MR-NET  News #10


21 September 2002   

  SVD Mission Research Network  
Mission Secretariat - Rome   

The 15th SVD General Chapter urged that all SVD mission researchers be in very close collaboration, and to focus their study and teaching on concrete issues that can help improve our missionary service, and make it responsive to present needs. And so, this occasional email bulletin shares ideas, opinions, resources and hopes about SVD mission research.

In this bulletin:

1. USC - Publication of "Mission for the 21st Century"

2. ROM - Manunga - Participation in SEDOS Seminar 2002

3. POL - Second Meeting of Project Europe at Nysa


MR-NET News #4 reported on the missiological symposium held at Techny from December 8 to 11, 2000 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of the foundation of the SVD at Techny, the motherhouse of Divine Word Missionaries in North America. The conference was organized around the theme Mission for the 21st Century. The statement prepared by the symposium has since been published in Verbum SVD v. 42:1 (2001).

The papers from the event have now been edited by Steve Bevans and Roger Schroeder and published by the Chicago Center for Global Ministries (CCGM Publications). In their introduction to the papers Bevans and Schroeder write: 

"Mission is not our own, but God's; it is lived out in prophetic dialogue and confident vulnerability... The stimulating ideas expressed in these pages are not just ideas; they come out of a deep commitment on the part of all the participants to God's work in the world. May the not remain ideas for those who read them, but bear fruit in creative and faithful practice in those readers' lives."

[For information contact: Steve Bevans SVD at or Roger Schroeder SVD at]

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The annual SEDOS Seminar, 14-18 May 2002, was dedicated to the theme, Our vision of a missionary Church: from Dream to Reality. One hundred and nine delegates from nearly 50 SEDOS member congregations attended. Invited guests included representatives from the World Council of Churches in Geneva. The aim was to return to the results of the SEDOS 2001 seminar and to analyze the major challenges the missionary Church will face in the year 2025. 

The following lines are from Godefroid Manunga, an African missionary to Africa from the Congo province, who is currently finishing doctoral studies in missiology in Rome.

"I am very grateful for the opportunity I had to attend the seminar. It seems to me that the major themes that emerged from the reflections and from the sharing in various linguistic groups were 'Mission as kenosis' and 'Mission as dialogue.' The recommendations and orientations which followed all the group and personal reflections convinced me that we must understand mission or evangelization as a process in which we learn to listen without blocks or prejudices; as heralds of the gospel, we should be ready to learn from other persons and daily, ever-changing events.

"In response to what I heard during the seminar, there are two points I would like to share with the readers of MR-NET News. These points concern dialogue at a personal and intercultural level: more specifically the themes of 'the Church of the poor' and 'working and living in multicultural communities.' These were important themes mentioned in the paper containing the orientations for reflection and action.

"First, it was said by some that: The Church of tomorrow will be poor, not by choice but by necessity. Out of my ignorance and in a spirit of curiosity and exchange, I want to know what this statement really means for me as an African missionary. Where is the difference between the Church in Africa twenty-five years ago and the Church twenty-five years from now? In fact, since I was in the novitiate and entered the seminary in Kinshasa till now, I have been hearing the words: 'the Church in Africa is poor because Africa is poor.' Surely it has to do with the continuing financial and personnel dependence of our local Churches on the West. 

"But Africa as a continent is potentially rich: many countries have immense mineral resources, (diamonds, copper, and petrol), green lands and rivers for energy. And we have the values of our traditional religions. I think that priority should be given to proclamation of the gospel and deepening the faith. Then, in the light of the transforming gospel, specialists of mission and missionaries in the field in Africa should reflect on how to improve the conditions of life of the people in such a rich continent.

"Missionaries have done a lot in Africa and continue to do so, isn't it time perhaps that they empower the evangelized people spiritually and train them in rural development so that they become 'creators of their people?' I believe that this is a way of helping the local churches to regain their ecclesial dignity and start a sincere missionary cooperation at the apostolic, spiritual and material levels.

