Mission refers to a specific task with which a person or a group is charged with. A missionary is a person taking up a mission especially a religious one. The missionary work of the Church is built upon and around the Missionary Per excellence, Jesus Christ the Son of God and the First Missionary from Heaven.
The task of the Church is to perpetuate the task initiated by God himself through Christ, that is to bring all people to salvation. This task is multifaceted because it zeros down to responding to the pastoral and social needs of the people in a particular environment in order to help them appreciate the kingdom of God and pursue the salvific path.
The Church has various organizations that carry out different misionary tasks in different places. There are missionary institutions that dedicate there efforts to education, health, social amenities among many others.. Before a missionary is given a task in the overall mission of the Church, he or she is first trained and empowered with skills to carry out the mission entrusted to him or her.
As the world situations and with them the missionary needs of the people, changes over time, the missionary training too has to change accordingly in order to continue being relevant. Missionries situations differ and so missionaries need to be oriented to different missionary situations in order to build frexibility in the individual members of a missionary institutions.
As they undertake their task first in the name of the Church and second in the name of their respective institutions, missionaries are given freedom to utilize their individual capacity, gifts, talents, and innovation on the ground.
The greatest assets of the Church are the many good missionaries working in different missionary situations. Every missionary sitution demands different strategies and updating of the same.
The missionary Church has gone through four major moments and perhaps a fifth moment. The fist moment was in the beginning of the missionary activities of the first disciples of Jesus where the Church was regarded as an illegal entity and faced great persecution. The second and the longest period is when the Church won the favor of the authorities and thrived for many centuries. In this period the Church became a major factor in the governance of the civilized world. The third moment is when the Church lost its previledged position and thereby separation between the Church and the state. The fourth moment is when the Church began expanding its missionary activities to “unknown” territories. This is the current moment and which has advanced to a great extent.
However, in my opinion, another moment is at the door step and this is whereby the Church will be required to redifine not the content of the Mission but the stratergies of training the Missionaries as well as the modalities of missioning. It is a moment that require keen reading of the signs of time as already envisioned by the Second Vatican Council Fathers.
As Divine Word Missionries, we have already identified Communication as the area to invest as we seek to spread more the word of God.