Sydney (Agenzia Fides) - "Go into the whole world and proclaim the Good News": this was the leitmotif of the celebration of the 25th anniversary of the establishment of the missionary office ad gentes of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. Cardinal of Papua New Guinea John Ribat MSC, a member of the Congregation, presided over a Eucharist in Sydney Cathedral a few days ago attended by faithful missionaries from around the world, especially from areas like Papua New Guinea and the Pacific Islands, Indonesia, India, the Philippines, Vietnam and Africa, where religious are present and active.
The missionaries fondly remembered the late Father Adrian Meaney MSC, who established the office in 1998 to support a movement of missionary animation and awareness at a local and international level. Current Director, Fr Roger Purcell MSC, noting that in 25 years the understanding of mission has changed, said: “Today mission means being a Church of communion, of unity in diversity, of respect and love. The missionary office of our congregation continues to encourage the missionary spirit among the faithful, urging everyone to become a missionary in their daily lives. This is our raison d'être. If the Church is not on a mission, if we do not evangelize, then we are not the Church". The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, he added, invite people today to "go out, so that all may enjoy a new and fuller life, in the freedom to enjoy education and training, health and a healthy environment. All the beneficiaries of our missionary projects now have a better life, it is the glory of God. The glory of God is humanity fully alive". “Jesus Christ sent us to proclaim the Good News to all, we are sent not only to proclaim this good news, but to be the Good News ourselves,” he said, recalling that in 25 years of presence, the missionaries responded to the pastoral and social needs of many communities in the Pacific region, in Asia and on other continents, for an amount of more than 25 million dollars. This work, backed by a missionary experience of more than 100 years, began as an awareness-raising movement that gave rise to actions and the organization of missionary projects in other countries. However, the history of the religious dates back long before this event: the first Missionaries of the Sacred Heart arrived in Sydney in 1882 and engaged in pastoral work within the local Church. The creation of a specific missionary office was intended to make known the work of the Church in the "missions" and to encourage a "missionary spirit" among the baptized. Father Purcell recalls: "Father Adrian's eyes were focused on the plight of the poor. The first project was titled 'I am Thirsty' and highlighted the scarcity of clean water in many communities. From there a remarkable story developed of supporting thousands of water supply projects in Asia, Oceania, Africa, Latin America. Emphasis was quickly placed on the involvement of young people and the use of the media, with the regular publication of the “Outreach” newsletter and the creation of a website. One of the first regions supported was Papua New Guinea, where Father Adrian had carried out missionary service and therefore knew the local reality well. New projects have emerged in the fields of education, health, youth training, the environment, on other continents, always in connection with the network and the presence of the MSC. "Jesus told us that the poor will always be with us. In this spirit, notes Father Purcell, we are close to those who lack water, food, education, health and a clean environment. This will continue in the future. This work contributes to a better and more dignified life for many people. This is how we bring the Good News to the world". The Missionaries of the Sacred Heart are preparing, in Australia and around the world, to live the bicentenary of the birth of their founder, Father Jules Chevalier (1824 - 2024). It will be a special year on the theme: "A man with a heart on fire for the mission", which aims to emphasize "the source of the mission, Christ himself, if not - as the founder wrote - the missionaries will only be independent operators and not missionaries in the true sense of the word”, concludes Father Roger Purcell. (PA) (Agenzia Fides, 18/7/2023)