Moving Towards a Culture of Mission: Part Four

Cultivating a true Culture of Mission in our Catholic parishes and communities is in many ways the essential challenge of our Church today.  In this final part of the four part reflection, we look at some starting points for moving towards a culture of mission. (Part One / Part Two / Part Three)

By Kevin Foy
Associate Director, Western Region
Maryknoll Mission Education and Promotion

Part Four: Towards a Culture of Mission 

The nature of mission and the challenges to living it described previously set the stage for how we can begin to authentically move towards a culture of mission in our communities.  First and foremost, we need to remember that it’s God’s mission, not my mission.  (It would bring us a long way towards true missionary discipleship if we included that statement in our daily prayers.)  In terms of living out this understanding, there are a few things right off the bat that we can and should strive to incorporate and internalize in our communities:

  1. Make discernment and prayer the foundation of all that we do.  How often to we jump into strategy and action without praying together about what God wants for and from us, and how God wants us to live this out?  (And since our primary guide for how to “do” mission is the life of Jesus, the Gospel is essential to this discernment.)
  2. Let go of control.  We all want things the way that we want them, but mission is about a community of disciples responding to the Holy Spirit.  When we put our own vision and desires on hold in favor of collaboration and discernment, we are opening the door to God’s mission.  This also requires faith that God’s mission will bring us true joy in a way that our own never can.
  3. Put relationships ahead of business.  In any and every sphere, entering into loving relationship with those around us is the primary “business” of mission.  Without agenda, we need to seek Christ in the people in our lives first and foremost.  Whatever good or important work that comes out of this is secondary.  When we gather, we should let this principle guide how we spend our time.
  4. Involve everyone.  Often, we are afraid to authentically involve others in something because joining others as equals means letting go of control (hey, wasn’t that #2?).  Because of this, we may try to limit the contributions of others to financial support or performing tasks that we assign them.  Mission needs to include everyone, and in ways that allows each person to respond to how God is calling him in his life, in his moment, and with his gifts.
  5. Look outward!  This an ongoing process.  In looking outward, you may discern the call to a sister parish relationship.  You may then discern a call for your community to minister with the homeless in your city.  Maybe God is also calling members of your community to build relationships with homebound parishioners.  And on it goes, always outward.

Mission will never be a static endeavor, and a culture of mission will seek to share love in ever more ways and places.  As Father John Sivalon, former superior general of the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers, writes: “[Missionaries] all have this sense that God is with them, that God is guiding them in varied and mysterious ways, and that they absolutely need to listen to that God with the gift of uncertainty, knowing that God is continually calling us to be more than what we are, to know more than what we know, and to do more than what we do.”   

In moving towards a culture of mission, we are trusting God with uncertainty.  And we do so in the faith that love is infinite; the more we share, the more we will find.  

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