Lima (Fides Service) - The Great City Mission in the archdiocese of Lima, which started 25March 2003 and will close 27 April 2006, will enter a period of celebration in April this year. The mission with the slogan “Put out into the deep!” involves clergy, religious, laity, parishes, church movements, confraternities. The goal is to help the people of Lima renew their life in Christ. “Our aim is to visit every family in Lima, one by one, to share with them the Word of God and remind them that Jesus lives in their hearts” the Archbishop of Lima Cardinal Juan Luis Cipriani, told Fides in an interview on the Mission.
Your Eminence what prompted you to launch this Great City Mission in the archdiocese of Lima? And what are its goals?
The Great City Mission “Remar Mar Adentro” (Put out into the Deep) was a response to Pope John Paul II who called for new evangelisation some years ago. More recently in his Apostolic Letter “Novo Millennio Ineunte” the Holy Father urged the local Churches to go out to the men and women of today who long to hear the voice of God but do not go to church, or are unable to increase their Christian formation either because of the frenetic speed of life today, or for lack of information of these initiatives, or out of ignorance. So the aim of the Great City Mission is to offer basic catechism and at the same time draw the faithful to avail themselves of the sacraments.
When, by happy coincidence, the Holy Father declared 2005 the Year of the Eucharist he gave us the fundamental reason for our Mission: to increase awareness of the significance of the Eucharist for daily life, and rediscover love for the Cross which is intrinsic to our life. In prayer people can realise that Jesus is very close to each of us. Very often we may wonder why God permits evil and we fail to realise that it is not God who causes evil but it is man, with sin, and with his God given freedom, who causes harm. Hence the need to show the beauty of Christ’s message to help people discover that the beauty of Jesus in the Eucharist passes by way of the Cross: we must help the materialist world which flees suffering and wants to obtain everything with ease, without effort or fatigue, not to flee the Cross because it is a necessary part of life.
Therefore the Eucharist, the fruit of the Cross and the Cross itself, are at the centre of our goal for the Great Mission: visit Jesus, receive Jesus, find Jesus, encounter the living Jesus who is close to each and all.
What is the Mission expected to achieve?
I hope first of all to reach a primacy of grace in the life of the people, to help them rediscover the beauty of sharing the very life of Christ. This primacy of grace means more frequent reception of the sacraments, and the basis for this is more intense catechesis. I hope, and there are already good signs, for better attendance at Sunday Mass, more frequent reception of the Sacrament of Reconciliation, increase in vocations to the priesthood and the religious life. We hope the mission will result in deeper awareness among the laity. I hope the laity will become more aware of their missionary duty their commitment to evangelisation. However, it is not a question of laity becoming like clergy, or clergy becoming like lay persons: lay people have a role to play in spreading the Word of God, in catechesis... … Because a lay people who live united with God and with others give a Christian taste to society of today.
The Great City Mission is about to enter the period of celebration. Are there already significant results?
With regard to results, we can say that at the beginning of the Mission we asked parishes to prepare a group of about 100, men women and young people for evangelisation with 20 weekly two hour formation sessions. Well, many parishes prepared as many as 200 or 300 missionaries. This was the first sign of a reawakening among lay people to take an active part in the life of the Church. Moreover, many parishes began to organise more regular Adoration of the Eucharist, some even all day adoration. In the archdiocese of Lima the Blessed Sacrament is now exposed in about 50 churches and chapels where people of all ages take it in turns to keep watch and pray.
I see the request for more frequent exposition of the Blessed Sacrament, in this Year of the Eucharist, as God’s gift to the archdiocese and a sign of deep popular devotion for the Lord present in the mystery of the Eucharist. We have also organised a Rosary Crusade distributing one million rosaries and a small booklet with prayers and meditations. More people are praying the rosary in schools, hospitals and even in the streets. The Dawn Rosary is increasingly popular. First thing in the morning before daybreak, people set off from their homes praying the rosary to converge from all sides at the parish church.
Besides these fruits we also see an increase in priestly vocations: last year we had 24 new seminarians and this year we had 26. This reawakening is general, in fact Seminaries all over the country are welcoming new students.
