For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others? Pope Francis
Once after a talk I gave, a woman approached me and said, “I think we’re making this evangelization stuff way harder than it needs to be. It should be as easy as breathing.”
I looked at her in amazement and said, “What do mean?”
“We are hard-wired for it. It’s all about sharing good news, right? Who doesn’t like to share good news?”
The more I’ve thought about her, the more I think she’s hit the nail on the head. I remember when we left the hospital after my first child was born, I couldn’t resist telling everyone, including random strangers, that “we” just had a baby.
The good news we ultimately share is that God is love, God created us out of that love, and that we are unconditionally loved by God… no matter what.
Pope Francis keeps reminding us of that. His playbook for the Church, Joy of the Gospel (Evangelii Gaudium) encourages us to share love. “For if we have received the love which restores meaning to our lives, how can we fail to share that love with others?” (EG8)
joy is always possible, even in dire situations. Some of the most profound hospitality I have experienced in my life was by folks living on a buck a day in the worst slums of Nairobi, Kenya.
Although we have much to learn from the poor around the world, our call to our missionary discipleship vocation which began with baptism is not something only those “brave missionaries overseas” do. Rather, the very seeds of God’s mission of love are everywhere, and for many of us that plays out in our families, neighborhoods and workplaces,
To help others share their joy wherever they are planted, we offer a Missionary Disciple Formation Program. A group of 13 gathered this past weekend at our mission house in San Lorenzo, California for the weekend retreat program. We shared our stories of God’s love in our own lives and reflected how they fit into God’s story of salvation history told through the Scriptures. We struggled with the challenges and opportunities presented in Pope Francis’ playbook Joy of the Gospel and committed ourselves to helping foster communities of missionary disciples at home, in our parishes and with our neighbors. Here are what some of the group plan to do in going forth in joy:
- Carolyn, a recently returned international lay missioner and now a pastoral associate in Oregon, will continue to foster missionary disciples in her parish. But she also plans to write more and use social media to share the good news, particularly with youth and young adults. She has been part of a Maryknoll Affiliates group as one of her communities of missionary disciples.
- Leah, a Catholic school teacher, will work to make her students in the classroom become a community of missionary disciples and will reach out to her fellow teachers to share her passion for mission. She is very interested in using service projects as way to engage students and families in mission. She also plans to use our lesson plans from the Maryknoll Magazine in her classroom to help students learn the stories of their brothers and sisters around the world. Some day, she hopes to travel to the Philippines to do mission work there, but for now, her calling is in Southern California.
- Debbie and Doug are from Texas. Debbie works in the corporate world and plans to continue to bring the good news to the workplace, as well as her parish. Doug is a deacon, who already is using his business and tech experience to assist nonprofits that serve the most marginalized. Doug and Debbie want to go further in their encounter with others and will participate in our mission immersion trip this December to El Paso/Juarez. They plan go “empty” and eagerly await how the Holy Spirit will direct them after that experience to continue to form communities of missionary disciples. We hope that they will be part of our Maryknoll deacon community.
- Sherri is a Catholic school principal in the San Francisco Bay Area. She is inspired by Pope Francis’ call to help make our Catholic institutions less like Country Clubs and more like field hospitals. She plans to work one-on-one and through retreats with her faculty to help them see themselves as a teacher community of missionary disciples. She hopes that they inspire their students to be missionary disciples, even bringing that good news home to help make their families better communities of missionary disciples.
- Rosina is a diocesan coordinator of lay ministry formation in Northern California. She participated in our mission immersion trips to Jamaica this past year and was deeply touched by the love she experienced in a home for youth who are developmentally disabled. This experience further fueled her passion to help foster communities of missionary disciples in her diocese. She plans to continue to use Joy of the Gospel in formation programs and has asked Maryknoll to help her with upcoming retreats and programming so that others can better share this amazing good news.
- Hector and Frida are a couple from Sacramento. Frida coordinates hispanic ministry in her parish and Hector is a representative for a major religious publishing company. They will use their marriage as the foundational community of missionary disciples, as well as their own experience as immigrants, to continue to promote Pope Francis’ hope for a church that smells like the sheep and looks more like a field hospital. Hector will more intentionally incorporate missionary discipleship in his presentations and Frida will work primarily through her parish programs.