Monday, March 31, 2014

                                    Apostles for Today 
Reflections for April 2014

New Evangelization and Conversion


I begin my reflection with the Plan of Evangelization of the Church of Cascavel, PR, Brazil, (2012-2016): “Evangelizing, beginning from Jesus Christ, in the strength of the Holy Spirit, as a missionary, prophetic, disciple Church, nourished by the Word of God and by the Eucharist, in light of the evangelical preferential option for the poor, so that all may have life, (Jn 10:10) on the way towards the definitive Kingdom”.

Among the proposed actions, I will take two which are envisaged and which indicate the path of the entire Diocese: “Parish in a permanent state of mission and Parish, place of biblical inspiration for life and for pastoral work”.

The first of these finds expression in the happy affirmation of Pope Francis, during WYD Rio 2013, when he said: “Go, without fear, to serve. And it is necessary to smell the odor of the sheep”. In the " Document of Aparecida " (DA), the bishops stated that "the pilgrim Church is missionary by nature, because it has its origin in the mission of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, according to the plan of the Father (AG2). Therefore, the missionary impulse is part of the life which the Blessed Trinity communicates to disciples, through Baptism. In order to concretize the evangelizing action, groups of reflection, of families, of biblical study and of other types display great effectiveness in making the parish and the baptized be missionary, with visits to families, in welcoming new inhabitants until all are treated as people, with an address and with a place in the life of the community.

The second of these, biblical inspiration in life and in pastoral work, gives priority to formation, to knowledge and to maturation in faith. The people formed in faith should become similar to Jesus and constantly choose in his favor: “it is no longer I who live, but Christ who lives in me” (Ga 2:20). Pope Francis affirms: “The Church’s closeness to Jesus is part of a common journey; “communion and mission are profoundly interconnected”. In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded.” (EG 23).

St. Vincent Pallotti, in the Appeals of 1835 and 1836, stated that all, great and small, learned, students, workers, rich and poor, priests, lay people, religious and seculars, merchants and businessmen, officials, artists and craftsmen, communities and individuals, each one in their own state and condition, according to their own gifts, can dedicate themselves to the works of the Catholic Apostolate in order to revive faith, rekindle charity and propagate throughout the world. The dream of a missionary Church, according to Pope Francis, consists in her being completely at the service of evangelisation and not trapped in her own structures, that pastoral work, independently of what name it is given, be wider and more open, with an express orientation so that those who participate in it go out on mission and bring to all people the joyful proclamation of the Gospel.

The great novelty that the Church proclaims to the world is that Jesus Christ, the Son of God, made man, Word and Life, has come into the world to make us "sharers in the divine nature" (2Pt 1:4), and so that we might participate in his very life. The proclamation of the kerygma invites us to become aware of the great and life-giving love of God which is offered to us in Christ, died and risen.

The Church is animated by the Holy Spirit with the most diverse gifts and charisms for its edification, spreading the salvific ministry of the Lord, until he comes at the end of time (1Cor 1:6-7). The Holy Spirit awakens and forms in the Church decisive and courageous missionaries like the first Apostles, showing the places which need to be evangelized and choosing those who must do it (At 13:2). God gives talents to everyone and invites all to multiply them. The Church, marked with the seal of the Holy Spirit, opens the doors of salvation to the faithful. St. Paul says to us in 2 Cor 3:3: “you are a letter from Christ delivered by us, written not with ink but with the Spirit of the living God”. It is the same Spirit which enlightens, which enlivens, which guides, which strengthens and which reminds the Church of the marvels which God has revealed to humankind.

God works wonders for Mary, she who is full of grace, the Mother of evangelisation. She, making herself available as the handmaid of the Lord, was with the disciples in the Cenacle and, with them, received the Holy Spirit, the sending, the mission, and was present at the birth of the Church (Ac 1:14). Marian devotion and the prayer of the Rosary have kept many people and families in the path of our Lord Jesus Christ, bringing them to salvation. Therefore, in her many apparitions, Mary has manifested God's desire for the salvation of all. She never puts herself at the center, but always points towards the center of life: Jesus Christ! Food for fruitful evangelisation is to be found in prayer, in the Word of God and in the Eucharist. All who nourish themselves in prayer, who feed on the Word and the Eucharist, realize the will of God and live in communion with God.

