The Church in Puerto Rico is preparing for the Extraordinary Missionary Month of October 2019, with an Extraordinary Missionary Year that began on January 13, 2019, the Feast of the Baptism of the Lord.
The National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Bishop Daniel Fernández Torres of Arecibo, in an interview with Fides News Agency, says: “Already since its proclamation, the decree that encouraged the beginning of the extraordinary Year has been celebrated throughout the island with the renewal of baptismal promises.”
The first step was, therefore “to deepen the call to conversion starting from the identity of the baptized. Baptized and sent: the Church of Christ on a mission in the world” is the theme of the extraordinary Month announced by Pope Francis for next October 2019. For this first objective – the missionary conversion – we will try to make the people “get closer to holiness”, through “the encounter with the risen Jesus”. According to the PMS director, the mission is “a response of love that comes from the authentic encounter with the love of Christ.” This personal and living encounter is, therefore “fundamental” and leads to faith but, the Bishop recalls, “it is always Jesus who comes to seek us” and “the examples of holiness in daily life drag us towards Him.”
A second expectation for the Missionary Year is “a greater awareness of the fruits of baptism and of the infusion of the Holy Spirit so that each baptized person may feel guided, together with his community, to bring the Good News to all the suburbs. The laity are called to make Jesus present in the world, in everyday life,” said Bishop Torres, “going out without fear to bring our faith to the streets, to the shopping center, to school, to parks, to sport, at work, in hospital, in culture.” The goal is “to transform temporal realities according to the values of the Kingdom.” Because of their presence in the Church and in the world, the role of the laity in the animation of the Extraordinary Year “is crucial in every area.”
To give impulse to the mission, the Bishop observes, we need to “get closer to God through the sacraments, in the search for holiness as the goal of our lives and we need to deepen the contents of faith since we cannot love what we do not know”. The PMS Director identifies in violence “that has roots in the human heart and in the wounds of the disintegration of the family” the greatest challenge for the mission in Puerto Rico.
“We can change society only if we convert our hearts”, he says, recalling the figure of the Puerto Rican Mother Dominga Guzmán, “the family apostle”, in the process of beatification. To evangelize the family is, therefore, a “missionary urgency”. For Mgr. Torrez “Christian mothers, courageous laity who testify the truth in different areas of society and offer examples of daily holiness are concrete signs of hope for the mission”. Puerto Rico will host the next American Missionary Congress in 2023.