What are the novelties of the Mission Congress for this edition?
The Mission Congress is based on feedback from the field. For two years, all French people and the Church have been experiencing great changes: the Covid, the Sauvé report, the return of war in Europe… The mission in 2022 is not the same as in 2021 or that in 2015. So there will be changes in form. For example, many workshops will be more concrete. We have introduced more visible novelties, such as the day of high school students. School or parish chaplaincies told us about the disarray of young people facing the future. We have set up a day just for them, on Saturday.
On Saturday evening, a gospel banquet will be held for the first time. Under the inspiration of chapter 22 of the Gospel of Matthew, which calls for wide invitations to the wedding feast of the Lamb, we are going to organize this event, open to all, in the Place Saint-Sulpice. The delegates will be invited to live a unique missionary experience: that of serving, eating, exchanging with a passing stranger. Prepared by a caterer, this banquet will be fraternal and beautiful. Our relationships have been weakened during the health crisis, and we felt the desire to repair them, by witnessing that Christ, even today, invites us all to the wedding feast of the Lamb.
By 2021, the Mission Congress had been decentralized to nine regional cities. Why this retreat to Paris this year?
The idea is to alternate between regional cities and the capital. In 2023, the Mission Congress will again be decentralized, so that the mission can best adapt to local issues. But we also had the concern and the joy of meeting together in Paris. Especially since ideas that have appeared in the region can spill over into other departments thanks to the big Parisian meeting.
We had a lot of positive feedback from the decentralized edition last year: border dioceses, neighboring Church movements that did not work together were able to do so… We are therefore maintaining the alternation for the future! And this year, we are waiting for the Ile-de-France residents!
The Mission Congress sometimes gives the impression of being together, a sort of Catholic agricultural show where everyone knows each other. Are you aware of that?
Self-segregation is a scourge in the Church, it is anti-evangelical. But this phenomenon is normal! The Mission Congress reflects the Church and declining religious practice. Of course, there are a lot of well-known faces at the Mission Congress, it’s a family get-together! But that doesn’t necessarily mean that Catholand is too small, it’s just that we meet quite often, at big parties, festivals, WYD…
However, we do everything to make this family as large as possible: we invite all scout movements, new and traditional communities, movements that are centuries old and others that are only a few years old. We also had at heart to set up a quality program with times of formation, courses, to give back a momentum to people tired of the mission. The diversity of the mission in France is a gift of the Holy Spirit, and this can be seen at the Mission Congress. This is even our goal.
What are the fruits of the Mission Congress in the field?
The Congress offers the opportunity to return home transformed. It makes it possible to initiate changes, to have new ideas, to create a network to launch a project… From the first time, I was impressed to see how much good does not make noise. The harvest is plentiful and there are more workers than you might think! I came as a participant with my Lyon parish a few years ago, there were 75 of us. This weekend in Paris helped us to build the community, made us more brothers.
Young people have largely abstained from synodal reflection in the parishes, but they are still very numerous at the Congress. Is the mission their way of getting involved in the Church?
The Mission Congress is an experience of synodality in itself! Different movements, sensitivities, spiritual families meet and work together in the kingdom. Young people who would not necessarily be comfortable talking about the future of the Church in a parish team are present when they find themselves in a prayer group with priests in cassocks and nuns in civilian clothes at the Mission Congress. We don’t talk about the marriage of priests, but we are brothers!
It’s been a year since the Sauvé report was released, but no Mission Congress workshop is devoted to sexual abuse. Yet isn’t this a subject that must come up regularly in exchanges with non-believers?
We have not devoted a workshop to this question because it will be approached in a transversal way in the others, in particular within the framework of street evangelization or in rural areas. A round table will also address this subject, the aim being to talk about it both from the field and from a certain height. The horror of abuse should allow us to change our missionary attitude, make us more humble, simpler, more delicate. We are not here to lecture those we meet. The attitude of the missionary is to come as a brother. A fortiori, the Ciase report must make us progress individually in simplicity and, with humility, prevent any form of pride. Our role is simply to be able to say “I try to walk in the footsteps of Christ, that’s the joy it gives me. ” That’s all.
Ask for the program!
The new edition of the Mission Congress will be held from September 30 to October 2 in different places of formation and parishes of the Ve and VIe arrondissements of Paris, as well as at the Saint-Sulpice church for times of prayer. Organized on the theme “The kingdom of heaven is near”, this eighth edition will offer, on Saturday and Sunday, numerous workshops and round tables on the mission today. A training period will also be offered on Saturday, at 9 a.m., with the sociologist of Catholicism Yann Raison du Cleuziou and the anthropologist Emmanuel Todd, who will present an Ifop study on baptized non-practitioners carried out on the initiative of the journal Assignment and Congress. Friday will be devoted to thematic days for priests, couples, catechists and consecrated persons.
To register and access the full program: congresmission.com