Innovation in evangelisation, by the grace of God, will occur by beginning from conversion. There is a path to be followed and it is worth highlighting the path of returning to our origins, of returning to the house of the Lord, taking up once more the teachings of Our Lord Jesus Christ, of the joyful welcoming of the baptismal mission of going without fear in order to serve the shattering of the structures which enslave and generate death, the humility of allowing the free action of the Word of God instead of manipulating the Spirit and, equally, of receiving the mercy of God and living it out with others, love for the poor, without exclusion, the effort so that religion be at the service of all, overcoming ritualism in view of an authentic ecclesial charity. In summary: conversion to Our Lord Jesus Christ, who desires that all may have life and have it in abundance.

Lastly, this all presupposes a conversion sufficiently radical to lead to an appreciation of the positive aspects of evangelisation discussed above and the strength and courage to welcome and practice the Gospel values ?? necessary for Jesus Christ to be known, loved and accepted by all. This new evangelisation requires changes in understanding, in commitment, in action, at all levels in the Church, through the example and witness of our own lives.
Fr. Romeu Ulrich, SAC
Brazil

Questions for personal and community reflection:


  • Where do we see the greatest need for conversion in our lives?
  • In the life of our community? In the life of the Church at all levels?
  • Do we really experience the call to a pastoral and missionary conversion as a burning priority - for ourselves, for our community, for the Union of Catholic Apostolate, for the wider Church? How are we responding concretely to this call and what further do we plan to do to put it into action?
  •  Pope Francis reminds us that a lack of solidarity towards the needs of the poor will directly affect our relationship with God, that an authentic faith is never comfortable or completely personal, but always involves a deep desire to change the world, that each individual Christian and every community is called to be an instrument of God for the liberation and promotion of the poor, and for enabling them to be fully a part of society (EG 187, 182-183). How are we responding concretely to this call and what further do we plan to do to put it into action?

Prayer:

Transform our hearts, O Lord. Create in us a pure heart, a heart free from pettiness and selfishness and fear, a heart full of your tenderness and compassion, deeply convinced of the truth of the Gospel and fully committed to living out its demands and challenges in daily life. Grant us, as individuals, as a community, as a Church, that pastoral conversion needed to renew all things in you; grant us the heart of true apostles, of authentic disciples and witnesses, so that we may be instruments of your solidarity and hope, your peace and justice, your truth and reconciliation, your tenderness and joy and love in a world that, often without knowing it, cries out for you and longs for the coming of your Kingdom. Amen.
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Piazza San Vincenzo Pallotti 204, Roma, Italia uac@uniopal.org
Segretariato Generale, Unione dell’Apostolato Cattolico
UAC NEWSLETTER
Logo UAC

UACNewsletter

March 2014

 Dear sisters and brothers in the Union,
       we are happy to present to you in this newsletter a sharing regarding the pastoral initiative called the " Project Vincent I" in Codó, Brazil, prepared by Francisco Ferreira dos Santos, along with other news from the Union.

