Has Irish Church Lost Its Missionary Zeal ?


Many religious congregations, which were founded in Ireland and are currently experiencing vocations difficulties at home, are thriving in other places Archbishop Diarmuid Martin noted on Mission Sunday, and he suggested that this fact should prompt the Irish Church to ask itself “has the Church in Ireland lost something of its missionary zeal?”

In his homily at St Francis Xavier Church on Gardiner Street in Dublin, which is dedicated to the Jesuit Saint who is Patron of the Missions, the Archbishop of Dublin told the returned missionaries present that Ireland today is, “in many ways, a mission country.”

Of their dedicated missionary service overseas, Dr Martin thanked God for their, “witness of dedication.”  The great Irish missionary tradition was the fruit not just of great missionaries, but of humble men and women here at home who gave generously to support the missions, he told the congregation in Gardiner Street.

Underlining that mission is part of the very nature of the Church, he said in his homily that the “dynamic of missionary activity abroad will inevitably be linked to the life of the Church at home.  Only a mission-focused Church will foster missionary vocations."  He underlined that “Mission at home and mission in other parts of the world are not two separate realities” and added, that the “mission of the Church is one.”

Recognising that many catechetical programmes in the past had been overly cerebral, the Primate of Ireland said they had taught about Jesus but they have not introduced people to the importance of a real encounter with Jesus Christ. 

“Jesus is not an idea or an ideology.  Jesus is a person who comes out to meet us and to be with us in our lives ‘even to the ends of the earth’,” Archbishop Martin said.  “We need to understand what new-evangelisation means here at home,” he commented, and added that renewal in the Church “will not be the fruit of endless and inward-focused consultation processes but by a renewal in our ability to go out and make disciples.”

“An inward-looking, almost narcissistic Church will never be missionary,” the Archbishop warned.

Recognising that Irish missionaries are still active and effective in so many parts of the world, Archbishop Martin said their missionary zeal should also and can also be a means to renew the Church in Ireland. 

“The experience of young volunteers who spend time with missionaries abroad enriches their faith when they return.  The Church in Ireland needs to be nourished by the faith and commitment of our missionaries,” he suggested.

He concluded, “Mission is about wishing to share the extraordinary gift of faith that God has wished to give us, when he made us sharers in his own life.  We must share that gift with others, here at home or in any other part of the world.”

by Sarah Mac Donald - Catholic Ireland



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