Mission Mandates of the Order

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The Synod of Bishops on the new evangelization, held in October 2012, encourages us to focus the mission of the Order in the Church. We are called to rediscover for today the Order’s original mission of evangelization. The Order exists to serve the Church and it does this by strengthening its own mission. The upcoming jubilee of the Order is a suitable moment for seeking to strengthen our life and mission.

The General Chapter of Quezon City (1977) identified four priorities for the Order:

1. Evangelizing culture through philosophical and theological investigations of cultures, intellectual systems, and non-Christian religious traditions
2. Catechizing a de-Christianised world and a secularized Christianity
3. Analyzing critically the origins, forms and structures of injustice in contemporary society while initiating and supporting works of justice and peace for the integral liberation of humankind
4. Using the new means of social communication for the preaching of the word of God.

The General Chapter of Avila (1986) defined five frontiers of evangelization:

1. The frontier between life and death, or the challenge of justice and peace in the world
2. The frontier between humanity and inhumanity, or the challenge of the marginalized
3. The frontier of Christian experience, or the challenge of the great world religions
4. The frontier of religious experience, or the challenge of secular ideologies
5. The frontier of the Church, or the challenge of non-Catholic Christians and of the sects.

These priorities and frontiers remain helpful for guiding our reflections and decisions today. Brother Damian Byrne wrote, “I am more convinced than ever that the four priorities of the Order as enunciated at the General Chapter held at Quezon City [1977] and reiterated at subsequent Chapters have a deep and unfolding significance for us. [...] Rooted in our heritage, these reflect the whole tradition of the Order. They are not just something conjured up at Quezon City” (www.dominicanwitness.com).

As an Order of Preachers we try to help the Church to face the new times. But there is a temptation for us also to stay with the Church as it is today, to avoid moving into new situations and responding to fresh challenges. The ‘Mission Mandates’, elaborated at the General Chapter of Rome (2010), include the five frontiers of Avila and the four priorities of Quezon City, while urging us now to see all our apostolic engagements in the light of evangelization.

The last general chapter invited us to prepare for the jubilee celebration of 2016 by analyzing in depth what constitutes the essential core of our vocation, namely preaching. In this perspective, the Master of the Order asked a number of provinces and individual brothers to lead specific reflections on the challenges for our mission today as elaborated at the general chapter. The objective was to collect valuable experiences and encourage a common reflection in certain entities of the Order, while asking them also to suggest initiatives to reinforce our commitment to the mission of evangelization. The hope is that the coming general chapter will profit from these reflections as it helps us to renew our mission and prepare for the jubilee year of 2016.

The themes identified at the general chapter were assigned as follows:

1. Parish ministry - Province of Saint Joseph USA
2. Using the new means of communication – Province of Spain
3. Pastoral care of migrants - Province of Nigeria
4. Education and evangelization - Province of the Philippines
5. Schools of preaching - Province of Saint Albert the Great USA
6. Intercultural and interfaith dialogue - Provincial Vicariate of Turkey
7. Presence among indigenous people - Province of Central America

Having visited the provinces the Master added three more topics:

8. City Centre Pastoral Work – Province of Upper Germany and Austria
9. Rosary Pilgrimages and Devotions – Provinces of France and Toulouse
10. The Salamanca Process – the general promoter for Justice and Peace with the Order’s delegate at the United Nations

The initial reflections on these ten areas of mission are now on the Intranet of the Order’s website in the three official languages of the Order (www.op.org). With the papers prepared by the provinces you will find a summary of the discussion held on each by the Master and the General Council. There are already some comments and questions from other brothers and communities in response to the initial reflections. This is a new forum to facilitate on-going conversation on these themes.

If you are working in one of these areas of mission, or are otherwise interested in it, I would like to invite you to participate in the discussion of that area. If you enter the forum and wish to join another discussion, please do so. My hope is that we can generate an informed conversation on these important themes, learn from the experience of other brothers, and see how we might develop our engagement in each of these areas. As a worldwide Order we have the possibility of learning about these themes from many points of view.

The login Username and Password can be requested from your Provincial or Vicar, or from the socius for your region. If you have any questions please contact me directly (apostolatus@curia.op.org). I can also help you to post your comments if you have any difficulty in doing so.

Thank you for all that you are doing, and will do, to strengthen our reflection on these themes, and for helping to develop the preaching and evangelical mission of the Order.

Prakash Lohale OP
Socius for Apostolic Life
(1 May 2013)