 1. PROJECT VINCENT I

            Charity and love are our way of educating. Our commitment is to restore hope to life and to believe that a better world exists; it depends only on a small gesture, yours and ours.
On March 8th, 2009, International Women's Day, in the chapel of St. Vincent Pallotti, Parish of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, in the city of Codó, Maranhão State, north-eastern Brazil, a project was born: Vincent I. “When we dream alone it is only a dream. But when we dream together it is the beginning of a new reality”. We believe that this phrase of beloved Dom Helder Camara brilliantly summarises the mysticism of St. Vincent Pallotti! Everything began with a visit by the youth group, Juventude Palotina (Pallottine Youth), to one of the poorest areas of the district of Santa Teresinha. There were many children whose childhood was stolen because of degrading work in rubbish dumps. Children who cannot live as children but who became workers doing a humiliating job.
            It was here that the dream was born, a challenge was thrown down: give back to these children the right to be children, restore their dignity as human beings. We needed to reawaken their hearts, win their affection and their trust. We decided to visit them in their homes and at the end we invited them for a breakfast. In this we took our first step.
            On the morning of March 8th, 2009, the first activity of Project Vincent I took place with a prepared breakfast, yes with a certain anxiousness, but also with joy and great affection. We were astonished by the number of children who turned up, between 150 and 180, as we had prepared for the morning with about 40 to 50 children in mind... A little desperate, but at the same time very happy, we let "God be God among us" in that moment. I think that this experience changed our lives. A little bread, some packets of biscuits, a little bit of coffee and several bottles of milk, eight litres of soft drinks and much "love" was all that we had. It was sufficient, because in that moment, in exchange, we received from those children a marvellous smile of gratitude through a small word which they called us: "uncle/aunt" (meaning that they recognised a particular attention on the part of the volunteers and expresses a sense of closeness, affection, trust). This experience served This experience has served to develop our project, which has the following objective: to guarantee with absolute priority the implementation of the rights to life, health, food, education, sport, recreation, a professional culture, respect, dignity and to family and community life. We seek to promote all of the opportunities and structures to allow their physical, mental, moral, spiritual and social development in conditions of freedom and dignity.
            The second step was that of knowing the family environment of each child as well as their living conditions. The conditions to which they are exposed became apparent, such as drugs, illiteracy, prostitution, violence, criminality. From this the project came to life with lessons (reading, Portuguese, mathematics), catechesis, music workshops (guitar, flute and voice), crafts (making bracelets and pens decorated with thread), the organisation of breaks and recreation.
Finally, I can say that this experience done in community and in communion has and continues to transform us. We have experienced the presence of Christ in our midst through a new joy and a particular desire to improve the circumstances of many children who live in conditions far from human dignity and in total poverty, in every aspect imaginable.
            We would like to thank from the bottom of our hearts the God of Life who saw fit to call us to this
mission, also as a realisation of the spirit of St. Vincent Pallotti as "Juventude Palotina", and also the many good people who put their trust in us, above all the benefactors who help our work with generosity. All for the infinite glory of God! Note: Presently, some of the activities mentioned above are not taking place because of a lack of resources to cover the expenses and the need for more volunteers.
Francisco Ferreira dos Santos – coordinator of Project Vincent I (in the name of the JP coordination team, Codó)
For further information please contact Fr. Jak Wasensteiner SAC at thiago.sac@hotmail.com or Fr. Antonio Diogo SAC at padrediogo@hotmail.com


2. Australia - letter addressing the issue of membership of the Union:
                After the recognition by the PCL of the Union as an international public association of the faithful and the approval of its General Statutes, the need arose to try to clarify whether those who had a longstanding relationship and collaboration with the Pallottine family in so many different ways wished to be considered members in the sense outlined in the General Statutes, simply because such formal membership includes particular rights and duties. This has been a delicate issue in some countries, with the concern that such an enquiry might, to some people, give the impression of somehow calling into question their relationship and collaboration with the Pallottine family over the years, and their future status. The experience in Australia has been interesting. During February of this year, the Australian NCC circulated a letter discussing membership of the Union and asking people who had been part of the Pallottine family for many years to complete a membership form if they wished to be identified as "formal" members. NCC President, Cheryl Sullivan, speaks of the positive outcome of this initiative: "I can only say, the response to this letter has been amazing and (from a personal perspective) life-giving, with so many giving the historical context of their membership and providing snippets of how they live this membership in their daily lives... clearly articulat[ing] a deep understanding of what the Pallottine Family (UAC) is all about, people living their vocation in their everyday life... Mr. Patrick Maguire, the NCC President in Ireland recently put our role/charism very succinctly when describing the work of the UAC he wrote: Pallotti is clear about the work we should be doing. First, we are to try to rekindle faith wherever and whenever we can. Second, we are to engage in charitable action that will make visible the reality of God in our world and be the face of Christ to all we encounter. Third, we must acknowledge the power of prayer and be committed to the apostolate of prayer so that our mission will always remain the very mission of Christ himself". In the final analysis, the most important thing is not whether one is a formal member of the Union or not, but whether one is a dedicated and authentic apostle and witness of Christ in daily life; the Union and its structures are there to try to help ensure that this is lived out in a community setting coordinated with others, since "reason and experience tell us that the good done alone is usually lacking, uncertain and of limited duration, and that the noblest efforts of individuals cannot bear fruit if they are not united and directed towards a common goal" (St. Vincent Pallotti).

