Mission Sunday Homily...reflecting on Central America immersion pilgrimage

posted Oct 25, 2012, 1:55 PM by Matt Dulka

Check out the Mission Sunday Homily by Deacon Bill Batsone reflecting on his immersion pilgrimage to Central America.   Read more...

Significance of the Restoration of the Diaconate Coming Out of the Vatican II Document on Mission

posted Oct 19, 2012, 10:22 AM by Matt Dulka

Significance of the Restoration of the Diaconate Coming Out of the Vatican II Document on Mission
Deacon Matt Dulka, Regional Director, Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers

During this year’s 50th anniversary of the Vatican II, we reflect on how the call for the restoration of the diaconate came out of the conciliar document on mission, Ad Gentes#  (Para. 16). It is profoundly significant to the identity of the diaconate that its origins are grounded in the document of mission. It reminds us that one of the earliest missionaries of the Church was Philip, the deacon, who soon after the Apostles laid hands on him, was on the road to Samaria to do mission (Acts. 8:4). Like the Church itself, the deacon and his wife are by their very nature missionaries.  

The conciliar document on mission, Ad Gentes, is seen by some theologians as the Magna Carta of mission (Bevans, Prophetic Dialogue, ORBIS, p. 139). The first draft was rejected by the bishops as too hierarchical and juridical. They demanded a full schema that was theologically grounded. The drafting fell to theologians such as Karl Rahner, Yves Congar and Joseph Ratizinger and on the final day of the last session it was unanimously approved by the Council (Id)

Ad Gentes radically impacted our current understanding of mission and underscored the following:
  • God is mission.  Mission has its origin in the “fountain-like” love that “flows from the Creator/Father, Word/Son and Holy Spirit.  It is the Trinity that invites and shares the gift of mission and invites us to participate in that grand divine adventure. (Para. 2)
  • The Church is missionary by its very nature and it is the “universal sacrament of salvation” that makes God’s love known in the world. (Para. 1). The invitation to participate in God’s mission comes in baptism and is the responsibility of all baptized.
  • The very example and witness of Christian life is the core of missionary work that plays out not only on a personal level but expands out to “right ordering of social and economic affairs.” (Para. 12)  

In reflecting on the 25th anniversary of Ad Gentes, Pope John Paul II in his seminal encyclical on mission, Redemptoris Missio, explained that “mission is a single but complex reality, and it develops in a variety of ways.” These paths of missions include:
  • Witness that leads to proclamation and invitation to conversion
  • Liturgy, prayer and contemplation
  • Justice, peace and integrity of creation
  • Interreligious  and secular dialogue
  • Inculturation
  • Reconciliation
(Bevans pp.64-71)

Ad Gentes not only shapes the self understanding of the Church and its efforts to carry on the mission of Jesus, but has profound meaning specifically for the diaconate. As noted by the Vatican document on the ministry and life of the deacon: “The deacon’s ministry of service is linked with the missionary dimension of Church: the missionary efforts of the deacon will embrace the ministry of the word, the liturgy, and works of charity which, in their turn, are carried into daily life.”  (Directorium Pro Ministerio et Vita Diaconorum Permanentium). This critical role that the deacon plays as herald of the Gospel and minister of charity and justice to be a driving force of mission was articulated in the National Directory; “His role is to ‘express the needs and desires of the Christian communities’ and to be ‘a driving force for service, or diakonia,’ which is an essential part of the mission of the Church.” (National Directory, para. 40).    

It is not the deacon alone who is called to become a driving force for mission.  Although not specifically articulated by the documents, but implicit by the fact that the majority of the permanent deacons are married, the restoration of the diaconate in the context of mission also revives an ancient practice of married couples doing mission together. The deacon couple begins mission work most simply, and yet so profoundly, by their public witness of their Christian marriage. This radiates out in their ministries, whether done jointly or separately, and each can become, not only an example of mission, but an active promoter of encouraging all Christians to live out their own baptismal call to participate in the mission of Jesus.

This 50th anniversary provides rich soil for deacons and wives to reflect on our missionary roots so that the diaconate can truly become a driving force for mission.

