Missionaries of the Sacred Heart, an Australian community, in a worldwide religious congregation.
Jesus loved with a human heart: with him we proclaim his love to the world.
We work to discover through advocacy, healing and reconciliation, God's presence in our world.
We are to be on earth the heart of God. God has no other heart but ours.
- Published: Wednesday, 25 August 2010 19:16
FRENCH PROVINCIAL'S REFLECTIONS
They came in their hundreds, from parishes on the coast and in the mountains, some walking for five days to share in the great celebration of the 125th anniversary of the arrival of three Missionaries of the Sacred Heart on Yule Island.
It was on July 2nd that Fr Henry Verius and Brothers Salvatore Gasbara and Nicola Marconi landed on the small island only a few minutes by boat from the great island of Papua New Guinea, which was the goal of their mission. Three years ealier, Msgr Louis Andre Navarre, Fr Theophile Cramaille and Brother Mesmin Fromm arrived in New Britain on the small island of Matupi (Rabaul).
It was with verve that the Church of south-west Papua New Guinea celebrated this anniversary marking the beginnings of evangelisation in the area. The French flag flew in the Port Moresby sports ground on July 4th to commemorate the celebration of the first mass celebrated by Mgr Verjus on Yule Island two days after their arrival. All the dioceses were represented, the laity in their colourful clothes and with dance, religious, priests and bishops. This was a recognition of the mother Church, that of France, through Jules Chevalier who had sent mssionarie in 1881 for the great work of evanglising Melanesia and Miconesia. Through this symbol of France, so far away from where Jules Chevalier lived, there was recognition of the great work of the Missionaries of the Sacred Heart throughout Europe, Canada, the US, and Australia.
On many occasions, with Br Lionel Planchet and Mr Paul Demierre who travelled with me, we have sensed what it is to be Missionaries of the Sacred Heart. Their work and the history of PNG, as Bishop Rochus Tatamai likes to say, is bound up with the history of the MSCs, a common history. We have felt the welcome, warm and celebratory, which is not just in words but alive in appreciation and joy. Bishop Verius (whose picture had a place of honour in so many of the celebrations) and Archbishop de Boismenu are still alive in the memories of people as are the names of other missionaries which came up during our trip.
The work of past generations of missionaries can be measured by the life, joy and involvement of the Church of PNG today, a Church which is searching for the way ahead. The missionary era is now part of the larger history. There are only two French missionaries left but the PNG MSCs number more than 120.
The history of the Church of the 21st century will develop in other ways, on other foundations. But it is a Church which will grow according to its own culture, in a land with 800 languages and countless traditions, not the culture of yesterday but that of today, the marriage between the new and the old, multi-faceted in a global world. (Br Lionel noted that coming back after nine years he was struck by the use of mobile phones by so many people, the system so well developed ; even in the villages people touched by this network ; where there used to be nothing, now there is communication beyond Veifa’a and Yule ; great progress.)
This is a poor Church which now tries to find the finance for seminary formation and for parishes, It is a young Church with local clergy and bishops. Amongst its priorities are education of youth, family pastoral work, health care, the formation of a sense of responsiblity. Government has recognised the value of Catholic schools and pays teachers’ salaries. To announce the Good News of Jesus Christ is to take part in the human formation and development of the country. The Church finds itself active in all sectors of life.
We see the fruit of the work and lives of so many missionaries, priests, brothers, sisters, lay. They have given their lives to contribute to this development. In celebrating the 125 years since the arrival of the missionaries on Yule Island, we can say that the mission has been accomplished as well as saying that it continues.