3. Community of families from Starogard Gdański, northern Poland - Parenting Seminar

         During February, Iza Owczaruk, a member of the Union who is a psychologist and the mother of two almost grown children, conducted a series of workshops on parenting in a community of families from Starogard Gdański who recently expressed a desire to begin UAC formation (cf. UAC Newsletter - November 2013). The workshops were devoted to relations between parents and their adolescent children, and were divided into two parts - the first attended only by parents, and the second also by their teenagers. "The workshops primarily made ​​us aware of the fact that our teenage children do not have an easy life, that they are very vulnerable, having to face us, the world and others. Iza reminded us of what we all knew somewhere in our subconscious: about building good relationships, determining boundaries, encourage cooperation, learning to think about and bear the consequences of decisions and actions. We also tried to analyse the specific needs of our children which we face on a daily basis and to look for healthy solutions. We also talked about feelings, how to accept and deal with them. The second part of the workshop in which parents and their teenagers participated together was very interesting, a great experience that palpably helped to renew sincere relationships, hopefully resulting in permanent change. Particularly positive was the workshop style, during which we had to role play scenes from the life of teenagers, trying to understand and experience their feelings and needs" (Goshia and Medard, parents). "I liked the workshops conducted by Ms. Iza very much. She showed us that we and our parents really want the same thing. We want to get along. She also helped us to realise that all disputes can be resolved through dialogue and a willingness to compromise. An important point of the workshop was writing letters, and then reading the letters to and from our parents. In many cases, this was accompanied by tears of emotion. I think that such meetings are very important and hope that they will help communication between the generations" (Olga, 15 years).

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

Apostles for Today

        Sun, 2 Oct 2005 

POLAND!!! It’s been a long time coming but after a 10 hour flight from O'Hare in Chicago and a seven hour difference in time we arrived greeted by Christopher, a deacon from the seminary in Ołtarzew. Why were we in Poland from August 22-27, 2005? The first UAC General Congress since the General Statutes were approved by the Vatican was held at the Center for Mission Animation in Konstancin, (near Warsaw). The theme was "Now is the time for a new ‘creativity’ in charity." Prior to leaving we were asked to do a prayer-novena each month for spiritual preparation. Twenty-six countries participated and 5 major languages (English, German, Polish, Portuguese and Italian) were spoken. Ten members from the US National Conference were represented. As the laity, religious and clergy arrived you could feel their excitement and anticipation ready to make St. Vincent Pallotti’s dream come true.

At the first session Fr. Czesław Parzyszek welcomed everyone followed by Fr. Seamus Freeman who opened the Congress. Fr. Derry Murphy, the Secretary General of the U.A.C., along with members of the general secretariat moderated the Congress.  It was Fr. Marek Gulbinowicz who gave us the practical information, like where to find the bathrooms, the food etc. and could be found always with camera in hand taking pictures of everything and everyone throughout the week. We were invited by all of the speakers to discover the ideals of Vincent Pallotti, listen to others, be enriched and enter into the spirit of communion with each other. Most important was to get to know each other - to learn from each other and in this way strengthen our Union - TO COLLABORATE.

We were asked to review the General Statutes, bring the statutes to life. Many countries have not actually read the statutes and we were asked to review them with our UAC Cenacles. We need to deepen our understanding of them. We have until 2008 to look them over to see if we need to make any revisions. Other areas to be looked at are formation materials, local coordination councils, and national coordination councils.  There are 48 Countries where Pallottines live but so far there are only 18 NCC’s.

Our meeting room had a large stained glass image of Mary Queen of Apostles as a back drop so it was easy to envision ourselves beginning each day at prayer in the Cenacle.  Because the various presenters did not always speak our language, we all wore headsets that were connected to translators who listened to the speakers and then translated their words so that each person heard the talk in their own language. After each speaker, small language groups gathered together to share thoughts and ideas on the talk given.  Collaboration, formation were priorities for most groups as we came together to share what had been discussed.  We were also impressed with a deep love of St. Vincent and the Union found in the group sharing. We got to know each other, we were enriched.