Pope Benedict's Message for World Mission Sunday 2012

posted Sep 4, 2012, 4:21 PM by Matt Dulka

Papal  crest in Pope s Mission Sunday 2011 letter


“Called to radiate the Word of truth” (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, n. 6)

Dear Brothers and Sisters,
This year the celebration of World Mission Day has a very special meaning. The 50th anniversary of the beginning of the Second Vatican Council and of the opening of the Year of Faith and of the Synod of Bishops on the theme of the New Evangelization contribute to reaffirming the Church's desire to engage with greater courage and zeal in the missio ad gentes so that the Gospel may reach the very ends of the earth.

The Second Vatican Council, with the participation of Catholic Bishops from all the corners of the earth, was a truly luminous sign of the Church’s universality, welcoming for the first time such a large number of Council Fathers from Asia, Africa, Latin America and Oceania. Scattered among non-Christian peoples, missionary Bishops and indigenous Bishops, pastors from communities brought to the Council the image of a Church present on all the continents and interpreted the complex realities of what was then called the “Third World”. Enriched by their experience of being pastors of Churches, young and in the process of formation, motivated by passion for spreading the Kingdom of God, they contributed significantly to reaffirming the need and urgency of the evangelization ad gentes, and hence to placing the Church's missionary nature at the centre of ecclesiology.

Missionary Ecclesiology
Today this vision is still valid, indeed, it has experienced a fruitful theological and pastoral reflection and, at the same time, is presented with new urgency because the number of those who do not know Christ has grown: “The number of those awaiting Christ is still immense”, said Bl. John Paul II in his Encyclical Redemptoris Missio on the permanent validity of the missionary mandate and he added: “we cannot be content when we consider the millions of our brothers and sisters, who like us have been redeemed by the blood of Christ but who live in ignorance of the love of God” (n. 86). In announcing the Year of Faith, I too wrote that “today as in the past, he (Christ) sends us through the highways of the world to proclaim his Gospel to all the peoples of the earth” (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, n. 7). Such proclamation, as the Servant of God Paul VI said in his Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Nuntiandi, “is not an optional contribution for the Church. It is the duty incumbent on her by the command of the Lord Jesus, so that people can believe and be saved. This message is indeed necessary. It is unique. It cannot be replaced” (n. 5). We therefore need to recover the same apostolic zeal as that of the early Christian communities, which, though small and defenceless, were able, through their proclamation and witness, to spread the Gospel throughout the then known world.

No wonder, therefore, that the Second Vatican Council and the subsequent Magisterium of the Church insist in a very special way on the missionary mandate, which Christ entrusted to his disciples and which must be a commitment of all the People of God, Bishops, priests, deacons, men and women religious and lay people. The duty of proclaiming the Gospel in every corner of the world is primarily incumbent on the Bishops, directly responsible for evangelization in the world, both as members of the Episcopal College and as Pastors of the particular Churches. In fact, they “have been consecrated not only for a particular diocese but for the salvation of the entire world” (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, n. 63), “preachers of the faith, who bring new disciples to Christ” (cf. Ad Gentes, n. 20) and make “visible the missionary spirit and zeal of the People of God, so that the whole diocese becomes missionary” (ibid., n. 38).

The priority of evangelizing
The mandate to preach the Gospel, therefore, for a pastor does not end with his attention to the portion of the People of God entrusted to his pastoral care or in sending out priests or lay people fidei donum. It must involve all the activities of the particular Church, all her sectors, in short, her whole being and all her work. The Second Vatican Council clearly pointed this out and the subsequent Magisterium reaffirmed it forcefully. This requires the regular adjustment of lifestyles, pastoral planning and diocesan organization to this fundamental dimension of being Church, especially in our continuously changing world. And this also applies for the Institutes of Consecrated Life and the Societies of Apostolic Life, as well as for Ecclesial Movements: all the components of the large mosaic of the Church must feel strongly called into question by the mandate of the Lord to preach the Gospel, so that Christ may be proclaimed everywhere. We pastors, men and women religious and all the faithful in Christ, should follow in the footsteps of the Apostle Paul, who, as “a prisoner for Christ Jesus on behalf of you Gentiles” (Eph 3:1), worked, suffered and struggled to bring the Gospel among the Gentiles (cf. Col 1:24-29), sparing no energy, time or means to make the Message of Christ known.

