ARE we ready to face the challenge of the Church's World Mission in the Seventies'? The answer to this question will depend in the first place on whether we have grasped the significance of the new vision of the Church revealed by Vatican 11. of the Church as a community of God's people for it is this People, this community— bishops. priests, religious. laity; parishes and dioceses— that carries the responsibility of the Church's World Mission.
In the past it has been the missionary Societies who we considered as the missionaries, supported by the "faithful few" at home. It is urgently necessary that we change this outlook and realise that Christ has entrusted his mission in the first instance to us all. It is we. God's people, who are called to be the light of the nations. the sacrament of salvation. the sign of hope and redemption.
The effectiveness of the Church's mission in the Seventies will depend on whether we understand this and act upon it. mobilising the full mission potential of the whole of God's people.
Is there any evidence that we have begun to do this? I think there is. A few months ago 1 was invited to meet sonic 20 or 30 young people at the Lay Missionary Centre in the Mission Institute, London. They wore following a crash course in African history and culture. tropical health. linguistics. politics. theology and much else to prepare them for the future two or three years in Africa. I foUnd them all fired by an infectious spirit of enthusiasm.
They were typical of the lay missionary movement that is gathering momentum in the Church : the Viatores Christi, the volunteer programme of C.I.1.R.. Lampades Christi. the Volunteer Missionary Movement—all these groups and others, each with its own special inspiration. are signs that we are beginning to fill one of the glaring gaps in the Church's overseas mission.
To date the missionaries have been priests, brothers, sisters. Lay people helped from home by collecting alms and praying. The lay missionary in the field was a rare bird indeed. Not so today. A Salford teacher in a Kenya Seminary; a nutrition expert in I Tganda; a Fishery Officer in the Philippines: two nurses among the Masai on the slopes of Kilimanjaro; a kaleidoscope of pictures of dedicated volunteers whom 1 have met light up in my mind and the numbers are growing.
Other welcome additions to the missionary ranks are the clergy from the home diocese. Diocesan priests from Edinburgh working in Nigeria; priests from Westminster are in Africa and Latin America; Lancaster has sent a group to Rhodesia; more than a dozen dioceses altogether have sent priests to mission areas. The diocesan clergy will be key elements in the future development of a united mission effort from this country. Until recently. missionaries have felt rather like step-children of the home Churoh, almost as if their work was a private enterprise, something marginal as far as the home Church was concerned.
The presence of the diocesan clergy in the mission field is changing this attitude. The diocese regard them as its special responsibility and therefore generally establishes special links with them. From this it will be only one step further to regard every missionary as representing his or her diocese of origin.
Besides the growth of the lay and diocesan clergy missionary movement, we should also single out the "twinning" and "adoption" practice that is growing in popularity. This practice brings parishes into living contact with the missionaries and their work. injecting new dynamism and reality into the commitment of a community to the overseas mission of the Church.
Twinning programmes arc valuable additions to the basic support given to the missions by the Pontifical Mission aid societies and the Missionary Society appeals, but they cannot and should not replace these. The Pontifical Mission aid societies supply funds to every mission diocese in the world and must come first in any parish or diocese mission programme.
The Missionary Society appeals are for educating Missionaries. sending them overseas and supporting their work. The "faithful few" who have supported the missionaries overseas through these organisations can welcome the new twinning practice as bringing new strength to the missionary spirit of the parishes and the dioceses. But their own work must still continue.
The mobilisation of the Church's missionary effort will call for greater cooperation between missionary societies themselves and closer integration into diocesan and national mission structures. Here too the portents are encouraging. The Mission Institute. London. in 1968. united the forces of seven missionary societies in a common programme of missionary formation. This was no small achievement It does. of course, still leave the field of recruiting. fundraising. education and publicity still awaiting more satisfactory coordination. but the Hierarchy's Mission Commission and the Missions Secretariat, do provide the needed channels of communication and offer opportunities for further cooperation.
To sum up: The first demand of the Seventies is a united effort by the whole of the local Church under the leadership of the Bishops. On this, the beginning has been made. 'Fhe goodwill is there. What is needed in addition is the faith and courage to go further in accepting all that is implied in the post-Vatican II Church.
And here we touch on the second requirement for the Church's Mission in the Seventies. Before we can play our part in converting the world to Christ we must first convert ourselves. The affluent society has sapped our energies. dimmed our vision and made us selfish. Personal conversion means today what it always has meant, following the road that leads through the narrow gate of personal sacrifice. dedication and prayer.
To convert the world to Christ we must first follow Christ—in A'implicity of life, in the acceptance of sacrifice, in the renunciation of power, in constant openness to the spirit. Prayer and grace must be the beginning of our work —not as an escape from the problems of the world, but as a means to find once more the vision, the truth and the will to solve them.
Then we may conic to understand the meaning of Christian Stewardship. which I would offer as the third requirement of the Seventies.
Essentially, Christian Stewardship is a recognition that the earth and all that is in it. including man himself, belongs to God. While we live, we are God's stewards. Whatever we possess of the earth's wealth is to be used for the benefit of all men and it is only reasonable that we should be willing to give back to God, for the purpose of spreading His Word, a share of what we have.
Al. present we give on average about five shillings each per year to support the Church's Overseas Mission— and that is including the magnificent work of CAFOD. Is this Christian Stewardship? If we take it seriously more than this will be needed for the Church's World Mission in the Seventies—more from us all, from individuals, parishes, dioceses and institutions.
The world is in desperate need of Christ's Message of love and hope. The missionaries are bringing that message. bringing it from us, the Church here, bringing it as our representatives. The task is immense and we cannot any longer deceive ourselves about our responsibility to share the 'task with the missionaries.
"Who is my neighbour?" —Transistors and T.V., the jet plane and the communication satellite have made the whole world our neighbour. Mother Theresa's poor in Calcutta, the starving people in Yemen, the slum dwellers of Latin America, the dying in Bihar, they are all our neighbours in the world village of today. They all need the message of love and healing brought by the Good Samaritan. And they and all men need to hear the Good News of salvation through Christ.
This is the Church's World Mission for the Seventies: the same mission as it always was, only today. it is we who arc called upon to accept it with them.