By Fr. Kennedy Katongo, OMI
OMI JPIC Director – Rome
Justice, Peace and Integrity of Creation (JPIC) Ministry is central and at the heart of our mission as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate. JPIC ministry is our way of life and our way of mission and forms an integral part in our process of Evangelization. This is important to remember especially as we go through the third year of the Oblate Triennium, as we reflect on the 200th anniversary of the Congregation and as we approach the forth-coming 36th General Chapter. It is important to note that we live in a world today that is characterized by rapid changes that create both opportunities and challenges.
Therefore, the ministry of JPIC begins with seeing, to ‘really see’ – to have a truthful and deeper look at – to take a contemplative stance and a prophetic reading, to be able to discern in light of the values of the Gospel what is happening in our world today – our common home. JPIC ministry assists us in analyzing the current reality with a contemplative perspective to see more deeply the structures that generate poverty, devastation of the environment, conflict and violence and how we might more fully make the values of the Kingdom more visible and functional. This is the reality and the world in which we as Oblates live and minister to the people.
As Oblates, we look at the world through the eyes of the Crucified Savior so that those who suffer will be strengthened with the hope of the power of the resurrection (C#4); this was the perspective of our Founder St. Eugene de Mazenod and the Oblate charism. As Father Louis LOUGEN, our Superior General, says about the Oblate Charism:” “We are fired by a charism that is unique and special in the Church, one that makes us very close to the poor, the rejected, the forgotten, the people that society ignores, and the people who don’t feel accepted in church…We show a very human face of Jesus to the world, one full of compassion and solidarity.” Thus, many Oblates all over the world are working with, among and for the poor and are therefore exercising this ministry, even though they may not use this JPIC terminology.
Therefore, as Missionary Oblates of Mary Immaculate and our associates, we strive to integrate into our ministry this vital aspect of the “liberating presence of Jesus Christ and the new world born in his resurrection” (C 9). We do this through our OMI JPIC congregational priorities.
These four Priorities were first developed in 2009 and were revised in 2012 following a process of both consultation and discernment by the Central Government and the OMI JPIC General Service. This process took into account the 2010 Chapter mandate “to develop fresh animation for mission and for discerning new missionary strategies and major missionary challenges”. It is also very clear that these priorities are ad intra: Witnessing Jesus Christ faithfully through our Oblate Charism demands that we put these priorities into practice first in our own Oblate community life; and ad extra: The way we organize our community is our first missionary commitment in witnessing and building the Kingdom of God, preached by Jesus, as the Good News for all Creation, all men and women. These priorities are:
We commit ourselves to work especially in promoting the rights of all peoples, as individuals and as communities, with special emphasis on indigenous peoples and migrants. We commit ourselves so that all peoples should be respected in their right to life from conception to life’s natural end and to have access to basic human needs as well as the right to enjoy the free exercise of civic, political, social, religious and cultural rights, and to have a healthy community to live in.
PEACE AND RECONCILIATION
We are also attentive to include in the initial and ongoing Oblate Formation curriculum the specific training in the area of conflict resolution and reconciliation at the social, religious and political levels, for instance between ethnic groups in the regions that we are currently ministering.
ECOLOGICAL AND ECONOMIC SUSTAINABILITY
We commit ourselves to an integral relationship between humanity and nature as gifts of God, and protection of the environment and commitment to ecology.
EDUCATION AND FORMATION
We are committed to the promotion of basic literacy and education as a fundamental right so as to empower people in their search for greater dignity and opportunities. We believe that preparation and updating for this dimension of our mission should be included in all of our formation programs. This includes the different stages of initial formation, ongoing formation and leadership training programs that are planned at different levels of the congregation. We act so that lay people and Oblates together assume responsibility for our mission. Catholic social teaching and JPIC training needs to be an integral part of our formation programs for Oblates and the laity.
As Pope Francis states: “the deterioration of the environment and of society affects the most vulnerable people on the planet, the poorest and the excluded, who are the majority of the planet’s population, and who are often treated in international discussions as an afterthought or as collateral damage.” He notes that “a true ecological approach always becomes a social approach; it must integrate questions of justice in debates on the environment, so as to hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor” (LS 48-49).
Therefore, in this Year of Mercy and the Oblate 200th anniversary, let us be renewed and resolved in our commitment to our mission and the ministry of JPIC. For this is the call and invitation from the forthcoming General Chapter, “Evangelizare pauperibus misit me”. May Mary Immaculate strengthen and inspire us, as she herself is a woman of justice who sang of the new world of God’s kingdom where the poor would be given their fill and find freedom as sons and daughters of God.