World Mission Day 2022, celebrated on Sunday, October 23rd, with the theme: You shall be my witnesses, is an event that commits the Congregation of the Mission, founded by Saint Vincent de Paul in the XVII century and that today proposes to send, on a yearly basis, at least 30 confreres to mission lands as part of the “1% Campaign”. The Superior General, Father Tomaž Mavrič, CM, explains: On the occasion of World Mission Day 2022, I renew my resolution to send at least 1 percent of the members of the Congregation of the Mission, about 30 confreres a year, to the ‘missions ad gentes’ each year. This has long been our desire, this we promised to Pope Francis in 2019. Thus we follow our charism that impels us to go to all the peripheries of the world to announce first of all by personal witness and then by words and works the Gospel of Jesus. We will continue to open new missions ad gentes, in all countries where there is or will be need. As missionaries we must strive for Jesus to be known, adored, and loved throughout the world.Then, Father Tomaž speaks to young people and states: If some young man or woman feels called by Jesus to know our Fonder, Saint Vincent de Paul, our spirituality and our charism, then please, approach us in order to know us (https://cmglobal.org).
The Congregation of the Mission is present on every continent. For example, Father Matthew Nayak, CM, appointed as Visitor of Northern India six months ago, tells us: After assuming the responsibility of Visitor, in August 2022, we sent four confreres to Cambodia. I am in contact with them and they tell me that they are happy and committed to learning the local language. We also want to open a mission in Myanmar, but because of political and religious restrictions, we opened a center in Joldam, a village on the boarder with Myanmar. Father Anil Thomas, CM, Visitor of Southern India since 2020 speaks about two missions, one in Nepal and another in Malawi: I planned the mission in Malawi as a way to celebrate our 100th anniversary. In 1922, four Spanish missionaries from the Province of Madrid arrived in India. The Province of Southern India was created in 1997 and therefore, in 2022 we not only celebrate the 100th anniversary of our foundation, but also the 25th anniversary of our establishment as a Province. After concluding all the formalities, on September 29, 2021, we sent four missionaries to Malawi. There the missionaries learned the local language, Chichewa. With regard to Nepal: At the request of the Apostolic Vicar in Nepal, the Province of Souther India began a mission in that country. Two confreres arrived in Nepal on June 7, 2022. One of our confreres is assisting the Vicariate of Nepal by serving as the Director of the new Diocesan Pastoral Center. After registering the Congregation in Nepal, we are now looking to buy some land in that country. Father Anil also recalls the forthcoming opening of a mission in Sri Lanka, an endeavour which the Province has been engaged in for the past ten years: We have proposed to the Bishop of Mannar to launch an Advisory Center for people affected by the war and for other people in the Diocese. We also proposed establishing a center for Catholic university students, thus providing a way to meet their spiritual and sacramental needs while at the same time providing them with affordable accomodations. The Bishop was delighted and invited us to begin a Vincentian Mission in Sri Lanka. We have acquired 30 acres of land and we are looking forward to opening the first house and beginning the construction of the hostel (we are doing all of this with the help of benefactors and friends.
In the Common Rules of the Congregation of the Mission we read: The name Missioners, or Priests of the Mission, clearly indicates that the work of missions is the primary and most important of all ministries to people (Common Rule XI:10). Vincent de Paul also stated: I belong neither here nor there, but wherever God wants me to be (CCD:IX:10).
The XLIII General Assembly of the Congregation of the Mission of Saint Vincent de Paul re-elected Father Tomaž Mavrič, CM, as Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission and the Company of the Daughters of Charity. Father Tomaž accepted the results of the election and in a simple and humble manner expressed his gratitude to the Assembly and his total confidence in Providence and in the intercession of Saint Vincent de Paul: Many thanks to each one of you! This is our Family, our Congregation, our History … the path which we must journey along together. I accept the result of this election trusting in the help of the God so that we can all work together during the next six years.