Each of the Speakers presented us with a challenge.  The First day was a prayer day – reflection on the Scripture.  We were called to be apostles as in the cenacle – the thrust of the challenge here was to bring what we learn to cenacles at home – we are sent as apostles.  Each country was asked to bring their flag which was displayed in the courtyard and a picture or statue of Mary which had a special meaning for our country. A procession was held on Tuesday evening, August 23rd to the chapel where these were placed in front of the altar. The image chosen by the U.S. delegates was the Immaculate Conception.  Under this title she was named our Patroness, dedicated in the 1800’s by the 3rd Plenary Council and located in the National Shrine in Washington D.C.  After the closing Liturgy on Saturday, August 27th each country picked a name of a Madonna from a different country and we were asked to take the statue or picture home and pass it to everyone in our Union Group and to pray for the Union throughout world.

Wednesday evening the countries did a presentation of their customs, songs, dance, etc. The evening was fun, relaxing and a chance to get to know each other. It was very impressive. From the United States we chose to sing two songs, America the Beautiful and Take Me Out to the Ball game. It was a neat and fun experience.

On Thursday morning Mr. Andy Thompson from the United States spoke on "Poverty, how it affects human dignity, created in the image of God, and how it touches the Church and the union.  Andy’s challenge for us was to understand poverty not only as a lack of goods but also to recognize what might be called an intellectual poverty, or a lack of openness to diversity in ways of thinking.

Thursday we enjoyed a fun and relaxing afternoon as we took a bus to Warsaw’s downtown.  Seeing the sights of Warsaw together, buying souvenirs we even stopped for an ice cream cone. We ended the day with a Eucharistic Celebration at the Provincialate of the Pallottine Fathers and Brothers. Each day we celebrated Eucharist in a different language. It was enriching to celebrate the Mass in various languages and especially to see so many priests concelebrating.
Father Hubert Socha, SAC made some outstanding comments on the General Statutes on Friday.  His challenge to us was to put life into the Union.  He encouraged us to use our lived experience to enflesh the skeleton of the General Statutes.  Another speaker Mr. Corrado Montaldo of the “Comunita V Dimension” spoke of his own experience in being nervous about performing some ministry until he took the focus off of himself and realized he was doing it for Christ.
Some of the proposals made on Saturday were to look into ourselves and community, take away the prejudices in our lives, to build communion on all levels, and cooperate. Don’t be just a listener but a doer.  Make the UAC known with a logo or some kind of symbol.  Each group gave suggestions as to where they would like the 2008 or 2009 General Congress to be held and Rome and Brazil were the favorites.

Saturday the Congress ended with a Eucharistic Celebration. During the Liturgy the members of the UAC made a renewal of their Apostolic Commitment. At the closing the Sign of Peace was extended and it was hard to say good bye and there were so many tears and hugs. No one wanted to leave. It was very touching and emotional. A lot of e-mail and home addresses were exchanged to keep in touch.

It was quite an experience meeting and sharing our thoughts and ideas about St. Vincent, his spirituality, charism and how we as Union members can make Pallotti’s dream come true. Being together bonded by a deep love of St. Vincent Pallotti helped us to strengthen our unity and keep his dream alive, real apostles.

Sunday we had an option to take a pilgrimage to Our Lady of Czestochowa (Black Madonna) which some of us did. It was a fun four hour bus trip there. When we arrived we began with a Mass in one of the smaller chapels, presided over by our UAC Pallottine Priests. There was a long line to see the Black Madonna but when you saw her the emotions that flowed through you is unexplainable. After the Liturgy we had lunch at the Pallottine Shrine in honor of the Mercy of God within walking distance of the Pauline Monastery where the Madonna is venerated.  We later walked back to spend more time at Czestochowa. We had time to see the small village surrounding her and to buy souvenirs and of course had an ice cream cone. Poland has yummy ice cream.  Four of us did not return to as we were going to continue to see other sights of Poland so our farewells had to be said at the bus and once again there were hugs and tears.

We wish everyone could have shared the rich experience of being at the General Congress in Konstancin.

Betty Reichertz and Fr. Greg Serwa
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      Wed, 30 Nov 2005