Baptised and Sent

Read what Catholics of Aotearo-New Zealand say about 'mission'

Fr Philip Gibbs (SVD) was born in Lower Hutt in 1947, and was Catholic schooled in the Hutt valley.  He ordained as a Divine Word Missionary priest in 1978.  Much of his pastoral work has been spent in Papua-New Guinea in parishes and with Caritas.  He is currently a professor at Divine Word University in Madang, Papua New Guinea.   In 2018 he was awarded an OBE for his service to Enga province community.   His webmedia content can be viewed here: http://www.philipgibbs.org/pages/personal

He writes about mission....

 “A significant element of my experience over the past few years has been a reflexive one. It has taught me a lot about mission because I have come to realise that I am the one who needs to be converted – in my attitudes, my values, and my openness to different cultural views of life and death, and ultimately to a renewed understanding of what it means to be human. Pope Francis reminds us that God works through us in the way we treat one another. The ideal behind of the Churches’ human rights and faith-based approach to mission promotes respect for the sacredness of every person made “in the image and likeness of God.”

Pope Francis speaks of mission as communicating and proclaming the divine life. In the past, I would illustrate that divine life with Jesus reading from Isaiah as found in Lk 4:18 “He has anointed me to bring good news to the poor, to proclaim liberty to captives and new sight to the blind: to free the oppressed and to announce the Lord’s year of mercy.” I still think this is an excellent summary of Jesus’ mission and a commission for his disciples then and now. However, my recent experience with those suffering after being accused of witchcraft has helped me to see another side of mission, which is not necessarily to empower the powerless, secure the insecure and fix the damaged or broken. Could it be that life is not meant to be perfect and that brokenness is part of our human experience that has been blessed by Christ?

What then is God’s mission in a fragile state such as Papua New Guinea? The reign of God seeks our participation in its growth and those who consider themselves followers of Jesus are called to respond by active caring, loving personal relationships as well as advocacy for structural reform. Relationships are important in dealing with the quality of life, but the work of mission must include both communal and individual relationships.

Pope Francis refers to celebrating the missionary dimention of our faith. In my experience, political and social instability leaves people vulnerable to the social and cultural factors that are contributing to issues such as the HIV and AIDS, or witchcraft accusation related violence. Countering those driving forces with life-enhancing strategies may help arrest the negative spiral that people experience. This is an important aspect of mission today as faith-filled people promote the transformation of the world into one exemplifying freedom, acceptance and quality of life – particularly a world where women and girls are valuable, rather than vulnerable. “