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From Chiapas to Canada



New reinforcements for Mission ad Gentes

14/12/2007: General House

On December 1, 2007 Brother Jorge Carrasco was ceremonially sent on mission in the presence of the whole Generalate community and the on-site General Councilors. The ceremony took place in the General Council Chapel with its statue of Mary our Good Mother. Brother Jorge has spent several months in Rome at the Salesian University, making an intensive preparation for his mission assignment. Long time veteran of apostolic work in Chiapas, Mexico, Brother Jorge now directs his steps along the road that leads to Canada. In the course of the missioning ceremony, he explained the reasons which inspired his desire to offer himself to the Ad Gentes Project.

“1. The invitation extended by Brother Superior General. At first I thought that the invitation was not for me, given my age. When I saw that the average age of the Ad Gentes Brothers was two years more than my age, I decided that I must respond. I felt that there was a call from God in this matter: ‘To whomever I send you, you shall go; whatever I command you, you shall speak’ (Jer 1:7). This prophetic word prepared me to go to Chiapas as a missionary in 1969, thirty eight years ago.

“2. I remembered my first call to the foreign missions when I was ten years old…as well as the invitation I received to become a Marist. One year later, in 1954, I entered the juniorate.

“3. Mary’s readiness to serve has always been a motivating force for me and it continues to be a force inspiring me to place myself in the Lord’s hands: ‘Behold I am the handmaid of the Lord. May it bet done to me according to your word’ (Luke 1:38).

“4. I have also strongly sought the help of Saint Theresa of the Child Jesus:
Theresa of the Child Jesus:
send down upon us a shower of roses,
as in this petition, we ask of you
the missionary vocation.

“5. The work is God’s doing, for which I must aside my own interests so as better to understand that He is the center and author of the work, and I, for my part, am a worthless servant.”

Brother Jorge then went on to say that the symbol that is going to accompany him upon this new stage of life will be “the peasant poncho of Our Lady of Guadalupe” and the community hymn composed by the Chiapas catechists and their catechumens, a hymn sung at the conclusion of the first lessons given by the Brothers. The two symbols “I will bear within my heart, so as to draw life from them and also to share them with the poorest of my brothers and those in need.”

Brother Sean Sammon, Superior General, then made the following remarks suited to the missioning ceremony.

“I must confess that I think of Father Champagnat more than ever these days. And that fact is especially true when I consider our Mission ad gentes program. In the face of small setbacks, or witnessing the struggle that some have in learning a new language, or the reaction the program has given rise to in some parts of our Institute, my mind wanders back to our early foundation day with the chapel in the woods, the lack of material resources –in other words money, the misunderstanding that existed on the part of the clergy of Marcellin’s day, and so many other details of that time in our history.
And, then, in the midst of my reverie, someone like our brother Jorge appears on the scene, full of life, on fire with the Spirit, willing to set out on a new adventure in mission at an age when others are considering how best to spend their years of retirement. What a breath of fresh air.
When visiting provinces and districts throughout our Institute, I often tell teachers and surely young people, that a Marist school should teach young people to dream, to dream very large dreams about changing our world, together and because of Jesus Christ and his Good News. But how can young people learn to dream, if we don’t first show them the way.
Our Gospel reading this morning is made up of the first few lines of the gospel account credited to Luke. We have just heard it read and know that it tells the tale of the appointing of the 72 and their sending out by the Lord. He gives them clear marching orders also about travelling lightly, eating and drinking what others might give them, living simply.
These instructions are as true today as they were in the time of Jesus. For anyone intent on changing our world, evangelizing in the name of Jesus Christ must travel lightly, receive gratefully whatever is offered by others, and live simply. During our last few months of life with Jorge we have learned that he has a warm welcome for all, but that he also has the qualities just mentioned in abundance: an ability to travel lightly, a spirit of gratitude, and a commitment to simple living.
I believe that our mission ad gentes initiative is a work of the Spirit of God and that it will be one of the elements that will eventually bring about the renewal of our Institute for which we all long. Not in and of itself but because it creates an atmosphere in which that change of heart becomes possible. One challenge we face as an Institute today is how to create the very same atmosphere in whatever situation we find ourselves. Be we an administrator, a translator, teacher, cook, bus driver—wherever. Yes, we are called to hollow out our hearts so that the Lord and his live and love can enter in.
To achieve this end we must enlist old fashion practices life sacrifice and self-denial, we must pray regularly, and we must have a heart for the poor. Regardless of the circumstances in which we find ourselves, we must sacrifice, pray, and have a heart for the poor.
I am grateful to the brothers of the Province of Central Mexico for sharing Jorge with us and with the wider Marist world. Father Champagnat, too, would be delighted with their greatness of heart and with Jorge’s missioning today. And I pray this morning that God will bless him in his new mission and keep his heart forever young. He will be sent to Canada where he will join the new community that has been established to work with our Canadian brothers in their efforts to renew Marist life and mission in that country. I pray that in word and by deed he continues to teach us the lessons of simplicity of life, and the simple joy of being alive. I pray, too, that wherever he is present, the Word of the Lord will be evident to all, and that that Word may lead them to the fullness of life”.

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