Joliet Diocese Mission Alumni and the Creation of Missional Communities
by Thomas L. Garlitz
Often we hear our mission alumni express the desire to find ways to continue and to deepen the spiritual experience that was begun while on mission. They wish for opportunities to dialogue about what they saw, heard, and learned while serving in distant places so deep in poverty and yet rich in hope. Oft times they tell us that they find it difficult to relate this experience to others who have not yet had opportunity to go on mission. They are hungry for the same sort of love and support they felt during those all too brief two weeks in Bolivia, the Philippines, Kenya, the Navajo Nation, Ecuador, or in some disaster stricken area here in the United States. And they wish to find ways to serve locally in the company of others. They are looking for Christian Community. More precisely, they seek a Missional Community.
This desire to grow in Christ and in Mission within the caring and supportive environment of our brothers and sisters is as old as the Church. As Jack Jezreel, founder of JustFaith, writes, “Benedict and Scholastica formed communities dedicated to work and prayer. Francis and Clare formed communities in service to and solidarity with the poor. More recently, Dorothy Day and the Catholic worker communities and the Christian base communities of Latin America witness to the need to form a different model to live out the call to social ministry that was later echoed in the documents of Vatican II.”
And so today, while we are not proposing anything as bold as a new religious order, we are announcing an opportunity to participate in that same spirit. To seek to answer the desires discussed above, we are offering the chance for you to gather regularly with fellow missioners in small group settings.
Our hope is to organize small missional communities who will come together for Prayer, Personal sharing, Formation and Action. These small groups would meet, we suggest, once a month from September through May. In our first year we will study a beautiful book by Henri Nouwen entitled “Compassion: A Reflection on the Christian Life.” Working with our Formation Director, Sister Shirley Krull, OSF, we are developing a suggested meeting outline, prayer resources, and discussion guides which will be made available to each group. Opportunity for local action and service will be explored, as well, of course, as the encouragement of continued action and prayerful support for the Joliet Diocese Partnership in Missions. We envision a mini-retreat, when all the missional communities will gather, to close out the year.
Meeting times and places for each missional community will be determined by the response. We have hundreds and hundreds of returned missioners within our diocese! Wouldn’t it be beautiful to make a new connection with your fellow missioners living in your neighborhood or town? And the missional communities need not be exclusive to our missioners. Each gathered community should certainly feel free to invite spouses, significant others, friends, and fellow parishioners who they feel will be supportive of the goals of the missional community.
Our first step is simply to ask you of your interest. If you would like to be a part of a missional community, gathering monthly for prayer and support, to grow in Christ and to serve with Christ, simply email Sister Shirley (firstname.lastname@example.org). Please include your name, contact information, and address. Be sure to include your zip code as that will help us determine gathering places.
Let us gather together and see what God will do!