Last Updated: Friday - 09/24/2010
Week of December 15, 2003
Missionary spirit comes alive
Latin American zeal at conference impresses Bilodeau
By RAMON GONZALEZ
WCR Staff Writer
Marguerite Bilodeau is still struck by the missionary spirit of Catholics in Central and Latin America. "I'm really impressed at how spontaneously people there talk about their faith and put it into action," the archbishop's secretary said following a recent missionary trip to Guatemala.
"Many young people from Central and Latin America are missionaries in their own parishes and in their own schools. They have leaders among the youth to reach out to young people to tell them about God and to encourage them to become missionaries as well."
Bilodeau was one of 120 Canadian delegates to the second American Missionary Congress in Guatemala City Nov. 24-30. She represented the archdiocesan Mission Council at the event. Bilodeau has been sending Catholic students to do mission work in Latin America for about six years.
The congress brought together about 3,000 missionary delegates from all the countries in the Americas.
"Their experience, their dynamism, their faith, their fire, so to speak, really impressed me a lot and I thought we have a lot to learn from them," Bilodeau said of the delegates from Central and South America, with whom she mingled the most at the congress.
"They have missionary families and missionary parishes and they also send missionaries to other countries. They are concerned with reaching out as much as possible. There are many missionaries from Central and South America who have gone to countries in Asia and Africa to evangelize. Because they were evangelized 500 years ago, they feel responsible to go and evangelize now."
Bilodeau said the young Latin delegates were the most enthusiastic. "They were so conscious of their responsibility to pass on to other children and other young people their knowledge and their love of Christ."
The congress has made her more aware of her responsibility as a baptized person to reach out to all of those who do not know Jesus, she said. "We must find new ways to inspire people to be more open to this mission that is confided to each baptized person."
She said some ideas came from study groups at the congress. One is that parishes must "use the media better in order to bring the message of Christ to all."
The congress also called on Catholics, especially the young, to be leaders among their peers and to always reach out to others in their midst. Bilodeau said in a way that's being done in the Edmonton Archdiocese through the Holy Childhood Association, which encourages young children to reach out to poor children in the Third World.
"And there was a strong stress (at the congress) on the need to involve more lay people in missionary work," she said.
Many of the congress delegates were lay catechists, people who teach the faith to others. "That was new for me because here we don't have as many catechists," Bilodeau said.
Bilodeau and an Ecuadorian delegate stayed in Guatemala City with a family of seven who belongs to a basic Christian community.
"I was really impressed; they were not rich but they shared everything they had with us, including their faith," she said in a Dec. 10 interview.
"They were a real example of what we were hearing at the congress. We were hearing we have to share our faith with others and here these people were sharing their faith with us. They did not just say beautiful words like 'God bless you'; they were putting their words into action."
After the congress Bilodeau spent a few days in Nicaragua visiting with Father Denis Hebert, an Edmonton priest who has done missionary work in Latin America for about 30 years.