Do we need missionaries?

From the Regional Director of Oceania

Fr Trevor Trotter Regional Director of Oceania

As Columbans, we have always been talking about mission and having worked in various countries and faced different challenges; we think we know quite a bit about mission. So my question for this piece may seem self-defeating, and I hope not.

The question arose from a few articles I recently read in newspapers. One was the result of the release of the census data. You probably read, as I did, that Christians are now around 40% of Australia's population. Catholics are around 20% and Anglicans 10%.

It is interesting to note the various responses to this information. As missionaries, what do we do with this data? We remember that Pope Francis has no trouble saying that all the baptised are "missionary disciples". I wonder what Pope Francis would urge us Australian missionary disciples to do. Most of the time, his answer to this sort of question is to get up and go out. Meet people and listen to them. Then we can walk alongside of them and share our stories as Christians.

Another article I read recently was about Ash Barty and the Richmond football club. One thing they had in common was that they had both worked with Ben Crowe. He had helped them in their sporting lives by helping them in their own personal growth and transformation. In other words, there are plenty of people out there who are helping people to grow and become better people. As Crowe would say, they are attending to their interior needs as well as managing the exterior elements of their lives. This seems to be missionary work. Accompanying people in their journey through life sounds like the sort of thing Pope Francis would say.

As I read about Ben Crowe, it seems to me that the Spirit of God is at work in Ash Barty's world and that of the Richmond Football Club. If the fruits of the Spirit are peace of mind and heart along with satisfaction with one's life and doses of joy, then we can recognise that the Spirit works in all sorts of places and in all sorts of people who probably did not put 'Catholic' in the census form back in 2021. Goodness can be found everywhere.

Hence the question, "Do we need missionaries?" Chapter 25 of the Gospel of Matthew comes to mind. Jesus is talking about what will happen at the final judgement. Whether this story is a prediction about the future or not, I do not know, but when considered as a statement about the present, I think it is true. Chapter 25 talks about some of the deeper aspects of our lives. 

Jesus says to some, "Welcome because when you fed the hungry, you fed me ", and to others, "When you did not feed me you made me go hungry". Both groups of people have the same response. "When did we see you Lord?" You could say that both groups were secularists. They did not recognise God and would probably have marked the "None" box when they came to the religion question in the census. Yet one group of secularists are rejected by God and the other group of secularists are welcomed. This makes it hard to interpret the data meaningfully! Maybe some people need missionaries and some not. Is this the answer to our question?

Not so surprisingly, I believe that both groups of secularists could benefit from hearing the Gospel. I also believe that all the rest of the nation, including the Christians, would benefit too. Why? Because we never stop growing. Transformation of our lives is always possible, and we can all become more loving. 

By hearing the Gospel preached, we become more and more aware of the source of our growth. We know who is the One setting us free and who is the source of our loving. While God loves and works in all his sons and daughters, those who know the Gospel are honoured and privileged to be called to tell the world of the full story of all of our lives. It is wonderful to be a missionary disciple in Australia today.

Fr Trevor Trotter signature

Fr Trevor Trotter
Regional Director of Oceania
rdoceania@columban.org.au

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