THE OBLATES IN LATIN AMERICA
Letter · Sao Paulo, Brazil · 29/09/1983
Fr. Fernand Jetté
The commitment of the Oblates in Latin America. – A rich value for the Congregation. - The needed complementarity. - Regions in the Congregation. - Our greatest challenge.
L.J.C. et M.I.
I am writing you this letter from Sao Paulo in Latin America. The General Council has been here for three weeks, spending that of September 12-17 with the Provincials and delegates from the various territories of this region.
The commitment of the Oblates in Latin America
On the whole, the commitment of the Oblates in Latin America is very strong. Though their number is small — there are about 330 in 12 different countries — their influence is considerable. This is certainly due to the clarity and radical character of their option, an option for the poor and for the life of the poor. It is due to their being close to the people: they have learned to listen to the people, to respect their inner values and aspirations, and to accompany them in their just struggle for a more human way of life. It is also due to the one major inspiration animating them, an inspiration which in great part finds its source in liberation theology.
During this week I had the pleasure of seeing Oblates from different countries who are well integrated into the milieu in which they are working. I was especially happy to see young Latin American Oblates involved with us in the evangelization of their people. What was only a hope a few years ago is becoming a marvellous reality: in Latin America, God is sending us vocations. I was most glad to hear the testimony of Christian laity who are working with us and place great confidence in us: persons who are simple and sincere, filled with hope and faith, who want to and actually do accomplish things for the complete liberation of their people.
A rich value for the Congregation
The apostolic commitment and simplicity of life lived by our fellow Oblates in Latin America bring a special enrichment to the Congregation. I rejoice at this and, as Superior General, strongly encourage them to continue their work and their search.
Among their number we find some specialists in economics and in certain socio-political issues. This is a privileged possession. I am convinced however — and this applies to each and every Region — that the Oblates must invest more in serious reflection. The challenges of today’s mission require that we have in our ranks some men of thought, men of research oriented toward missionary action, and this in different fields: missiology, Sacred Scripture, dogmatic and moral theology, sociology and anthropology, economics.
The needed complementarity
Dialogue and complementarity in the dialogue between these men of thought and the men in the field is absolutely necessary if we are to achieve a view that is more complete and true to reality. This is all the more important because our missionary options to a great extent are based, on such a foundation.
I think now, among other things, of the socio-political analysis that could be made of concrete situations or of the theological outlook that animates our activity. For example, I very much realize what a source of strength for missionary action liberation theology is, and what a potent force it can be for a Congregation like ours dedicated to the evangelization of the poor. At the same time, I am also aware that this theology has its limitations, that it considers revealed mysteries from a particular viewpoint and needs to be completed if we do not want to deprive people of the full mystery of God and of themselves. For that matter, this is true of all systems of thought: dialogue with others is indispensable for all of them.
Regions in the Congregation
During this session I reflected a great deal on the Congregation, its future, the development of the Regions.
More and more the Regions will be different from each other, will take on their own character and personality. Such a development is normal: it promotes the growth of the Institute as a whole and of each of its parts. To achieve this, dialogue between Regions must intensify and deepen in the measure that regional identities emerge. Otherwise, “regionalization” may lead to isolationism and becoming closed in on oneself.
A universal and international character is a great source of strength for an apostolic corps such as we are. The Congregation, therefore, no matter how incarnated she may be in a given region or country or culture, must remain open to the world at large, and her members must remain capable of sharing, in communion and in dialogue, our common values, common spirit and common spirituality.
This is one of the challenges the Congregation will have to take up in the years ahead.
Our greatest challenge
That, however, is not our greatest challenge. Evangelization remains the greatest challenge for each one of us and for all the Oblates as a whole, the full liberation of the poorest and the most abandoned: to help these people discover who Jesus Christ is and to possess fully the salvation and life he brings to mankind.
I conclude with a reflection made by a fellow Oblate on the General Council. Seeing the great misery and deep distress of the poor in Latin America he remarked: “To expect heaven on earth is an illusion; but to tolerate hell on earth is not Christian. We are called to work with the poor to make this world much less like hell and a little more like heaven”.
The Oblates in Latin America are working towards this goal. Their fellow Oblates in other parts of the world, also engaged in the same work, support and encourage them.