Second, I would like to comment about multicultural communities. Many congregations have little experience of living together with people from different cultural backgrounds, but as Divine Word Missionaries we have long seen this as a part of our missionary identity. So, the challenge is to convince oneself that it is possible to live and work with others. There are many Africans who join various institutes: some come from war torn societies, others are from areas where ethnic conflicts are persisting…all these have to live with Asians, Europeans and North or South Americans. The ways the members of the multicultural communities perceive the reality are different. But, as I said at the beginning, if we understand that as missionaries, we are called to be ministers of reconciliation and love, then the capacity to work, which is acquired through learning how to live with and resolve inevitable conflicts in multicultural societies should be also part of the prophetic mission at a personal and intercongregational levels."

[You can contact Godefroid Manunga SVD at The papers of the seminar are available online at]

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Project Europe is a process of consultation by mission researchers in Europe to encourage and clarify research projects for mission in Europe. The first meeting was held at St. Augustin on 19-20 October 2001. The second meeting took place at Nysa, Poland on June 7 and 8. There, eighteen SVD's gathered from various parts of Europe: seven from Poland, three from Austria, one from Spain, seven from Germany and one from Rome.

The meeting sought to focus the common interests of the group on a small number of select topics. The process of listening to the concerns of the participants, and working out a common research agenda resulted in naming five principal concerns. These are listed below in the order in which they received votes from the participants.

My own (Tom Ascheman) comments to the general council about the meeting included the following:

"The participation of 18 members was excellent - and the majority of the participants were younger confreres. It is important that these researchers get to know one another and realize that they really have something to offer regarding the future SVD presence in Europe.

"It is notable that the first three topics tend to focus on different aspects of dialogue with 'faith seekers' in Europe. While other aspects of mission are also important, the participants here clearly focused on renewed evangelization as the needed core of missionary effort in Europe. Note, for instance, that attention to immigrant Catholic communities or to accompaniment of the poor and marginalized is not listed among the primary concerns for research at this time. I read that to mean that these researchers have a clear focus on the largest and most challenging group in Europe, i.e., on the unchurched, not that there is a lack of commitment to other dialogue partners. 

"There was interest in trying to develop something more concrete that would move beyond another publication - but it is not yet clear what that 'something' might be.

"Some limitations of the weekend consultation, from my point of view, would include: 

After the council's discussion of the reports on the meeting, Antonio Pernia sent a letter of encouragement to Heribert Bettscheider as the overall coordinator of MR-NET in Europe. Some of the points from the letter are cited below:

"The council and I would simply like to let you know that we are happy with the initiative. We've been following the progress and the results. After reflecting on the meeting and on the material which Fr. Ascheman brought back with him, two points seem important to us and we would like to place some emphasis on them: 

1. We hope that you and the other members of MissWiss will work hard to make something practical come out of "Projekt Europa". The expectations are there among the membership for something more concrete than another publication - however important that may be in itself. We realize that it will take some time to discern what the more concrete results might be.

2. We also hope that you will work harder to get into contact with people outside Poland, Germany, and Austria, and actively seek to enter into contact with others in other parts of the zone and to encourage their participation and contributions.

"Congratulations on the meeting in Nysa. We have heard that it was clearly the best 'event' of the MR-Net Europe to date. The council and I would like to encourage you to continue in this spirit."

The next meeting of the consultation will be held at St. Gabriel's in Vienna at the beginning of 2003.

[For more information on Project Europe please contact Heribert Bettscheider SVD at or at]

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For information about MR-Net activities in your Zone contact:   Send Notices for MR-NET News to:

  AFRAM - Marek Kowalik SVD 

  ASPAC - Robert Kisala SVD 

  EUROPA - Heribert Bettscheider SVD 

  PANAM - Christian Tauchner SVD 

  Mission Secretary  
Tom Ascheman SVD   

SVD Mission Research Network