VATICAN - Missionary Childhood during a pandemic: animation with social media but the proclamation of the Gospel "in presence" remains fundamental

Monday, 5 July 2021 pontifical mission societies  

Vatican City (Agenzia Fides) - "Even if the pandemic continues to afflict many countries, it was and is an opportunity to rediscover the usefulness of social media and a push to use them better and more for animation, the formation, information and spiritual and material cooperation. Through social media, more people can be reached, especially those we may never have met. In addition, there has been greater involvement of families and the participation of parents in missionary commitments. While recognizing the usefulness of these means, the personal visit to parishes and schools and the work of direct animation, "in presence" is considered irreplaceable": this is what Sr. Roberta Tremarelli, AMSS, Secretary General of the Pontifical Society of Missionary Childhood (POSI) tells Fides about the reality of the Pontifical Society (also known as "Missionary Childhood"), in the light of recent continental meetings, held online. The reality of the Society, which is one of the four Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS), explains Sister Tremarelli "is different on every continent and also where it is organized with real groups, in which children become members through a ceremony of commitment and they receive special symbols (scarf, brooch, notebook…), spirituality and charisma are however offered to all children and teenagers precisely to be inclusive and not to exclude anyone".
From the meetings it emerged that for each National Direction of the PMS the charism of the Society of the Holy Childhood, like that of the other Pontifical Mission Societies, is transversal and should "break through and spread to all ecclesial realities to awaken missionary awareness and the responsibility that springs from baptism".
"For this reason - Sister Tremarelli points out - it is necessary to propose paths, of faith and beyond, that accompany the whole year and not only on the occasion of the celebration of Missionary Childhood Day or the missionary month".
In the story of Missionary Childhood Day, celebrated at a continental level, the urgency emerged to collaborate and not compete with other institutions and movements present in the local Churches and that involve children and young people, as well as with diocesan or national commissions for catechesis and pastoral care of children. There has been much talk of "being a partner, of working together in the Church and for the Church", she notes. It should be noted that in Malawi, for example, the National Direction of the PMS has received from the Episcopal Conference the task of also taking care of catechesis with children and young people and so in this time of confinement several broadcasts have been made on the radio for catechesis. The National Direction in France also produces short weekly radio broadcasts entitled “Les petits curieux de la foi” in which a topic of faith explained by children is presented from time to time.
The universal dimension is characteristic of the PMS: "There is particular attention to this dimension in all the activities promoted with children and young people, in order to open and broaden the gaze, the heart and the mind".
The confinement caused by the pandemic has greatly penalized the national directions of the PMS that usually work with schools for the proposal of missionary childhood: some have managed to propose initiatives, above all of prayer, to involve missionary children and young people. For example, in Malta various initiatives have been promoted via the Internet to accompany children and young people forced to stay home. "Not being able to meet them and distribute the typical piggy banks for the collection of offers, the material that each child could then make at home was sent by email, thus also involving the rest of the family, in order to help build a Church at home", reports the Secretary General.
Among the other creative initiatives, the English National Direction has updated the website on the "Missio together" page by inserting a map where you can navigate to discover the reality and the testimonies of children and young people from various countries of the world.
Among the difficulties noted, the national secretary of the PMS Direction in Luxembourg shared the difficulty of involving schools as the government canceled religion lessons from the programs, which was the most propitious and suitable time for these proposals. The same situation is also shared in other realities, especially at European and Latin American levels. During this meeting, the new national secretary of Missionary Childhood in Brazil in its presentation spoke of the Society as "a lifestyle based on prayer, sacrifice and solidarity". The National Director of the PMS in Uruguay shared the proposal of a series of initiatives promoted at a regional level of South America and Central America, in particular carried out on the radio and thanks to the social network Facebook. One of the most important challenges is that of "not reducing the PMS to an NGO and thus limiting one's proposals only to the humanitarian dimension, which is important but must always be accompanied by that of faith", agreed the various national leaders. In the Francophone, Anglophone and Lusophone speaking countries of Africa, it emerged that the slogan of Missionary Childhood today has been enriched: if in the past it was "Children help children", today it has become "Children help children, children evangelize children, children pray for children from all over the world", and can be declined in the proposals proper to the Society: prayer, sacrifice and offering, witness and proclamation. The national direction of Ivory Coast, as well as that of the Democratic Republic of Congo, highlighted that missionary cooperation is the task of all without distinction: even the countries of the young Churches have the responsibility to contribute and support the missionary action of the Church. In fact, in recent years, with the sum raised in these two countries, projects have also been supported in favor of children outside their own context. This modality supports the missionary dimension and encourages the participation of children and young people.
The National Director of the PMS in Australia reported that the majority of children in the country attend a Catholic school and for this reason many proposals are designed ad hoc to involve schools. Through a video he presented the proposal of the traditional "Socktober" activity which involves all schools in a national competition.
From countries where Catholics are a minority (for example Algeria, Laos, Cambodia, Pakistan), the desire and constant commitment first of all in the education of children and young people emerged: in schools the values of the Gospel can be transmitted, attention to the other, sharing, fraternity and thus building opportunities for dialogue and solidarity. In such contexts, collaboration with the Bishops and Catholics present is fundamental for a concrete evangelical witness.
The Society of the Holy Childhood - concluded those present connected via the web - is still little known, and there is always the challenge of adapting to the context. "We are convinced that an integral formation from an early age can help to grow in the dimension of faith but also on a human and social level. We must always remember the motivation that led Archbishop Charles de Forbin Janson to start the Society of the Holy Childhood: his concern for Chinese children, who were destined to die and without having received Baptism, that is, the human and faith dimension", concludes Sisters Roberta Tremarelli. (Agenzia Fides, 5/7/2021)