We are a “small leftover” guided by the Holy Spirit, says missionary in Bangladesh

Fr Franco Cagnasso, PIME, spoke before Pope Francis, who addressed priests, nuns and religious without a written speech. For the pontiff, "A Church that remains indoors is a sick Church". There is “an inner need to discover that my charism, my abilities, can serve in some place." From our correspondent

Dhaka (AsiaNews) - "Foreign missionaries in Bangladesh are a small leftover, led by the Holy Spirit to proclaim the Gospel," said Fr Franco Cagnasso, PIME missionary (picture 2) speaking to AsiaNews.

Fr Cagnasso is one of the religious and consecrated who met with Pope Francis in Dhaka, at the Holy Rosary Church in Tejgaon, who gathered in prayer and listened to the pontiff. The latter spoke – among other things – about harmony and divisions created by gossip, and compared the evil talk of others to "terrorists throwing bombs".

In his address, the PIME missionary noted that the "small leftover" of the first missionary wave has left a well-established Church as its legacy, which can provide people to be sent abroad.

On the side-lines of the meeting, he expressed his thoughts on the meaning of performing the mission based on the "total service" of pastoral workers, the willingness to welcome new evangelisers who can enrich local Churches, a pilgrim Church that follows the design of the Holy Spirit.

Christ’s testimony, he said, "takes place in a foreign country for free, without expecting rewards in return".

What caused the most apprehension among the few missionary pioneers left is "not having new recruits who can bring dynamism to the mission."

At the same time "we need to underline an important fact: being a small group of pastoral workers helps us a lot to offer a total service because the decisions are taken by the local Church. This forces us to have a position of non-dominant service. Conversely when one is in the majority, one sometimes involuntarily tends to impose one's own judgment, one's own way of thinking and one's own culture."

"Instead, respecting the choices of others pushes us towards a process of personal inculturation, of more effective adaptation than if we are in command. We are immersed in the needs of the community and closer to those who make the decisions of the Church. A similar process leads us to adapt to people's needs and respond better to the goal of sharing and being with people."

"A mature Church is a missionary Church on its own territory, as well as far away,” said Fr Cagnasso speaking about the needs of new evangelisers.  The Holy Spirit has its own ways, and pushes us to go where no one has ever heard of Christ.”

“When I left Italy, many people told me that there was so much to do for local Catholics. So, one can imagine how much need there is in Bangladesh."

"Understanding that the Lord calls me to go out is a huge value if we want to understand the nature of the Church, which is not a steam roller that wants to Christianise according to specific programmes, but is the seed of the Word that falls onto different fields. In some places, the seed gives fruit and in others it does not sprout, but we try as much as possible to plant the seeds."

As much as going out to preach the Christian message is enriching, so "it is important to keep accepting, because people who come from outside with their own culture and personal baggage bring ways of seeing things that can help."

The missionary went on to give his thoughts on the "value of the pilgrim Church in the search of the Kingdom, that is, the fact of not tying oneself to a local community, whilst feeling we must go where my work can give more results".

This is not a pathological sense of restlessness "that leads one to never stay put in one place. If anything, it fits with man’s fundamental dimension, which is never sufficient to himself. The pope always says that a Church that remains indoors is a sick Church. Going out instead leads to encounters, enrichment, discovery. Perhaps there is also an inner need to discover that my charism, my abilities, can serve in some place." (ACF)

Here is Fr Cagnasso’s address at the Holy Rosary church in Dhaka.

Your Holiness,

I am an Italian missionary, heir to many who - in the last centuries - came from Europe and the Americas to evangelise the people of Bengal, and – often at great sacrifice – founded the little Church that now welcomes you with joy.

Until a few decades ago, foreign missionaries, together with local catechists, were the "supporting structure" of the Church in Bangladesh, a place where the great majority of believers belong to other religions. Today we are a "small leftover" that puts itself at the service of a well-established Church, able to manage itself, divided into ministries, various types of pastoral care, and various tasks.

Our presence is meant to be the sign that the Church is mission from its birth: a mission to the people in which it is found, and a mission that overcomes boundaries, creates communion with other peoples to give and welcome the riches of the Gospel as lived in different Churches.

We seek out, with patience and creativity, the "peripheries" to which you often refer, without fear of wasting energy even for those who give no hope of concrete and visible results. We want to sow in every possible field, and be the humble witness of the Christian condition on this earth, the condition of pilgrims in search of the Kingdom.

We are grateful to God because the Church in Bangladesh has begun to provide evangelisers even beyond its own borders; we hope that this dimension will grow, and at the same time we hope that the willingness to receive new faces, including from Africa, Latin America and other Asian countries, will remain.

We are happy to be here, and grateful to the peoples who welcome us, allowing us to spend our lives among them in order to be, with them, participants in the Gospel of Jesus.