Embarking a journey to BE a witness
Fr. Aniceto Pereira, the Rector of St. Pius College, addressed the seminarians before they left for their short mid-term holiday. The theme of his talk was “You shall be my witnesses!” The theme was inspired by the message of Pope Francis for the World Mission Sunday on 23rd October 2022. World Mission Sunday also commemorates the fourth centenary of the founding of the Congregation of Propagation of Faith, now the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples (1622), and the second centenary of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith. It also commemorates the centenary of 3 Societies becoming “Pontifical”, that is, the Society of the Propagation of Faith, Society of the Holy Childhood, and Society of Saint Peter the Apostle.
He emphasized that our mission is not only to bear witness but to BE a witness. He quoted Evangelli Nuntiandi text no. 41 and 42 by St. Paul VI. This text highlights that people will be more open to teaching and preaching if they correspond to the witness of our lives. Examples of Christian life and the proclamation of Christ are inseparable. Fr. Aniceto encouraged this call by quoting Pope Francis, “I exhort everyone to take up once again the courage, frankness and parrhesía of the first Christians, to bear witness to Christ in word and deed in every area of life.” He proceeded to speak about three individuals mentioned in the Pope’s address.
The first one is Jeanne Bigard. Jeanne Bigard, a French laywoman, started a small at native Caen, France to financially support Japanese seminarians in 1889. This group grew rapidly and began to finance seminarians in Asian countries such as India, China, Vietnam, Sri Lanka, etc. The group was called the Society of Saint Peter the Apostle. This society is still actively praying for seminarians and financing seminaries in developing countries. Her life is an inspiration to seminarians to become autonomous and self-sufficient individuals. It is a well-known fact that St. Pius Seminary has a system of graded freedom. This freedom is a part of the seminary’s formation module, wherein it takes calculated risks about the development of a seminarian. Thus, the onus falls on the seminarian to develop a life of discipline in every aspect of formation and also help the ones who are struggling.
The second one is Pauline Jaricot. Another French laywoman started a prayer group with ten pious servant girls. Each member had to find ten more members. They prayed for the missions and donated one penny to the missions. The project spread like wildfire and in six years, it had an official founding of the Association of the Propagation of the Faith in 1882. This was a great boost for the missions. Thus, she inspires us to be diligent, cross boundaries, and go beyond horizons. This diligence should be visible in our pastoral work, where we recede the horizons to discover new avenues to reach out to the people such as migrants and transgenders.
The third one is Charles de Forbin-Janson. A French bishop who started the Association of Holy Childhood after consulting Pauline Jaricot. He was distressed about the children dying in China without baptism. Thus, he started a group with children who will pray and materially help the Chinese children. Today, this association is spread among 130 countries and is focused on Children Evangelizing Children, Children Praying for the Children, and Children Helping Children Worldwide. Thus, he inspires me to discover genuine spirituality. If spirituality is taken seriously then it integrates all the other pillars of formation. Thus, seminarians can only benefit from the services of the seminary if they develop a genuine spirituality which can help them integrate all the aspects of formation.
Lastly, Fr. Aniceto shares Pope Francis’ testimony about his growth in spiritual life. Pope Francis encourages seminarians to grow in spirituality and not in religiosity. A spirituality which keeps count of prayers done during the day is shallow. We must develop concrete closeness to God in our Spiritual life. This will be helpful in the dark moments of our lives.
Fr. Aniceto concluded his insightful talk with the Angelus.
Br Noel D'Souza
2nd Year Theology