadesse Gebresilasie, MCCJ, Superior General of the Comboni Missionaries of the Heart of Jesus, President of SEDOS.
Dear Participants of the Residential Seminar of SEDOS,
I welcome you all, on behalf of the Executive committee of SEDOS and the Director and all the Staff members of SEDOS Office. This year for our Residential Seminar, the theme chosen is Formation for Mission. We are going to consider this theme and as we deem it a very important reality for our communities, our congregations, and missionary Institutes and the whole Church. This Residential Seminar on Formation takes place just a day after Vocation Sunday, on which day we prayed for the gift of new vocations and the perseverance of many Brothers and Sisters in their response to the call already given and received.
During this Paschal Time or Eastertide, we have learned once again that at the base of our call and formation for the mission, stands the encounter with the Risen Christ. “The evening of that same day, the first day of the week, the doors were closed in the room where the disciples were, for fear of the Jews. Jesus came and stood among them. He said to them, ‘Peace be with you”, (20) and, after saying this, he showed them his hands and his side. The disciples were filled with joy at seeing the Lord, (21) and he said to them again, ‘Peace be with you, As the Father sent me, so am I sending you’ (22). After saying this he breathed on them and said: ‘Receive the Holy Spirit’” (Jn 20:19-21).
We are talking about Formation for God’s Mission, and this shows us that we are all called to be missionaries or as Pope Francis tells us we are mission, if we let ourselves be formed after and according to the teaching of our Lord Jesus Christ. “My mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an “extra” or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world”, (EG, n. 273).
Our Christian faith tells us that the community in the Church and the religious and missionary family which welcomes us needs to form and prepare us for God’s Mission. We are called to be disciples who are called to learn who Jesus is and how we are supposed to follow Him at the service of the Gospel, proclaiming Jesus Christ, witnessing to the Gospel, and serving God and humanity in the work of evangelisation in building up God’s Kingdom. To invest our personnel and resources in the formation of consecrated disciples is not optional, but a must for the present and the future of God’s Mission. “My sheep hear my voice; I know them, and they follow me” (Jn 10:27). Nowadays the reality of God’s Mission, in which the Church and our communities and all of us are involved, is complex and multifaceted and has different aspects and features. The topics of our Residential Seminar will try to address some of these issues.
What does it mean to form and to be formed as a missionary today, in an era of social communication, in an intercultural milieu, making the journey of sinodality and preaching human brotherhood?
What does it mean to form and be formed taking into consideration the issues of Justice, Peace, Human Dignity, difficult economic realities after the COVID pandemic, and the on-going wars and social conflicts in the world?
How can we include in our Formation the issue of our call to take care of our common home? How do we form, and let ourselves be formed in a spirit of sinodality, making our heart more and more open to make the journey together with the whole Church?
How do you form a Priest, a Brother or a Sister or a lay missionary to feel at ease when involving everybody in the mission?
How do we form our future missionaries who are sensitive to the issue of our vulnerability and fragile nature as Church and faith communities, who face with a lot of shame and guilt the story of the abuse minors and vulnerable persons?
Well, the Residential Seminar will give us the opportunity once again to reflect on some of these issues. We are all aware that the first important moment of personal formation is in prayer, in our daily encounter with God. We ready to be formed in our formation structures and in the Mission because we are responding to God’s love for us and for the People of God.
“Our lives change when we welcome this gaze. Everything becomes a vocational dialogue between us and the Lord, but also between ourselves and others. A dialogue that, experienced in depth, makes us become ever more who we are. In the vocation to the ordained priesthood, to be instruments of Christ’s grace and mercy. In the vocation to the consecrated life, to be the praise of God and the prophecy of a new humanity. In the vocation to marriage, to be mutual gift and givers and teachers of life. In every ecclesial vocation and ministry that calls us to see others and the world through God’s eyes, to serve goodness and to spread love with our works and words.” We participate in these days of reflection, accompanying them with prayer for the gift of Vocation, good and solid vocations because we need to persevere in our witness to Christ and the Good News.
“Let us pray, Brothers and Sisters, that the People of God, amid the dramatic events of history, may increasingly respond to this call. Let us implore the light of the Holy Spirit, so that all of us may find our proper place and give the very best of ourselves in this great divine plan!” (Rome, Saint John Lateran, 8 May 2022, Fourth Sunday of Easter. Message of His Holiness Pope Francis, for the 2022 World Day of Prayer for Vocations).
How can I conclude except by saying THANK YOU, to all those who are going to help us with their in-put, witness and sharing, THANKS to all those who contributed to prepare the Residential Seminar, Thanks to Fr. Peter Baekelmans, CICM, out-going Executive Director of SEDOS for his commitment in all the years of service he has given in SEDOS, thanks to the staff of SEDOS, Sr. Celine Kokkat, CJMJ, and Sr. Christina, CJMJ. We thank Sr. Mary Barron, Superior General of OLA, Vice President of SEDOS and all the members of the Executive Committee of SEDOS who have helped to organize this Seminar and will help us in running and celebrating it. We thank the community of the Paulist Fathers-Brothers who have hosted us. We thank our Benefactors who helped us.
We are pleased to welcome during this Residential Seminar Rev. Fr. John Paul Herman, SVD, who will be the in-coming Executive Director of SEDOS.