The Missionary Reminds the Church Who We Are

Recently, Fr. Fernando Garcia, Superior General of the Xaverian Missionaries worldwide was interviewed in Spain by the media center, Vida Nueva. The author is José Luis Celada in Vida Nueva nº 3.336, year 2023, pages 16-17. We are grateful for the possibility of reprinting the original article.

Fr. Fernando Garcia, Superior General of the Xaverian Missionaries

Bukavu (Democratic Republic of the Congo) was the setting chosen by the Xaverian Missionaries to celebrate their XVIII General Chapter in July. Not only because they arrived in that country in October 1958 or because today not a few of them are from there, but because “Africa exists, it is a richness, and it counts – and much – for the future of humanity and of the Church.” This is vindicated by Fernando García Rodríguez, superior general of this missionary institute, who was re-elected for another six years in office. With this man from Granada from Huertezuela (Hueneja), taking advantage of the questions in the preparatory document for the chapter meeting, we review the past, present, and future of the Xaverian family… and the mission.

Where do the Xaverian Missionaries originate from?

They were born from the dream of a young Italian priest, Guido M. Conforti, who could not be a missionary due to a serious health problem, but thought of starting a missionary institute with the sole purpose of proclaiming the Gospel to those who did not yet know it. He founded it in his native Parma on December 3, 1895, the feast of St. Francis Xavier, our patron saint. Already in 1898, the first two missionaries were sent to China.

Where are they right now?

We are in twenty countries on four continents. The first presence was in China, and the last one in Mozambique, Thailand, and Morocco. Until the 80s, almost all of us were Europeans, mainly Italians. Since then, we have been enriched by a diversity of origins: Asia, America, and Africa. Today the face of Xaverians is not only multicultural but intercultural. We live in small missionary communities, companions from different countries and cultures, with a specific purpose: to bear witness to God’s love for humanity manifested in Jesus Christ, and this in purely missionary contexts.

Where are they headed?

We want to remain faithful to the mission that the Church has entrusted to us: to proclaim and bear witness to the Gospel to the ends of the earth (Mt 28:18-20). After two thousand years, we realize that the number of those who do not know Jesus Christ continues to increase. Today two-thirds of humanity does not know that He is the Way, the Truth, and the Life. To be there, in geographical contexts. Cultural and existential are very different from each other, it is part of our missionary vocation.

It is very significant – and the Pope thanked him for this in his message – the place chosen to celebrate the Chapter…

We feel part of humanity, with special attention to countries, regions, and human groups that count for little in the face of the powers that guide our world; people of flesh and blood who suffer violence, are exploited in their natural resources, are denied the right to live with dignity… Little is heard of them, except in cases of calamities, violence… as if that were the only reality. However, there is a great natural, human, and spiritual wealth. Holding the Chapter in the Democratic Republic of Congo was a choice designed to say aloud a great truth: Africa exists, it is a richness, and it counts – and much – for the future of humanity and of the Church.

The motto of the meeting was “To love our Xaverian vocation”. Do you feel that missionary ardor sometimes relegates that passion for one’s own charism to the background?

Loving our Xaverian vocation has been, first, an invitation to go to the origin of what each one of us is, that moment in our lives in which we felt that God loved us unconditionally and, loving us, invited us to collaborate in the realization of his dream: that humanity, in its diversity, can live by holding hands, building bridges of communication, fraternity, service, justice, peace…

And secondly, it has been a call to each one of us not only to continue to keep alive that dream of God. That is also ours, but to continue to grow in daily fidelity to the love of the Lord that is manifested in the daily gift of our lives, loving the mission that the Church has entrusted to us and serving the people that the Lord places in our path.

What was the “Xaverian Culture” present in the international gathering of Xaverian Missionaries?

Our service of evangelization, of making the Lord Jesus present to people who still do not know or love him, passes first of all through the testimony of our concrete life, every day. What we call “Xaverian culture”, therefore, is a lifestyle of those who desire with all their heart to make the world one family in Christ. This translates into the immediacy of relationships, the simplicity of life, and the ability to relativize one’s own culture and embrace the richness of the culture of others. This lifestyle, founded on a deep consecration to Christ, modeled after the example of Saint Guido M. Conforti, with that spirit of living faith that makes them see God, seek God, and love God in everything and everyone, It unites us all as the Javeriana Family.

And how does the Xaverian Charismatic Family live the shared mission between men and women religious and lay people? To what extent is the Synod of Synodality helping you?

Evangelizing is typical of those who have welcomed the love of God manifested in Christ into their lives and, from there, feel the urgency of sharing this Good News in the four corners of the universe. The Xaverian charism participates in this urgent desire to evangelize today. And there we are, religious and lay, sharing mission and sometimes in different places, other times walking together. The synodal path is the concrete way of being the Church today. There is no other. Our desire is to continue growing in this mentality and strengthening ties of brotherhood and mutual collaboration.

An Essential Purpose

The growing plurality of the congregation enriches its presence and witness, but how does openness to the world combine attention to the various local Churches?

The missionary charism is an essential part of the Church. The missionary is born, grows, develops and lives in the Church. Wherever there is a missionary, the Church is present. The missionary, with his witness of life, reminds the Church of her raison d’être in this world, to evangelize, to make the Kingdom of God present.

How do you deal with this second mandate as superior?

There is a great conviction in my life: the Christian mission is God’s mission. We are co-workers in God’s work. If God has led us to today, He will continue to do so. Of this, I have no doubt. This trust in the Lord who guides the Church, and who, through his Spirit, shows her which paths to follow, is important. I try to live day by day with this confidence. The rest, we will discover as we make our way.

Does the future of the Catholic Church lie in mission?

Evangelization is the vocation of the Church. The future of the Church will depend on the quality of witness of our Christian life, of our love for God and humanity; knowing and feeling that we are not alone, that the Lord Jesus is with us every day until the end of the age.

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