A new Vicar-General was elected, Father Gregorio Bañaga, CM (Philippine Province) and Assistants General: Father Rafal Kopystynski, CM (New England Province), Father Nélio Pereira Pita, CM (Province of Portugal), Father Aaron Gutiérrez, CM (Province of Mexico), and Father Dominique Iyolo, CM (Province of the Congo).
At the present time, the missionaries of the Congregation are present in 507 local communities in 95 countries (on the five continents). The Congregation of the Mission is a “society of apostolic life” governed by a Superior General who resides in Rome and who is supported by a Vicar-General and four Assistants. The present Constitutions and Statutes received pontifical approval in 1984. The Congregation is composed of priests and brothers, all of whom (through vows) are dedicated to the evangelization of the poor. Saint Vincent encouraged his followers to practice five virtues: humility, simplicity, gentleness, mortification, and apostolic zeal (indispensable interior dispositions in order to proclaim the good news). The primary ministries continue to be those that were advocated by Saint Vincent: popular missions, formation of the clergy and the laity, spiritual retreats, seminary formation, mission ad gentes, and concrete service on behalf of the poor (https://cmglobal.org).
On Friday, July 8th, Father Tomaž Mavrič celebrated the Eucharist with the new members of his Council and thus, initiate his second term of office. Then, on Thursday, July 14th, Father Tomaž and the 120 delegates to the Assembly will be received by Pope Francis in a private audience.
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During the Assembly the Leadership Team of the Congregation will be elected. The celebration of the Eucharist on Monday, June 27th, 2022, which will be presided by Father Tomaž Mavrič, CM (Superior General) and animated by the musical group, Gen Verde, will mark the beginning of the XLIII General Assembly of the Congregation of the Mission. This gathering will continue until July 15 and will be held at the Casa San Juan de Ávila on Via de Torre Rossa 2/a.
The General Assembly is held every six years and is the most important event of the Congregation. All the Visitors (regional leaders of the Congregation) gather together in order to elect a Superior General and the members of the General Council … the individuals elected to these positions serve for a period of six years, that is, until the time of the next General Assembly. The official name of the Congregation of the Mission is Congregatio Missionis (CM). Their members are also known as “Lazarists” (at one time, the Motherhouse of the Congregation was located at the Priory of Saint Lazare), as “Vincentians” in English speaking countries, as “Paules” in Spain and as “Vicnetinos” in Latin America. The motto of the Congregation is evangelizare pauperibus misit me, that is, “He sent me to proclaim good news to the poor”.
At the present time, the missionaries of the Congregation are present in 507 local communities in 95 countries (on the five continents). The Congregation of the Mission is a “society of apostolic life” governed by a Superior General who resides in Rome and who is supported by a Vicar-General and four Assistants. The present Constitutions and Statutes received pontifical approval in 1984. The Congregation is composed of priests and brothers, all of whom (through vows) are dedicated to the evangelization of the poor. Saint Vincent encouraged his followers to practice five virtues: humility, simplicity, gentleness, mortification, and apostolic zeal (indispensable interior dispositions in order to proclaim the good news). The primary ministries continue to be those that were advocated by Saint Vincent: popular missions, formation of the clergy and the laity, spiritual retreats, seminary formation, mission ad gentes, and concrete service on behalf of the poor.
During the past six years, the Superior General, Father Tomaž Mavrič, has highlighted a little-known aspect of Saint Vincent de Paul, the mystical aspect of charity and has also focused on the Vincentian spirituality that arises from the on-going process of beatification and canonization of various brothers and sisters. One hundred fifteen missionaries of the Congregation will gather together in Rome for this event. The majority will be Visitors and delegates from the distinct provinces, vice-provinces and regions of the Congregation. In order to organize the 2022 General Assembly, a preparatory commission was established to plan the various aspects of this event: prayer, community gatherings, etc. Each province reflected on the chosen theme: Revitalizing our identity at the beginning of the 5th century of the Congregation of the Mission. The members of the Assembly will deepen their reflection on this theme and will offer Lines of Action that will guide the activity of the Congregation during the next six years, Lines of Action that will allow it to better serve the poor by means of a revitalized Vincentian charism. The Assembly will also identify individual and community strategies that must be advanced (always mindful of the distinct social context and Vincentian spirituality).
