• image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
  • image
Tuesday, 10 November 2015 12:42

Mission Symposium celebrates Ad Gentes and identifies future challenges

Rate this item
(0 votes)

Steve-Bevans-150About 150 mission scholars, practitioners and interested people gathered in Melbourne this month for the International Mission Symposium – an event aimed at celebrating the 50th anniversary of the Second Vatican Council’s decree on Mission, Ad Gentes.

The Symposium explored the ways in which the understanding and practice of Mission has developed since Vatican II, but also looked to the future and considered some of the challenges of Mission in the world today.

Fr Jacob Kavunkal SVD, who was the key organiser of the event, says a highlight of the Symposium was the number and variety of people who attended, even on the AFL grand final weekend in Melbourne.

“The participants consisted not only of Divine Word Missionaries and Holy Spirit Sisters in sizeable numbers, but also other religious, laity, theologians, scripture scholars and even a bishop,” Fr Jacob says.

Key themes to emerge from the Symposium included: the idea that the Church is Mission, even as God, as the fountain of love is Mission; This Mission is expressed through the communication of love in different forms, like hospitality to the migrants and asylum seekers; care of those at the margins, including that of creation; equality and inclusiveness of all; a dialogue of rootedness and openness among the followers of religions; and the prophetic mission of the religious.

“All of these themes are aspects of interpreting the Gospel narrative in cultural context,” Fr Jacob says.

Fr Jacob says the Symposium also identified some challenges for the future.

“One of the challenges that the Symposium raised, I would suggest, is that as far as the SVD is concerned, the indiscriminate talk of the prophetic dialogue has to be qualified according to the context,” he says.

“In Asia, the followers of other religions are not prepared to accept our prophetic dialogue, but a dialogue of equality and vulnerability, in the spirit of complementarity and harmony.”

AUS Provincial, Fr Henry Adler SVD, says the Symposium was an important event for the Divine Word Missionaries for several reasons.

“The Ad Gentes document is important to the SVDs because it was at our retreat house at Nemi, outside of Rome, that the document was born and finalised,” he says.

“Secondly, in the work on Ad Gentes, there was only one non-bishop involved in the formulation, and that was the SVD Superior General of the time, Fr Schutter, who was instrumental.

“And finally, the purpose of the Melbourne Symposium was to look back and ask, ‘As a result of Ad Gentes, how has the Church seen its Mission Mandate’?

“The response is that the Church now truly sees itself as Missionary by its very nature and the Symposium also confirmed that we have moved even further and deeper in our understanding of that.

“But we also looked critically at the lights and shadows of the last 50 years. Sr Mary John SSpS reminded us in her presentation that the role of women in the Church has not been developed to the extent it should have been and that women are not being used to their full capacity in Church leadership.”

In his homily during the Mass of the Symposium, Fr Henry touched on this again when considering the reading on Jesus’ teaching on divorce, in which he urges the little children to come to him.

“I said that we still can’t see what Jesus is really about until we invite people to consider that women, children and the marginalised are those most affected by the decisions of the Church, even though they have the least say. Jesus would ask us to put those people at the centre of our decisions.”

Photos by Thien Nguyen svd

This article was first published in the October 2015 issue of in the Word, the monthly e-news of the Society of the Divine Word (SVD) Australian Province.