Rome - 23 November 2004 for SSpS and SVD Mission Secretaries and Mission Animators

In this bulletin:






Sr. Mary John shares a reflection on Blessed Maria Helena as we approach her feast day on Sunday, November 28.  Though the Ordo indicates that her feast is not formally celebrated this year - we could still spare a few moments to remember her on the first Sunday of Advent.

On the 17th October, the Church launched the Year of the Eucharist with the catchy theme of "Hunger for bread, Hunger for God." As individuals and as communities we may have taken up extra practices of devotion to mark the importance of the Eucharist in our lives. As we approach the 152nd birth anniversary of Blessed Maria Helena Stollenwerk on the 28th of November, some thoughts flash through my mind regarding the manner in which she allowed the Eucharist to transform her person and perception.

Of the numerous devotions of Blessed Helena Stollenwerk, the Eucharist and devotion to the Blessed Sacrament, certainly occupied a central position. Her longing to spend hours in adoration is only matched by her desire to go to the missions, particularly China. But what interests me most, is how she allowed the Eucharist to permeate her person in such a way as to accept joyfully God’s understanding of mission for her which was obviously at variance with that of hers. Although much was not as it should have been, kneeling before the Blessed Sacrament, she learned to offer up everything and to rest secure in the realization that God knows and effects the best for her. In the bargain she also knew that being faithful, not successful is more important.

Mother Maria expressed to the Founder her desire and sought special permission to receive Holy Communion more frequently which in her time was limited to four days a week. But even here, what is most touching is the fact that she was willing to give up that longing if only others were allowed to receive it - once again, reflecting the core of the Eucharist in her life. If in Eucharist we celebrate the supreme act of Jesus' self - breaking, I think Mother Maria is a colossal proof of that virtue in a hidden, feminine form.. It is before the altar that she became clearly aware of what is going on within herself, and in turn, came to understand with the heart similar inner movements in her fellow sisters and in the postulants. Her God- experience flowed into action in spontaneous expressions of compassion, warmth and serenity. Her natural, human qualities of sensitivity and tenderness found, as it were, their natural archetype in the Eucharist. In short she could get to the heart of the mystery of the Eucharist without getting entangled in or even understanding the conceptual debates around this important faith expression.

Whereas I see no magical effect in the mere act of receiving communion frequently or otherwise, and am even appalled by the almost superstitious approach to the reception of Holy Communion in some circles, it does, however, set me thinking on a related question. If I were to put together all the hosts that I have consumed from all the Eucharists of my life, I imagine it would amount to a few sacks full. Even on a metabolic level, going by quantity alone, by now it should have transformed me quite drastically. But has it made me a better human being, more loving, forgiving and selfless which is what the Eucharist is all about? Why is it that 'this first best thing in the morning' seems to stop at the chapel door? A prayerful reflection on Mother Maria’s approach to the Eucharist and her life of consistency has probably the answer.

[Contact Mary John SSpS at]

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In mid September, the SVD Mission Secretaries and JPIC coordinators from AFRAM gathered in Lomé to share their experiences and to plan together for the coming years.  This was the first-ever meeting of Mission Secretaries and of JPIC coordinators in AFRAM.  Together with them were representatives from the SSpS in Ghana and in Togo. Sr. Mary John was present from the SSpS Generalate, as were Michael Heinz and I (Tom Ascheman) from the SVD Generalate. I think that the action plan worked out by the mission secretaries was particularly remarkable.

The workshop for mission secretaries focused on developing a better understanding of Mission Animation in the specific context of Africa and Madagascar.  We asked ourselves: What exactly is it that we want?  What is the best way of promoting mission animation in Africa?  The participants came up with an interesting action plan that seems to be very well adapted to the African reality.  They noted that the biggest SVD commitment in Africa is still to primary evangelization, and so they tried to see the tasks of mission animation in relation to that commitment.  The three step action plan they proposed concentrates on Parishes, Youth and Hospitality:

1) Parish - Since most of our confreres are engaged in parish work, we have agreed to  stress using the various parishes that we are working  in to promote mission animation work in the Zone.
2) Youth - Since Africa is a young continent, we therefore agreed to strive together in our ministry to promote mission animation work among the youth and gradually help them to re-discover their leadership role in the future.
3) Hospitality - In the AFRAM Zone, primary evangelisation forms the basis of our religious missionary work. For us to be a sign of hope to the people entrusted to our care and to be able to help commit ourselves to Christ by  living and working together in a loving religious missionary community that we may find ourselves, we therefore consider it our especial task to be more hospitable to people we meet in our lives and also to encourage others to do so.

