IN THE Overseas Mission Office of Salford diocese, we are attempting to come to terms with the reality and the challenges of mission in 1985.
Our Church is lacking in vision, and confidence; we need to listen to the story of the Third Church, to gain inspiration from its vigorous life, to learn from its insights into the radical calling of the Gospel. Where we can be of service to it we must generously he so.
How can this be achieved? In the Church in the north of' England, awareness of the "missions" is very strong as are the traditional responses of funding and prayer.
In addition, we have a natural and Gospel-nurtured sense of what is right and decent. The need is to harness effectively and channel this wealth of goodness, sympathy and interest.
Experience has taught that this is best achieved through parochially based groups which not only act as catalysts within the parish and the wider community but also provide the group members with support and encouragement in an area of work where the obstacles can be formidable.
To date, 70 such groups have been established. Groups are usually launched by either the Director of Overseas Mission or the Director of Justice and Peace addressing a parish meeting. This reflects our belief that "Evangelisation" and "Justice and Peace" are two sides of the one coin. Attendances at these meetings have ranged from four to 103. Those present are invited to form a committee or a group to implement a four-pronged strategy focusing on evangelisation,
development, justice and prayer.
Almost all committed Catholics are aware of the need to finance the evangelising work of the Church. In a typical parish, this obligation is honoured by the annual mission appeal and supporting the APF and Mill Hill through the red appeal-boxes. Our groups continue to encourage this traditional response while, at the same time, promoting within the parish a picture of the Third Church which reflects the reality of the universal Church in the eighties.
Particularly this can be done by the parish making contact with missionaries who hail from their locality or by corresponding with a major seminarian through the sponsorship scheme of the Society of St Peter the Apostle.
The work of the SPA is especially recommended to groups in view of the enormous difficulties which many dioceses of the Third World face in training priests and religious. It is inexcusable that vocations are being rejected in Asia and Africa simply because finance is lacking.
Support is given at the diocesan level by means of a newsletter, speakers, videos and films. Additionally, two Sunday afternoon celebrations are organised around a special Mass, sermon and film to encourage and thank the APF for its work.
Money for development is generated through abstinence. The twice annual family fast is now a familiar feature of Catholic life in England and Wales, and the group is asked to go a step further and promote a similar fast or abstinence within the parish on every Friday of the year. Indeed, we go as far as to recommend that no fundraising events be organised, though often enthusiasm ignores this.
As a Church and as a society we must come to grips with the fact that the poverty of the Third World is a direct result of the avarice and the over-consumption of the developed world, a situation which reaches back over centuries and annually grows worse.
Weekly abstinence constantly calls this to mind and is a reminder that Christians must grow more critical of their lifestyle. Furthermore, abstinence is not only an act of sorrow and of reparation but also an act of solidarity with the poor.
The money realised in this manner is used to fund a CAFOD project, though on occasion individual priests and communities very well known to us have also been assisted. But whatever the project, it is carefully presented to the parishioners so that it further educates them to the causes of poverty and also assures them that their money is being well used.
John Corcoran is Diocesan Director in Salford for the Overseas Mission of the Church.