The Letter to the Hebrews reminds us that Jesus Christ is the same yesterday, today and for ever (13:8). This is why the mission of God, this mission for all humanity, a mission we should all be taking seriously, calls us today to discern how best to fulfill it to our people in our day.
This call is what brings the Canadian delegation, led by Fr. Andre Gagnon, Director of the Oeuvres Pontificales Missionaires-Canada Francophone, to Venezuela for the 4th American Missionary Congress (CAM 4) and the 9th Latin American Missionary Congress (Comla 9). The city of Maracaibo, also known as the Beloved Land of the Sun, welcomes the, over 3000 missionaries from all over the American continent for this congress, which is being held in Venezuela for the first time. Since 1977, the congress has been taking place every four years. Previous host countries have been Mexico (1977, 1983), Colombia (1987), Peru (1991), Brazil (1995), Argentina (1999), Guatemala (2003), and Ecuador (2008). Initially the congress included only Latin American countries, but in 1999 it was expanded to include Canada and the United States, thus becoming Missionary Congress of the Americas or CAM, instead of just Latin American Missionary Congress, Comla.
“Missionary America, share your faith” is the motto of this event that will gather delegations from 24 countries, including some 500 priests and 50 cardinals and bishops, plus 200 religious and and hundreds of lay people. The purpose of the event is, literally to give a push to the missionary commitment of individual churches in the Americas in order to respond to the growing challenges of the great commission. It is the hope of the organizers that this event will result in a renewed interest in the missionary commitment and more specifically in the discernment of specific methods of mission. The initial push of the idea of permanent mission is a direct result of the work of the Latin American Bishops at Aparecida in 2007. It is the hope that CAM4-Comla 9 encourages and strengthens the choice to an attitude of permanent mission.
Representing the Holy Father at the gathering will be Italian cardinal Fernando Filoni, prefect for the Congregation of the Evangelization of Peoples.
The theme of the event, “Missionary disciples of Jesus Christ, from America, in a secularized and pluricultural world” will be the focus of the four conferences, panel discussion and 22 thematic forums that will take place during the week. Each country is responsible for leading one of the discussion forums. Canada’s Fr. Jaime Mora of Montreal, will facilitate one on the dialogue with and announcement to non-believers. In addition to all the activities, the relics of St. Therese of Lissieux, patroness of missions has been in pilgrimage throughout Maracaibo and will be present during the congress.
The Opening ceremony and Mass of the Missionary Congress will take place on Tuesday, November 26th at the square of the Basilica Our Lady of the Rosary Chiquinquirá, patroness of the State of Zulia.
Video courtesy of Diario Panorama of Maracaibo.