We have distributed a short catechism on the basics of the faith for use at home, at school, or wherever. So far 150,000 copies have been distributed.
However the most important fruit of the Great Mission is greater participation of the laity in catechesis and parish life. We are seeing a great increase in well prepared and committed lay persons.
What are the main difficulties, what are the prospects for the future?
The difficulties regard the frantic pace of modern life which makes it difficult to contact people. We do our best to visit families at a time when they are at home and are willing to receive us. Sadly today people are so busy that there the time spared for God is increasingly less. I think this is a challenge for the Church, as the Holy Father has asked, to find new ways and means. This is also why we are making a great effort to use the means of communications to enable people to listen to the message of God through the radio or through television.
The goal of the Mission is to render the Church in Lima permanently missionary. This will not be easy, but it is the only way we can achieve what the Pope called for in “Dies Domini”: bring Christians back to centre their life around Sunday, the Day of the Lord, the Sunday Mass. After all this is Christian life style, this is what is means to be salt and light as the Gospel says. The duty of mission comes with baptism, when we become children of God. From that moment onwards, as members of the Church, we are all called to be missionaries. When we are told at the end of Mass: “The Mass is ended, go in peace!” it means “go with the message, the life of Christ in your souls, live like Christ!”.
I am convinced that the Church in Lima will reap apostolic fruits of more frequent reception of the sacraments, more consistent Christian life style, at work, at home, in sport, in politics, in business etc. In other words “being Christian all day and every day, not only in church”.
How have the people of Lima responded to this initiative ?
Wonderfully: more than 10,000 voluntary missionaries have been going from home to home, to schools and hospitals. Already more than 50 per cent of the city’s families have been visited. This percentage varies according to the area. In poor districts people spend most of the day away at work and so missionaries visit schools and hospitals, social centres etc. Wherever they go the missionaries leave a poster, a transfer, a little crucifix, a word, highlighting the Christian identity.
The missionaries have been warmly welcomed on the whole although some times they have been mistaken for protestant preachers who are known to go from house to house. Many people were surprised to see Catholics doing the same home visiting door to door. This is a clear sign that the Church has made the mistake of waiting for people to come to Church instead of going out in search of them. It also shows that the people are longing to hear the Word of God and to experience the presence of God in the Mass and the sacraments.
Who are the missionaries involved in the Great City Mission ?
The characteristics of the missionaries vary according to the parish. Most of the them are aged between 25 and 30 and many are women. But there are also older men and women. Our missionaries prepared for a year in their own parish and now visit families, schools, hospitals, orphanages etc.
To maintain the initial enthusiasm the mission was re-launched a number of times with special celebrations. This will also happen during the celebration period of the Great Mission when we will have 7 or 8 major church events: Vocations Week with activity in schools, seminaries and a Mass in the Cathedral; and similar event for Family Week; Youth Week; Week of Consecrated Life. We have identified 7 categories of people in need of devote special attention with initiatives including a congress, a symposium, meetings in parishes and centres. The Mission will conclude with a final Mass in the cathedral.
After the Mission what direction will be taken by the living forces of the Church?
We will give special attention to family pastoral, youth pastoral, university pastoral, vocation pastoral, the latter being a priority for the Church in Lima. We must remind young people that God continues to call, many young people do not find the doors open because no one looks for them. We must always be on the look out for vocations, this is a priority for the diocese.
The Archdiocese of Lima has given important Saints to the universal Church Saint Rosa of Lima, Saint Toribio of Mogrovejo, Saint Martin de Porres, Saint Giovanni Macias. Holiness is for everyone. In his Novo Millennio Ineunte Pope John Paul II underlined the need to remind all Christians of the universal call to holiness and the art of prayer. This challenge means that in parishes and communities there must be more space for personal prayer, for confessions. It is not enough to wait for people to come to church, we must go out to meet the people using language of today, and bearing witness with consistent life style, more ardour, more closeness to the Lord who illuminates us not so much through efficient organisation but by means of interior renewal. (R.Z.) (Agenzia Fides 22/3/2005; righe 145, parole 1977)