ASIA/MONGOLIA - «Taking root to flourish». The faith, works and days of a small missionary Church

Wednesday, 2 August 2023 mission   evangelization   local churches   works of mercy   charity   inculturation  

by Gianni Valente

Ulaanbaatar (Fides News Agency) - Putting down roots in the space and time of present and future Mongolia, to ask the Lord to continue flourishing. This is the unparalleled moment that the brothers and sisters of the Chinese Catholic community are experiencing, captured and recounted in the third video report produced by Teresa Tseng Kuang yi for Fides News Agency in view of Pope Francis's trip to Mongolia (1-4 September). From the images and testimonies in the video (It is possible to listen to the interview in English by activating the subtitle mode), the face of a small missionary Church emerges, and the basic features of every authentic apostolic dynamic are captured.

The reblooming of the Christian community in the Apostolic Prefecture of Ulaanbataar, outlined by the words of the Bishop Prefect, Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, still draws its germinal momentum from the free, relished gift of many missionaries who have come from near and far. Men and women still advancing on the path opened by the missionary of Scheut Wenceslao Selga Padilla (1949-2018), first Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar, who gave his life for the mission in Mongolia. The appeal of missionary adventures in Mongolian land brings diverse identities, cultural sensitivities, and temperaments together into a composite and vibrant missionary community. Cardinal Marengo, missionary of the Consolata, also recalls the numbers of the blessed "little way", traveled since the "renewal" of the Catholic Church in Mongolia: 9 places of worship - scattered around the country - officially recognized by authorities; 30 nuns and 25 priests of various origins, two local priests, roughly 1,500 people baptized. Simple, functional and flexible synodal structures, such as the Pastoral Council and the "Missionary Council": for «a Church that walks together», Father Marengo remarks, «is a Church that stops to listen to the Lord's voice first and foremost, but also listens to one another», and through common discernment finds ways to «serve the Gospel in Mongolia, today».

The little Church asking the Lord to put down roots so it may continue flourishing in Mongolian territory, also bears the face of Tserenkhand Sanjaajav, the Mongolian priest, deputy parish priest of the Ulaanbaatar Cathedral, and of his disarming testimony comprising simple and essential words: he encountered Christianity thanks to the Sisters of Mother Teresa, he was baptized in 2003, he is comforted by the fact that Abraham, our father in faith, likewise belonged to a "nomadic culture", and now he feels that part of his calling and mission is «connecting our culture with the faith of the Church». It is - observes Cardinal Marengo - a «slow, progressive process, requiring a lot of patience, a lot of prayer, a lot of dialogue». And the time to come is granted precisely to «continually deepen our faith», and thus also to offer individuals «the opportunity to express their faith in the cultural categories that are specific to this people».

Far from any abstraction and intellectualism, the testimony of the small missionary Church of Mongolia takes charge of the tangibility of the material and spiritual poverty and urgencies of the people, and takes the form of works of charity and mercy, for the good of all. «To be honest» - the Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar acknowledges - in Mongolia «many people still received some benefit from their contact with the Church, regardless of their personal choice of faith». The Cardinal missionary recalls that in statistical terms over 70% of energy and resources spent on ecclesial initiatives «are used precisely in this type of activity». He calls for great care in promoting the birth of local callings, because «with this rooting we can hope that the Church will keep flourishing as it has done thus far». He also announces the upcoming inauguration - an act entrusted to Pope Francis, at the end of his visit to Mongolia - of the "House of Mercy", a structure for reception created in part thanks to the contribution of the Catholic Mission in Australia, the Pontifical Australian Mission Societies (see Fides 12/7/2023). The "House of Mercy" - Cardinal Marengo observes in the video report - «wishes to be the common expression of the local Church in the field of assistance, of aid to those most disadvantaged. A kind of seaport, where those who really struggle in life, for various reasons, know that they can find someone who'll listen, who'll try to find an answer to their hardships». (AP) (Fides News Agency 2/8/23)