The General Assembly, which will develop a Final Document, will also announce the election of the new Superior General (Monday, July 11th), the Vicar-General (Tuesday, July 12th) and the Assistants General (Wednesday, July 13th). The pandemic and reactivation of more or less latent armed conflicts in the world make the deepening of the Vincentian charism a priority so that missionaries are better instruments of God at the service of the poor. The Superior General, Tomaž Mavrič, CM, has stated: Let us pray to Jesus Christ that our General Assembly will be a new Pentecost for the Congregation of the Mission!
September, the Vincentian month: that was the manner in which Father Tomaž Mavrič, CM described the month of September in his message that was addressed to all the members of the Vincentian Family on the occasion of the celebration of the solemnity of Saint Vincent de Paul (September 27th). The month of September is called the Vincentian month because we, members of the worldwide Vincentian Family, prepare to celebrate together the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul with beautifully prepared Eucharists, liturgies of the Word, or other prayer encounters, engaging all the branches of the Vincentian Family in a given parish, village, city, region, or country. We also prepare to celebrate the feast with concrete acts of corporal and spiritual charity toward our Lords and Masters.
Those word of gratitude and affirmation of Father Mavriĉ were directed to the members of the more than 160 branches that compose the Vincentian Family. Creativity, which has always characterized Vincentian charity, has not been ast aside, not even during this time of great difficulty and global crisis resulting from the pandemic.
In his message, the Superior General the technological advances that everyone has had to embrace during this time of social “distancing”, but he exhorts us, whenever possible, to meet face to face, to organize more numerous personal meetings, encounters and gatherings. This is most essential as we continue our journey together and proclaim good news to the poor.
Three main invitations-exhortations:
The greatest challenge for all the branches of the Vincentian Family in the 162 countries in which they are present is that of collaboration. The objective of this collaboration is create more participation and exchanges.
Develop on the international, national, regional and local level a system that enables the members to respond quickly and effectively to natural disasters, wars and other catastrophes … and thus to respond not simply as one branch, but to respond as a united Vincentian Family.
To promote the Vincentian Family Homeless Alliance and the 13 Houses Campaign. The Vincentian Family Homeless Alliance, with the 13 Houses Campaign, is a charitable initiative which unites the Vincentian Family and ought to be promoted, introduced and made a reality in all the countries where the Vincentian Family is present so that every Congregation and Association is included. The hope is that we will arrive at a time when the problem of homelessness is not treated individually (not by any one individual or any one branch), but as a Family on a local, national and international level.
These then are the highlights of Father Mavriĉ’s message to the Vincentian Family on the occasions of the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul. There will be many celebrations, including vigils, moments of prayer and eucharistic celebrations in all parts of the world.
On the occasion of the celebration of the feast of Saint Vincent de Paul (September 27th) the Superior General of the Congregation of the Mission published a message in which he shared reflections on the challenges for charitable activity especially during this time of the pandemic that has spread throughout the world.
The pandemic and the Christian response, inspired by the Vincentian charism, are the central themes of the message that Father Tomaẑ Mavriĉ, CM addressed to the members of the worldwide Vincentian Family, present on five continents. Together in prayer, thought and action, Father Mavriĉ highlights several recent events: prayer to Saint Jean Gabriel Perboyre, CM, China’s first canonized saint … prayer for a cure for COVID-19 and prayer to strengthen health care workers, social and religious workers, public authorities and all those who are involved in some way in alleviating the suffering that has been caused by this pandemic. The prayer is entitled, the prayer of the Vincentian Family for the needs of the world … a prayer for those who suffer the terrible consequences of COVID-19, racism and other pandemics that threaten the dignity of the human persons.
