In May 22-25, 2015, about fifty lay missionaries from ten missionary groups, from various Asian countries or serving in Asia, gathered in Hong Kong, joining the first ever Asian Lay Missionary Forum.
This is a fruitful experience. In large and small groups, and informal time, we shared our life stories and personal experiences, including our callings and responses, our formation experiences and needs, our challenges and sources of strength, and our way forward. We have similar difficulties of adjustment because of using a new language and living in a new culture. Most of us also experienced loneliness, lack of support and resources. However, we find nourishment and try to gain strength through sharing with others, prayer and meditation, and reflection on our callings, and so on. The forum gives us a chance to learn and exchange thoughts to sustain and spread the missionary nature of the Church.
Through prayers, meditation and worship in the morning and evening, we also create a time of silence, to slow down and listen to God, creating space for spiritual reflection.
In listening to talks of experienced missionaries, we learned their wisdom and gained insights. Highlighting the concept of new evangelization in Evangelii Gaudium of Pope Francis, Mr. Manoj Sunny rightly reminded us that to motivate or sustain our passion of mission, we need to deepen our personal encounters with Jesus, the Christ, and the son of God. Such encounter is a personal conversion and would urge us to step forward for evangelization rather than for self-preservation. Every disciple of Jesus is a missionary and we are called to form a community of missionary disciples. Every missionary has our unique calling or “four o’clock moment” indeed. Sharing these experiences can inspire each other.
Only having passion is not enough, we need to nourish and equip ourselves through formation and spirituality. Fr. Kevin O’Neill, SSC and Fr. Seán Ó Cearbhalláin, SJ brought out the significance of formation and spirituality in missionaries’ lives.
Fr. Kevin pointed out that God is mission in God’s self and the Church is missionary by its nature. We, as church, participate in God’s mission. We need ongoing formation to engage in God’s mission. Since mission is a way of life, not just a task, formation helps us to live our lives together. Formation can be retreat, study, spiritual practices, etc. Formation helps us to make our ministries more relevant to mission, make new engagement and commitment, contribute to ministry, enhance knowledge and skill, increase apostolic effectiveness, take a period of time away for rest and reflection, have space for spiritual and personal growth, and build self-confidence.
Fr. Sean claimed that contemplation is important in spirituality and mission. He introduced various approaches of spirituality to us and helped us see the difference between mission and service. The former is from the Gospel while the latter is from the needs of people. As missionaries, we need to contemplate Jesus, his attitudes towards people. We have to pay attention to his worldview, show appreciation of his worldview, and try to assimilate his worldview, in order to conform to the missionary Jesus.
We also learned from each other through presenting the work and activities of each missionary group. We can see the variety of ministries, the various kinds of people we get in touch and serve, and the different kinds of environment and location we commit ourselves into. From these, we can see the flexibility and adaptability of the lay missionaries, and the passion of serving others in spite of challenges and difficulties. This cannot happen without the help and guidance of the Holy Spirit. We aware the importance of community life in our mission field, mutual support from our affiliated organization and local church of mission, and network with other lay missionaries through this forum. We know that our work is not alone. God is always with us. And we lay missionaries keep each other in prayers.
(Last modified: 24-11-2019)