We Are All Missionary Disciples
By Christina Semmens
The opening keynote speaker at the upcoming Diocese of Birmingham Eucharistic Congress 2019 will be His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre, Titular Archbishop of Gunela and Pope Francis’ appointment as Apostolic Nuncio to the United States. As the spokesman for Pope Francis here in the United States, Archbishop Pierre’s keynote message will focus upon the theme of Missionary Discipleship.
For those who may be unfamiliar, missionary discipleship is a term made popular by Pope Francis, especially in his encyclical, Evangelium Gaudium (The Joy of the Gospel).
In paragraph 120 of his encyclical, Pope Francis writes:
“In virtue of their baptism, all the members of the People of God have become missionary disciples (cf. Mt 28:19). All the baptized, whatever their position in the Church, or their level of instruction in the faith, are agents of evangelization.”
What this means is that each and every one of us—EVERY baptized man and woman, regardless of whether you have any position in the Church, and regardless of your level of instruction in the faith, is an agent of evangelization.
You, me, and every person around us, is called to spread the Good News that Jesus is Lord and Savior of the world. That every person is loved beyond measure by God and has been made in His image and likeness. That all of us are uniquely made and have a particular vocation in this world for which God created us especially for, but that our highest calling is to become holy men and women—saints—who are immersed in the life of the Blessed Trinity. That every person who professes Jesus as Lord has been redeemed by His sacrifice on the cross, in which death and sin has been conquered for all time, and ensuring that anyone who says yes to the Heavenly Father’s invitation will then spend eternity with Him in heaven rejoicing at the Heavenly Banquet Table.
This is the Good News we are called to share.
And where are we called to evangelize? Pope Francis tells us in paragraph #23:
“In fidelity to the example of the Master, it is vitally important for the Church today to go forth and preach the Gospel to all: to all places, on all occasions, without hesitation, reluctance or fear. The joy of the Gospel is for all people: no one can be excluded.”
It is this need to preach and share the Gospel everywhere that brings home the reality that everyone is called to be a missionary disciple. Sharing the Good News is not merely for “professionals”—like priests and religious—to be about while the rest of the us lay faithful sit by passively.
The new evangelization calls for personal involvement on the part of each of the baptized.
Every one of us is challenged, here and now, to be actively engaged in evangelization. Anyone who has truly experienced God’s saving love does not need much time or lengthy training to go out and proclaim that love. In fact, it is our very experience of God’s love, rather than how much catechetical training we might have, that makes us powerful and profound witnesses to others of God’s saving love and mercy.
THIS is a message that our world desperately needs to hear.
Pope Francis exhorts every one of the faithful to claim our rightful place in the efforts to evangelize. He writes:
“Every Christian is a missionary to the extent that he or she has encountered the love of God in Christ Jesus: we no longer say that we are “disciples” and “missionaries,” but rather that we are always “missionary disciples.” If we are not convinced, let us look at those first disciples, who, immediately after encountering the gaze of Jesus, went forth to proclaim Him joyfully: “We have found the Messiah!” (John 1:41). The Samaritan woman became a missionary immediately after speaking with Jesus and many Samaritans come to believe in Him “because of the woman’s testimony” (John 4:39). So too, Saint Paul, after his encounter with Jesus Christ, “immediately proclaimed Jesus” (Acts 9:20).
By our baptism, we are ALL missionary disciples. So what are we waiting for?
Speaker Bio for His Excellency Archbishop Christophe Pierre
Titular Archbishop of Gunela
Archbishop Christophe Pierre was born on January 30, 1946 in Rennes, France. He completed his primary education in Antisirabé, Madagascar, and his secondary schooling in Saint-Malo, France, and in Marrakech, Morocco. He attended the Major Seminary of the Archdiocese of Rennes (1963-1969) and the Catholic Institute of Paris (1969-1971).
He did the Military Service from July 1965, to October 1966. He was ordained a priest on April 5, 1970, in Saint-Malo, France and incardinated in the Archdiocese of Rennes. He was Parochial Vicar of the St. Peter and St. Paul Parish in Colombes, Diocese of Nanterre, France (1970-1973).
He has a Master in Sacred Theology (Paris, 1971) and a Doctorate in Canon Law from the Pontifical Lateran University, Rome (1973-1977).
He completed his studies at the Pontifical Ecclesiastical Academy, in Rome (1973-1977), and started his service in the Diplomatic Corps of the Holy See on March 5, 1977.
He was appointed first to the Pontifical Representation in New Zealand and the Islands of the Pacific Ocean (1977-1981). Subsequently he served in Mozambique (1981); in Zimbabwe (1982-1986); in Cuba (1986-1989); in Brazil (1989-1991); at the Permanent Mission of the Holy See to the United Nations in Geneva, Switzerland (1991-1995).
He was elected Titular Archbishop of Gunela on July 12, 1995, and received the Episcopal Consecration on September 24, 1995, in Saint-Malo, France.
Archbishop Christophe Pierre was appointed Apostolic Nuncio to Haiti, on July 12, 1995, where he served until 1999. He has been the Apostolic Nuncio to Uganda (1999-2007) and then, the Apostolic Nuncio to Mexico (2007-2016). He was appointed as Apostolic Nuncio of the United States of America by His Holiness, Pope Francis on April 12, 2016.
Archbishop Pierre speaks French, English, Italian, Spanish and Portuguese.
For more resources like these to help prepare you, or for more information about how to support the upcoming Diocese of Birmingham Eucharistic Congress by volunteering or through sponsorship, check out www.bhmcatholic.com.