Father also spoke about the response of the Vincentian Family to the tragedy in Lebanon and explained: This tragic event and so many others around the world – wars, earthquakes, floods, and other calamities – speak clearly of the importance of a model for responding to such urgent needs quickly and in the most organized and effective way possible. We wish to become more and more affective and effective tools in the hands of Jesus to demonstrate His mercy, compassion, and love wherever He wants us to go. To strengthen current practices, the model for the Vincentian Family worldwide is to keep growing in the concrete practice of acting and responding to the call of the poor together as a Family, as a Movement. Every single branch, whether it is big or small, is an invaluable part of the wonderful mosaic that makes up the Vincentian Family. To this we add the members of the Vincentian Family in the larger sense of the word, and together we become a force on which the world’s poor can count.
Another important event that occurred at the beginning of 2020 took place when the international representatives of the 170 branches of the Vincentian Family (the superiors general and international presidents) gathered together in Rome for the first time in order to share, listen to one another, plan, and make decisions with regard to the future. One of the themes of this meeting was the Vincentian Family Homeless Alliance (FHA) and its 13 Houses Campaign. This campaign is a charitable initiative which involves the whole Vincentian Family and therefore, is also to be promoted by all the members of the Family so that the heart of each individual member is moved and becomes an active participant in this common initiative. At the present time there are 53 projects in some stage of development in 37 countries, that is, 761 houses have been built or repaired. It can, therefore, be said that the life of some 5,000 people has been bettered. It should be noted that the campaign was begun in November 2018 with the objective to transform the lives of 10,000 within a period of 3-5 years. In addition to the resultsmentioned above, the following initiatives took place in the last months:
The FHA for Covid-19:18 initiatives in 16 countries. Assistance has been provided to the following: Angola, Bolivia, Ecuador, Ethiopia, the Philippines, Ghana, Lebanon, Guatemala, Madagascar (2), Peru (2), the Dominican Republic, Rwanda, and the Ukraine.
Lebanon: from our heart to the heat of Lebanon – emergency response to the August 4th explosion. An on-line call and a general call to raise $100,000.00 in order to assist the Vincentian Family in Beirut and the many families who were left homeless as a result of the explosion.
On September 27th, on the YouTube channel of the FHA, there will be a presentation that summarizes the work of the Vincentian Family on behalf of the homeless.
Father Tomaẑ explains: Because the needs of the poor are never-ending, different ones receive priority in each country as the individual branches respond so wonderfully to these needs. However, the Famvin Homeless Alliance is our unique common project. Therefore, it needs to be promoted, extended, and introduced in all 156 countries where the Vincentian Family is present so that no Congregation or Association will remain outside it, but all will take an active part in the initiative in every corner of the world where we live and serve. […] I would like to return to certain points from last year’s letter for the Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul that I am convinced are the key for us to move forward so that the 160 branches pray, think, and act together. This year, we are especially invited as the Vincentian Family, as the Vincentian Movement, to further commit to the FHA because the message of Pope Francis for the 106th World Day of Migrants and Refugees, which providentially will be celebrated 27 September 2020, speaks of one of the groups of persons whom we are helping through the FHA. Therefore, this year’s Feast of Saint Vincent de Paul becomes an extraordinary opportunity to reaffirm or make a commitment to active participation in the FHA as well as in the “13 Houses” project.
Father General invites the members of the 170 branches of the Vincentian Family to become active collaborators in the Famvin Homeless Alliance (website: www.vfhomelessalliance.org – email: firstname.lastname@example.org) and concludes: The COVID-19 pandemic has brought us as individuals and as members of the worldwide Vincentian Family many opportunities as well as challenges. The same will be true in the post-COVID-19 period. Pope Francis repeatedly reminds us that the world, and we as individuals, cannot remain the same after COVID-19. We will become better, or we will take a step back and become worse. The same is true for our Vincentian Family, for our Vincentian Movement. So many wonderful steps, be they new forms of prayer gatherings, collaborative food distribution, or other initiatives, have already been taken in the pandemic period and will be taken in the so-called post-COVID-19 period, bringing the Family together more and more.