Pope Francis, an octogenarian, addresses the weariness of hope

In his weekly reflection on FamVin, Father Pat Griffin, of the Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission, draws strength from Pope Francis, an octogenarian, addressing the weariness of hope.

On January 26th, at the Cathedral Basilica of Santa Maria La Antigua in Panama, Pope Francis celebrated the Eucharist with priests, consecrated men and women, and members of lay movements. The Gospel of the day was that of Jesus and the Woman at the Well. The Pope sets a context:

The Gospel we have heard does not shrink from showing us Jesus, wearied from his journey. At midday, when the sun makes all its strength and power felt, we encounter him beside the well. He needed to relieve and quench his thirst, to refresh his steps, to recover his strength in order to continue his mission.

The words which the Holy Father spoke to those gathered on this day dealt with the weariness which can accompany the attempt and desire to be faithful to one’s vocation in a “changing and challenging world.”  Many of us know that feeling.


I find it amazing that Pope Francis can so often find words to describe our world so astutely.  I rejoice in his ability to open God’s word and to recognize the way in which it speaks to our time and experience.  The “weariness of the journey” can capture the sense of so many of us who take up the responsibilities for our Church, communities, and families.  Long hours, daily commitments, little problems, and stressful pressures challenge the resolve of hearts and bodies which strive to dedicate themselves faithfully to the Gospel.  Yet, the Holy Father points beyond these drains on our energies to a “weariness of hope.”

This weariness is felt when – as in the Gospel – the sun beats down mercilessly and with such intensity that it becomes impossible to keep walking or even to look ahead. . . It is a weariness that paralyzes. It comes from looking ahead and not knowing how to react to the intense and confusing changes that we as a society are experiencing. . . . (these changes) call into doubt the very viability of religious life in today’s world. . . . What was meaningful and important in the past can now no longer seem valid.

This weariness of hope can lead to a certain pragmatism, to a sense that the Gospel has nothing to say to the world of our time.

In his weariness from the journey, the Lord says to the Samaritan woman, “Give me a drink.” He invites us to say these same words with which he invites her to seek the living water.  Francis encourages us to allow our wearied hope “to return without fear to the deep well of our first love,” “to be purified and to recapture the most authentic part of our founding charisms,” to recognize that “we need the Spirit to make us men and women mindful of a passage, the salvific passage of God.”

I read with gratitude the words of our Pope who has his fingers on the pulse of our Church and who hears in the Gospel the continued summons to hope and ministry.  As Vincentians, that summons takes on a particular form and focus.  As we drink profoundly at the well of the Lord, we hope to slake our thirst during our daily and lifelong journey.

The Big Picture of the Congregation of the Mission

One of the three graphics from the report

The Eastern Province of the Congregation of the Mission is part of a much bigger picture. If we just look at the numbers we only have part of the story. However, even just that part of the story is impressive.

Vincentian priests, brothers, and those labor by their side strive to be Good News to the marginalized in close to 50 countries divided into some 50 entities known as province and regions. The more than 3,000 vowed members live in over 500 local “houses” or communities. We have no reliable estimate of the unrecognized thousands who lend their time, talent, and treasure to this core force.

But numbers hardly capture what this force actually does. Every once in a while we get a glimpse of what is going on in this vast network who call themselves “missioners.” The publication of 2017 Vincentian Solidarity Office Annual Report for 2017 provides us a peephole view of the scope of these activities.

The Vincentian Solidarity Office (VSO) assists the Congregation of the Mission with obtaining funds for its evangelization and service of the poor in the most desperate areas of the world. It includes more than 30 organizational collaborators and many individual contributors (confreres, family, and friends of our Congregation). This year, once again they have raised or distributed over one million dollars. This money supports innovative and impact-rich projects in many of the most neglected and troubled spots on the world.

Fr. Greg Semeniuk, a member of the Eastern Province, serves this international effort and introduces this year’s annual report. It is outstanding in its simplicity and brevity in telling the story of some of the global efforts of the Congregation of the Mission.

Vincentian Solidarity Office Annual Report for 2017

“To serve the poor is to go to God!”

St. Vincent de Paul

This short quote from St. Vincent may be his most radical. Is not “going to God” the very purpose and end of the Christian faith? Yet, St. Vincent de Paul claims that a path to God also puts one on the path to the poor. It was with this vision that he helped to reform and refocus the Catholic Church during his time.

At the Vincentian Solidarity Office, we struggle to keep up with requests for help with projects from our priests and brothers in developing regions. Many of our missionaries face seemingly immeasurable needs and impossible challenges in serving the poor. At times, what our missionaries accomplish, and the untiring and loving spirit with which they do so, strike me as almost miraculous. Taking St. Vincent’s vision to heart, this should be no surprise. Vincent’s path to God through the poor is a deeply moving and powerful one!

Please know, then, how important your support has been to our missionaries, and that in giving it, you accompany them along the path to God. In this report, we present the projects of our missionaries you assisted in 2017.

Thank you!

In St. Vincent,

Fr. Gregory Semeniuk, C.M., Executive Director


More visual highlights

Vincentian Ebola Victim receiving Archbishop’s blessing

Photo of Fr. Father Lucien Ambunga, CM – Courtesy of La Prensa

The image of father Lucien Ambunga, missionary of the Congregation of the Mission, receiving the blessing of the Coadjutor Archbishop of Kinshasa, Msgr. Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, after catching Ebola, has jumped into the networks and received multiple expressions of support and affection, appearing in various media from around the globe. Fortunately, Father Lucien is already recovered from the disease.

The photo of a bishop imparting the blessing to a priest quarantined for contracting Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo has shaken social networks in recent days.

The image of Father Lucien Ambunga with the Coadjutor Archbishop of Kinshasa, Mons. Fridolin Ambongo Besungu, was published on Twitter by a user identified as Katako Arnold on May 24.

On May 26, Father Ambunga was declared free of Ebola and was able to leave the hospital where he was. The priest is a member of the Congregation of the Mission and parish priest of the Parish of Itipo, in the diocese of Mbandaka-Bikoro, in the north of the country.

The World Health Organization (WHO) confirmed in early May a new outbreak of Ebola in the Democratic Republic of the Congo. To date, 50 cases of this disease have been reported, of which 37 have been confirmed.

Rose Mkunu, a doctor who heads a delegation of Caritas Congo in the city of Mbandaka, told the Vatican agency Fides that “the situation is alarming because it is an epidemic of urban Ebola, unlike the previous.”

“Caritas is doing everything possible to raise awareness and inform the community and religious leaders about the disease, both on how to protect themselves and how to prevent contagion, but we are limited in our means,” he said.

“Given the nature of the disease and the lack of information, the risk of its spread is to be feared in a city of 1.2 million inhabitants and in neighboring cities,” the President of the Episcopal Conference of Congo (CENC), Bishop Marcel Utembi Tapa, said in a statement.

The WHO explained that Ebola is a serious disease and “often fatal if not treated”. This causes fever, muscle aches, vomiting, and diarrhea, and can lead to hemorrhages.

It is transmitted from wild animals to people and is spread through “the transmission from person to person”.

Finally, Bishop Utembi asked the faithful “not to give in to the fear and stigmatization that could hinder the response to the epidemic.”

Source: Aciprensa
This version of the post first appeared on FamVin.

NUNTIA May 2018 is now available online

NUNTIA May 2018 is now available online.

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