Today too the mission ad gentes must be the constant horizon and paradigm of every ecclesial endeavour, because the identity of the Church herself is constituted by faith in the Mystery of God who revealed himself in Christ to bring us salvation, and by the mission of witnessing and proclaiming him to the world until he comes. Like St Paul, we should be attentive to those who are distant, to those who do not yet know Christ or who have not yet experienced the fatherhood of God, in the awareness that missionary “cooperation includes new forms — not only economic assistance, but also direct participation” to evangelization (John Paul II, Encyclical Letter Redemptoris Missio, n. 82). The celebration of the Year of Faith and of the Synod of Bishops on the New Evangelization will be favourable opportunities to relaunch missionary cooperation, especially in this second dimension.

Faith and proclamation
The eagerness to proclaim Christ also urges us to read history so as to perceive the problems, aspirations and hopes of humanity which Christ must heal, purify and fill with his presence. His Message is ever timely, it falls into the very heart of history and can respond to the deepest restlessness of every human being. For this reason all the members of the Church must be aware that “the immense horizons of the Church's mission and the complexity of today’s situation call for new ways of effectively communicating the Word of God” (Benedict XVI, Post-Synodal Apostolic Exhortation Verbum Domini, n. 97). This demands, first of all, a renewed adherence of personal and community faith in the Gospel of Jesus Christ, “especially at a time of profound change such as humanity is currently experiencing” (Apostolic Letter Porta Fidei, n. 8).

In fact, one of the obstacles to the impetus of evangelization is the crisis of faith, not only in the Western world, but among most of humanity, which, however, is hungering and thirsting for God and must be invited and brought to the bread of life and the living water, like the Samaritan woman who goes to Jacob’s well and converses with Christ. As John the Evangelist recounts, this woman’s story is particularly significant (cf. Jn 4:1-30): she meets Christ, who asks her for a drink but then speaks to her of a new water which can satisfy thirst for ever. At first the woman does not understand, she remains at a material level, but slowly she is led by the Lord to make a journey of faith which leads her to recognize him as the Messiah. And St Augustine says about this: “after having welcomed Christ the Lord in her heart, what else could [this woman] have done other than leave her pitcher and run to the village to announce the good news?” (cf. Homily 15, 30).

The encounter with Christ as a living Person, who satisfies the thirst of the heart, cannot but lead to the desire to share with others the joy of this presence and to make him known, so that all may experience this joy. It is necessary to renew the enthusiasm of communicating the faith to promote a new evangelization of the communities and Countries with a long-standing Christian tradition which are losing their reference to God so that they may rediscover the joy of believing. The concern to evangelize must never remain on the margins of ecclesial activity and of the personal life of Christians. Rather, it must strongly characterize it, in the awareness that they are those for whom the Gospel is intended and, at the same time, missionaries of the Gospel. The core of the proclamation always remains the same: the Kerygma of Christ who died and rose for the world’s salvation, the Kerygma of God's absolute and total love for every man and every woman, which culminated in his sending the eternal and Only-Begotten Son, the Lord Jesus, who did not scorn to take on the poverty of our human nature, loving it and redeeming it from sin and death through the offering of himself on the Cross.

Faith in God, in this project of love brought about in Christ, is first and foremost a gift and a mystery which must be welcomed in the heart and in life, and for which we must always thank the Lord. However, faith is a gift that is given to us to be shared; it is a talent received so that it may bear fruit; it is a light that must never be hidden, but must illuminate the whole house. It is the most important gift which has been made to us in our lives and which we cannot keep to ourselves.

