The horizons and possibilities for mission are growing ever wider and we Christians are called to an apostolic courage based upon trust in the Spirit.- Redemptoris Missio, 30.
More than 330 missionaries gathered in Tucson, Arizona from October 13-16, 2005 for Mission Congress 2005 Horizons and Possibilities, a major event for the Catholic Church in the United States. Mission Congress 2005 was sponsored by the Catholic Mission Forum. Mission Congress 2005 invited participants to deepen their faith through the telling of stories, to challenge their understanding of mission and borders, reflect on mission as reconciliation and transformation, engage the issue of globalization in the context of building solidarity, and finally to examine the implications of faith and culture.
Participants came from all parts of the United States and several other countries and represented many cultures including African, Asian, Latin American, Pacific Islanders, Europeans, and North American. Mr. Joseph Enos welcomed the participants on behalf of the peoples of the First Nation. Bishop Gerald Kicanas welcomed the missionaries to the beautiful desert setting of Tucson.
Participants visited various communities representing the global community on both sides of the US-Mexico border. There was a felt level of conversion or transformation that the Congress had inspired in the participants. Many expressed the positive effect of engaging with those affected by globalization particularly the 160 participants who had lunch in the homes of families in the Nogales area of Mexico. Even though translators were on hand it seemed that language was not a barrier to communication.
Working in dialogue communities, participants called for a greater understanding and acceptance of other cultures. One of the overall successes of the Mission Congress was a true experience of opening hearts to multigenerational approaches to mission which was greatly in evidence in the dialogue communities. Participants took to heart Pope John Paul II’s call to envision new models of mission appropriate to the global context of today’s world.
Participants also called for greater utilization of technology to create a world-wide network dedicated to building awareness of mission issues and allowing users to locate
mission opportunities; and greater support for laity in mission. The proceedings of the Congress confirmed the need to use media more effectively to communicate the Gospel message.
Organizers of the Congress, expressed gratitude for the willingness of participants to share so personally from their mission experience. They evaluated the Congress by saying, “We feel that this was the major reason for the fulfillment of our hopes for Mission Congress 2005. We believe from the experience of the Congress that global community is not only possible but already exists. To become aware of this communion is a graced moment.”
The Congress was a special call to the Church in the United States to reflect on its role in the Mission of Christ for the new millennium. It was a motivational and inspirational event that raised up important elements of mission to be considered in the future design of mission institutes, diocesan and parish mission endeavors engaging laity in mission and volunteer service. The Congress focused on contemporary ways in which the Catholic Church experiences and practices mission.
Mission Congress 2000 was opened with a prayerful welcome by Cardinal Francis George,OMI Archbishop of Chicago. The Cardinal provided some of the historical highlights of past mission congress gatherings in the United States. Archbishop Marcello Zago, OMI, Secretary for the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples delivered a keynote that set the tone of the congress, challenging the U.S. church to a greater participation in the life and promotion of mission around the world and at home.
Over 225 lay men and women, 260 religious women, 170 priests and 12 bishops celebrated the gift of the, mission of Jesus Christ, envisioned the mission of Christ in the new millennium and considered the meaning of "mission for the Church in the United States."
Planning for the Congress began several years before with a dream to significantly highlight MISSION in the Jubilee Year 2000. In 1997 US Missionaries were invited to participate in “A New Springtime for Mission” process whereby they were asked to reflect on several key mission topics and related stories from their experience. The 160 stories collected were compiled and given to Frs. Steve Bevans and Roger Schroeder, both seasoned SVD missioners, and recognized missiologists, to critically reflect on the themes in the light of the integrated notion of mission which animated Mission Congress 2000. The notion of story continued at table conversation at the Congress where lively testimonies were shared by faith-filled women and men dedicated to the Mission of Jesus.