I think it is possible to note different primary accents in the mission animation of each of the SVD Zones. I would say that SVDs in EUROPE particularly encourage financial solidarity with the younger churches around the world.  In ASPAC the stress is on preparing missionaries to work far from home, keeping in touch with their families, and welcoming them back for home leave and medical care. In PANAM the encouragement of full lay participation in all aspects of the Church’s life – including its outreach to other nations and other peoples – is especially important.

AFRAM stresses Hospitality – it is only by being hospitable ourselves and by building up welcoming church communities that we can hope to welcome new disciples of Jesus.  That is one insight that was mentioned in the document of the last General Chapter when it spoke about reaching out in dialogue to Faith Seekers: “We encourage local communities to help the faith-seekers of today feel welcome in the Church. This is especially urgent where the practices and customs of the local Church seem to raise barriers between the community and those who might be invited to follow Jesus” (Paragraph 58).

My experience of the confreres gathered in Lomé, and of the confreres who received us was one of outstanding hospitality.  I encourage all of you to be Hospitable and Welcoming.  It is a first, and essential step in mission animation.

[For more information contact the AFRAM coordinator for mission animation - Rolando Reyes at:]

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The tenth meeting of European Mission Secretaries was held in Munich from 20-25 September 2004. Such meetings of European mission secretaries have been held regularly since 1969. [1969, 1975, 1977 at St. Augustin, 1984-Munich, 1992-Wengerohr, 1994-St. Gabriel, 1996-Pieniezno, 1998-Fatima, 2001-Varone]. The meeting was well prepared by the Coordinator, Vinzenz von Holzen (SWI).

All of the mission secretaries of the zone were present. Guests included Mrs. Carmie Linden, a representative from the USC mission center, and Sr. Elissa Ringler, the SSpS Mission Procurator. The SVD generalate was represented by Bernhard Rudolf, Treasurer General, and Tom Ascheman, Mission Secretary.

Fund Raising for Particular Projects was one of the major discussions. Some points raised in this regard included:

• Part of the problem is the difficulty of raising funds for "church related" activities. When the term "particular project" is used it generally means help for a project of direct relief. For instance, in some places a particular project related to building a rectory would not be any more successful than a general appeal for funds.

• Particular appeals related to initial formation could be helpful since formation is such a large part of the annual distributions.

• One could always look to the projects assigned to the province for the previous year - contact the local mission secretary for a write-up on the project - and set a goal of raising the money to cover the cost of the project already advanced (paid out) to the province concerned.

Liam Dunne (IBP) began his work as the Mission Secretary of the Irish British Province in 2003 and so this was his first opportunity to meet with his colleagues from around Europe. At the end of the meeting he commented:

It was very good to meet the other mission secretaries from Europe; it is a great and encouraging experience for me to see confreres from the East and West gathered all together.  Together we need to find some answers for presenting the Gospel in our time - especially in the West.  It is a big challenge and by meeting together we can get a wider, overall view.  We heard many examples and ideas of how to do mission animation and missionary outreach. Those are quite stimulating. It keeps us from getting stuck in our own routine.

If I were to try and say in two sentences what the meeting has meant for me, they would be:

• I have a lot of things to discuss with the provincial council.

• There is a lot more we could be doing.

[Contact Vinzenz von Holzen at  Contact Liam Dunne at]

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Items for the SVD/SSpS Mission Animation Bulletin Board can be sent to:

Tom Ascheman SVD

Mary John K. SSpS

SVD Generalate Mission Secretary

SSpS Generalate Mission Secretary