Today, June 27, 2022, in conclusion of the Tenth World Meeting of Families, the Holy Father, Pope Francis, joyfully welcomed in the Paul VI hall with a song to the Blessed Mother Mary, sent 430 families of the Neocatechumenal Way with their children in mission to the most dechristianized areas of the world to make present their witness of the love of God in their lives to the most distant.
Together with these Families, there was the International Team Responsible for the Neocatechumenal Way, Kiko Argüello, Father Mario Pezzi and Ms. Ascensión Romero, the teams of itinerant catechists, responsible for the Way in 134 countries of the world and several thousand brothers from the Neocatechumenal communities of Rome and the Lazio region, with many priests and seminarians. Seminarians from the Redemptoris Mater Seminary in Macao, a seminary wanted by Pope Francis for the evangelization of Asia, and who will go to China in a few days, also participated to the meeting.
Kiko, before presenting the Families, thanked the Holy Father for having agreed to send them on mission: it is the nineteenth (19th) time that the Popes have sent Families of the Way to the five continents; Kiko has also thanked Card. Kevin Farrell, Prefect of the Dicastery for the Laity, Family and Life, who wanted to be present with a team from his Dicastery, and several Bishops who wanted to accompany this event.
He concluded his brief speech by recalling that the Neocatechumenal Way is a fruit of the Second Vatican Council, as Pope Saint Paul VI recognized from its beginning. This itinerary of Christian initiation leads people to an adult faith, through the rediscovery of the riches of our baptism. Likewise, he recalled with gratitude the words of Pope Francis at the last meeting held in Tor Vergata, on May 4, 2018, on the occasion of the 50th anniversary of the Way: “You are a gift of the Holy Spirit for the Church”; Kiko concluded by saying: “It is certainly wonderful that the Lord has raised up entire families, with their children, to move and go live in the most secularized and poorest areas of the world and thus bring the proclamation of Jesus Christ through the testimony of their own lives”.
He then briefly introduced the Holy Father to the Families on Mission sent to various European countries, beginning with those in Ukraine and Russia, and also in Latvia, Lithuania, Estonia, Romania, Bulgaria, and 14 other countries of the European continent; has the presented families that will go in mission in Asia: Kazakhstan, Mongolia, Japan, South Korea, Taiwan, Cambodia, Laos; in America: Canada, United States, Mexico, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, Ecuador (Amazon), Argentina; in Africa: Egypt, Tunisia, Ethiopia, Sudan, Kenya, Cameroon, Uganda, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Cape Verde and South Africa. It was concluded with families that will go in mission to Australia and Oceania.
After the presentations, the passage of the Gospel of the sending of the Apostles by Jesus, Matthew 28, 16-20, was proclaimed, and the Holy Father addressed his greeting and an accompanying word to all, a word that will sustain these families in the difficulties and joys of the mission.
“We have heard the mission of Jesus,” said the Pope, “Go, bear witness, preach the Gospel. And from that day on the apostles, the disciples, all the people went forward with the same strength that Jesus had given them: it is the strength that comes from the Spirit.” “Go and preach … Baptize …”.
After having received Baptism, the community must grow, it needs to be helped to grow, with its own ways, with its own culture. “And this work, this multicultural richness of the Gospel, which is born from the preaching of Jesus and becomes culture, is a little bit the history of the Church: so many cultures but the same Gospel. So many peoples, the same Jesus Christ” … “Preach Jesus Christ with the power of the Spirit in the Church and with the Church” … “This missionary spirit, that is, allowing yourselves to be sent, is an inspiration for all of you. I thank you for it, and I ask you to be docile to the Spirit who sends you, docile and obedient to Jesus Christ in his Church”.
And the Holy Father concluded his brief address by thanking the families present, with a precise invitation: “Keep going! Courage! Thank you for your generosity. Do not forget the gaze of Jesus, who sent each one of you to preach and obey the Church. Thank you very much!”.
The Holy Father then blessed the Crosses that the families will carry with them, as a sign of the presence of the Lord, who died and rose for them, and greeted some of them, with their children, as a representation of all the families present.
Today’s 430 families, which bring the number of Families of the Way on mission to more than 2,000, are made up of two groups: 157 Families are new, while 273 are families who had already left for the mission in recent years, but that, because of Covid-19, the Pope had not yet sent.
As a preparation for the sending of these 430 Families, the International Team, together with the Itinerant Teams for the different nations, had with them, in Porto San Giorgio (Fermo), a one-week retreat to listen to their experience sand where they have been sent to the different missions as requested by the local Bishops.
This experience of evangelization of the Neocatechumenal Way was initiated in 1986 and since then Pope John Paul II, Pope Benedict XVI and Pope Francis sent Families in Mission to the 5 Continents on 19 occasions. The more than 2,000 Families are distributed as follows:
- 960 families are evangelizing in 200 missio ad gentes, in 62 nations, together with a priest and some sisters.
- 800 families meet in different nations to strengthen local communities, supporting their Journey of Faith.
- More than 300 are families which form, together with a priest and a young man, an evangelization team, responsible for a nation or some specific areas.