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When John Watkins worked with the homeless in San Francisco and later became the Coordinator for Life and Justice in the Diocese of Oakland, Calif., he knew he was responding to a call to discipleship but did not think of himself as a missionary. "I saw it as work I do and that mission was something missionaries did overseas," he says. After participating in Maryknoll's local Mission Education Training Program, as well as a Maryknoll mission immersion experience in Guatemala, Watkins realized he was a missionary all along. Moreover, he began to appreciate that perhaps his most important mission work begins at home as a husband and father to two young boys. "I now see myself as a small participant in God's unfolding mission of love," he says. "The good news is that God is doing most of the heavy lifting. I don't need to always be successful or perfect because it is not my work but God's."
I dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channeled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation...(27).
....A committed missionary knows the joy of being a spring which spills over and refreshes others. Only the person who feels happiness in seeking the good of others, in desiring their happiness, can be a missionary. This openness of the heart is a source of joy, since “it is more blessed to give than to receive” (Acts 20:35). We do not live better when we flee, hide, refuse to share, stop giving and lock ourselves up in own comforts. Such a life is nothing less than slow suicide (272).
My mission of being in the heart of the people is not just a part of my life or a badge I can take off; it is not an “extra” or just another moment in life. Instead, it is something I cannot uproot from my being without destroying my very self. I am a mission on this earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world...(273).
Pope Francis. EVANGELII GAUDIUM. Read the whole document.
In my ministry as a Maryknoll mission educator, I often speak to students at Catholic high schools and universities about the the mission of the Church. Initially, most meet me with a fair amount of skepticism. To them, missionaries are associated with a long history of oppressing and enslaving indigenous peoples, supposedly in the name of God. But you might be surprised at how quickly many, if not most, of these young people abandon that skepticism when I begin to share stories of missioners serving around the world. I share stories of people working with local communities to provide young people with an education, or to develop a sustainable source of drinking water. Students cannot help but be inspired...
Seeing that awe in young people when they hear these examples of God's mission of love does make me wonder, though, Why is this news to them?