Proclamation becomes charity
“Woe to me if I do not preach the Gospel!”, said the Apostle Paul (1 Cor 9:16). This word has a strong resonance for every Christian and for every Christian community on all the continents. Mission awareness has also become a connatural dimension for the Churches in mission lands, the majority of which are young, even though they themselves are still in need of missionaries. Many priests, men and women religious from every part of the world, numerous lay people and even entire families leave their countries and their local communities and go to other Churches to bear witness to and to proclaim the Name of Christ, in which humanity finds salvation. It is an expression of profound communion, sharing and charity among the Churches, so that every man and woman may hear or listen again to the saving proclamation and approach the sacraments, source of true life.
Together with this lofty sign of faith that is transformed into love, I remember and thank the Pontifical Mission Societies, instruments for cooperation in the universal mission of the Church across the world. Through their action, the proclamation of the Gospel also becomes an intervention on behalf of one’s neighbour, justice for the poorest, the possibility of education in the most remote villages, medical aid in isolated places, emancipation from poverty, the rehabilitation of the marginalized, support for the development of peoples, overcoming ethnic divisions, and respect for life in all its stages.

Dear brothers and sisters, I invoke on the mission of evangelization ad gentes and, in particular, on its workers, an outpouring of the Holy Spirit, so that God’s grace may enable it to advance firmly in the history of the world. Together with Bl. John Henry Newman I would like to pray: O Lord, accompany your missionaries in the lands to be evangelized, put the right words on their lips and make their labours fruitful". May the Virgin Mary, Mother of the Church and Star of Evangelization, accompany all Gospel missionaries.

From the Vatican, 6 January 2012, Solemnity of the Epiphany of the Lord


4th National Deacon Gathering at Maryknoll

posted Sep 4, 2012, 4:19 PM by Matt Dulka   [ updated Sep 30, 2012, 2:38 PM ]

Empowering the Church

For the Mission of Charity and Justice 

A special invitation to deacons, wives of deacons and others interested in empowering the Church for mission based on the diaconal charisms of charity and justice.


Friday September 21, 2012 at 12:00 PM EDT
Monday September 24, 2012 at 1:00 PM EDT


Maryknoll Fathers & Brothers
55 Ryder Road
Ossining, NY 10545


In January 2009, Maryknoll gathered a dozen deacon couples from around the country for a four day retreat to explore how the diaconate could better engage in the mission of the Church, particularly in overseas mission. This initial gathering generated much excitement and great ideas for mission, and resulted in the strong desire for a second opportunity to further explore Diakonia and Mission.

To build on this experience, Maryknoll hosted a second gathering on Friday, May 7 to Monday, May 10, 2010 at Maryknoll, New York. We again came together to pray, reflect, and share in a seminar setting with the goal of generating ideas and plans on how to engage the deacon community in mission and postition the deacon community to become a driving force for mission in the U.S. Church.

In April 2011, the third gathering was held with the theme of Implementation of the Maryknoll Deacon Initiative, which resulted in the creation of a concrete plan based on a three prong approach:
  1. mission education formation,
  2. mission immersion experiences, and
  3. animating others for mission. 
For more information about the Maryknoll Deacon Mission Partners Program visit our website at www.deacon.maryknoll.us

Hopes for the Gathering:

Building on the success of the previous three years, the hopes of the fourth gathering include:
Ongoing reflection and dialogue on the scriptural and theological connections between the diaconal ministry of charity and justice and the evangelical mission of the Church.
Exploring the challenges and opportunities for the diaconal community to empower the faithful in the mission of charity and justice both at home and abroad; and helping them to see the connection between the two, particularly through the lens of global solidarity.
Developing concrete plans for empowering the faithful in the mission of charity and justice both at home and abroad; and helping them to see the connection between the two particularly through the lens of global solidarity.
Evaluating the 2012 Maryknoll Deacon Mission Partners Plan and develop the 2013 Maryknoll Deacon Mission Partners Plan.

Expectations for Participants:

  • Active involvement in the diaconal community; with a focus on charity and justice ministry, mission, or deacon formation
  • For non-deacons, actively involved in church-related mission activities who are interested in helping the diaconal community become more involved in mission.
  • Willingness to participate actively in the gathering through a collaborative, seminar style format.
  • Prior to the gathering, to have read “What is the mission of the Church?” and the written minutes and material from the 2011 Gathering.

For More Information 

Please contact one of the Co-Directors:
Deacon Steven DeMartino / sdemartino@maryknoll.org / (914) 941-7590 x 2416
Deacon Matt Dulka / mdulka@maryknoll.org / (510) 276-5021

1-4 of 4