“Here I am, send me (Is 6,8)” is the theme of World Mission Sunday, which is to be celebrated on October 18. But what does this invitation mean in concrete terms in the life of those who have accepted the call of the Lord? Agenzia Fides has collected the responses of some missionaries active in Chad.
Mgr. Jean-Claude Bouchard, Bishop of Pala, has spent fifty-two years of missionary life in the African country. The Bishop was called to proclaim the Gospel far from his homeland, Canada, where he was ordained in St-Éloi, his native village, on August 30, 1969. The Bishop of Pala explains: “I arrived in Chad in January 1970, assigned to the Guelendeng mission. I collaborated with Father Honoré Jouneaux, former Apostolic Prefect. We stayed together seven years before I was appointed Bishop… Those seven years went by too quickly and I was appointed Bishop too soon. I felt like the prophet Jeremiah who said to the Lord: “I am too young”. But I had to answer yes to the Lord who called me through the voice of Pope Paul VI”.
The Bishop concludes: “The Church of Chad has grown in quantity, but it is urgent to make it grow in quality. There are many baptisms, but not enough knowledge of Jesus and the commitment of the baptized in the Church and in the life of the Country. Let the words: ‘Here I am, send me!’ become the answer for each of us”.
The call to mission concerns all the baptized, as evidenced by the response of spouses Alexis and Rosalie to the call of the mission to the training centers for couple animators of the communities of Bedonné, in the diocese of Doba. “Before, we believed that the mission was only for Westerners, priests, nuns, and not for laypeople. The celebration of the Extraordinary Missionary Month in October 2019 with the theme ‘Baptized and sent, the Church of Christ on mission in the world’, enlightened us and pushed us to understand that Christ’s mission is for all of us and without distinction”.
The family arrived in Bendoné on December 27, 2019: “This experience makes us understand that even the laity, by virtue of the gifts that have been given by the Lord, constitute a witness and at the same time a living instrument of the Church’s mission to the extent of gift offered by the Lord”. And he concludes: “Now when we find ourselves in front of couples, we give thanks to God for having called us to this great mission (Phil 2: 8-9). We say, in the words of the apostle Paul, that teaching someone to bring him to faith is the task of every preacher and also of every believer”.
Sister M. Pilar Justo, Comboni Missionary, says that the verse of the prophet Isaiah, the theme of World Mission Day 2020, is the same verse she put on the card in memory of her first Profession: “By putting this sentence, I wanted to show my desire to go on a mission. When I saw the verse again for World Mission Sunday this year, it gave me great joy. It made me relive the moment when I was preparing to be sent where the Congregation wanted to send me”.
Sister M. Pilar was born 76 years ago in a peasant family in a small village in Spain and learned about the missionary activity during school age: “They also told us that there were missionaries who left the country to go share the gospel with them. They invited us to pray for each other every day, to make sacrifices too, to give up something to offer the fruits to help so many other children and adults to be baptized. This is how all our sacrifices written on a piece of paper and the little money saved, we offered on World Mission Day, very proud to collaborate in the baptism of children in distant countries. Does my missionary vocation have its roots in this time? I believe the seed was sown, but before the plant was even born and grew, how many things happened”.
“Little by little, in the journey of deepening the Word of God or in helping people, the Lord made me understand that he had his plan for me, and this was not what I am building. He called me to be a missionary for life”, she notes.
Sister Pilar returned to the Comboni Missionaries and, after the years of formation, was sent to Chad in 1978, to the diocese of Sarh. “I found a lot to do, but a lot of joy in doing it. The training of catechists, the accompaniment of catechumens in Baptism filled me with joy every Easter. God has allowed me to contemplate the wonders he does in the people I have met. I have seen many families who have become Christians and many young people from Chad become priests or nuns. When I contemplate this Church, as the daughter of St. Daniel Comboni, I can only think: Years have passed now but God continues to have his plan for me … I continue to have the joy of mission in my heart. This is why I repeat again and again with joy: “Here I am: send me!”.