Bishop’s Message



Dear Brothers and Sisters,

“This divine life is not a product for sale -we do not practice proselytism -but a treasure to be given, communicated and proclaimed: that is the meaning of mission.” As Pope Francis released the theme for the World Mission Sunday, October 20, 2019, he gives us a dynamic meaning of mission in these words. This year the theme is “Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World” and Pope Francis wants us to redefine our understanding of the mission and the missionary. World Mission Sunday instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1926 wants a Catholic to think about the missionary character of his/her faith.
And this year being the centenary year of the Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud issued by Pope Benedict XV on 30 November 1919, the Mission Sunday acquires greater significance. Pope Benedict XV tells the missionary to present himself/herself as an “ambassador of Christ not as a messenger of his own nation”. That is also what Pope Francis is also telling when he says that proselytizing has no place but we must give that treasure Jesus who can make a radical difference to peoples and nations. This Jesus will definitely bring difference in the thinking of people and nations in favour of a humane world as Vatican II says, the missionary brings “an open mind and heart to men and women”.
The missionary activity today must be shared with the laity. According to the teaching of the Vatican II on Mission “The Church is not truly established nor does it become a sign of Christ, unless there is a genuine laity existing and working alongside the hierarchy” (AG #21). Just as the whole Church is missionary, it is also ministerial. A ministry is the humble service for which Christ is our model and inspiration. Through her ministry Church carries out her mission of ‘building up the Body of Christ” (Eph 4, 12). Time has come that in our local Church, we should encourage the lay ministries. Lay ministries are services rendered by lay persons in virtue of their personal charisms. Ministries are those services to which the members of the Church commit themselves in a stable manner. This is a kind of sharing formally in the Church’s responsibility to bring about Christ’s redemptive mission. All ministries are to be recognized by the community and authenticated by the community leader. This takes the form of ‘ordination’ in the case of priestly ministry and ‘installation’ in the case of layministry. The services that the lay person can render are based upon personal charism. These ministries are to be roped in according to the needs of each local Church.

The following lay ministries are identified back in 1976 during a Research Seminar at NBCLC. They are: Evangelist, Catechist, Preacher, Religious Teacher, Ministry for Liturgical Animation – Prayer Leaders, Acolyte, Lector, Cantor, Ministry for Family Apostolate, Ministry of Healing, Health Services, Counselling, Ministry of Inter-Religious Dialogue, Ministry of Social Concern, Ministry of Justice and Peace, Ministry of Youth Apostolate, Campus Ministry, Ministry for Domestic Workers, Ministry for Education, Adult Literacy Programme, Animators of Basic Christian Communities, Prison Ministry, Ministry of Communication, Mass Media, Print Media, Ministry of Pastoral Service in the Parishes, Family Ministry etc. If one is innovative such ministries can be given to the responsible and humble laity.
What is the purpose of the Extraordinary Missionary Month? Pope Benedict XV, the extraordinary Missionary Pope wrote Maximum Illud in 1919 and he challenged us to proclaim the Gospel with a more evangelical approach to the mission work in the world. The purpose of this Extraordinary Mission Month is to keep alive the universal mission-conscience of the Church, so that all may carry in their hearts the proclamation of the Gospel and the mission conversion of our communities, so that the passion for Christ and his people will grow. How do we live it out? Through Prayer, Proclamation of the Gospel, Bible and Theological Missionary Reflection, Works of Christian Charity and the Collaboration and Solidarity among Churches.
I request everyone to celebrate the Extraordinary Mission Month with joy and enthusiasm discovering the Mission mandate of Jesus to everyone who is baptized. I met Holy Father Pope Francis on Tuesday, September 17, and conveyed him good wishes from all of you. He said, ‘You are a big force and keep up the good spirit. Please do not forget to pray for me.’ So let us pray for him and for the success of the forthcoming Synod for the Amazon. I share with you the Apostolic blessing he has imparted upon all of us.
With good wishes and prayers,

Yours sincerely,

+ Thelagathoti J. Raja Rao, S.M.M.
Bishop of Vijayawada