I recently went to see the latest Tom Cruise movie which is in the tradition of the well known Mission Impossible stories. It is, as you might imagine, full of action, nail biting scenes full of danger and intrigue. Granted, whilst a lot of the more dangerous stunts are quite improbable, this does not take away from the experience of the thrill and escapism that the movie provides. Of course it is good to remember this is entertainment.
However off screen here in St. Matthews we were being brought into contact with another mission, namely the mission of the Church. The contact with mission here in St. Matthews in the past week has been much more real than any Hollywood drama. This past week has seen the arrival into our parish of two real live missionaries. They are Divine Word Missionaries and they are: Fr. Justin Purba from Indonesia and Deacon Yanbo Chen from China. We are delighted to welcome them. We hope it will be a happy chapter in their lives and in the heart of our parish.
Fr Justin was born in Aceh Indonesia on January 28th 1985. Aceh is a province in western Indonesia. Indonesian people call that province ‘Serambi Mekkah’ which means ‘front porch of Mecca’. This is fitting because 98% of this province is Muslim. Justin is the youngest of five. He was ordained a priest on 25th August 2016 in Malang, East Java by Bishop Fransiskus Hadisumarto, O Carm. Justin is a Divine Word Missionary. Here in St. Matthews we know the Divine Word Missionaries mainly through our contact with Fr Gerard Mc Carthy who is a good friend of ours. Another Divine Word Missionary Fr Andy Campbell is a native of Ballyfermot. They are a very fine order committed to the spread of God’s Kingdom. The Divine Word Leadership in Fr Tim Lehane and in dialogue with our own Archbishop, Diarmuid Martin, in seeing Dublin as ‘Mission territory’, have sent Justin and Yanbo to our parish to gain pastoral experience for their mission in the Dublin diocese.
Yanbo Chen was born in 1988. He is from the province of Hebei in China. He is a transitional deacon and hopes to be ordained a priest next year. In Yanbo’s home place the Church is persecuted. Being a person of faith is dangerous and priests and Bishops can be thrown into prison because of their faith and specifically because of their vocation and service of the Church.
I do not think it is an accident that Justin, from a minority church in Indonesia, and Yanbo, from a persecuted church in China, have arrived amongst us here in St. Matthews. We in post referendum Ireland coming from our position as a majority Church, may well learn much from our new team members. Perhaps Justin and Yanbo are timely arrivals into our parish. Could it be that we as a Church, here in Ireland, could be heading towards becoming a minority church, and perhaps not without persecution?
In a broader sense it has got me thinking about mission. I am reminded that through our baptism we are all called to be missionary. I am also conscious that every time we leave Mass we are given a mission. Some questions arise for us here in St. Matthews: what kind of parish are we? What is our mission?
When I reflect on, and pray about, mission I am with Jesus and Matthew. I am immediately thinking of us being a praying community. Of us being a place of welcome. A place of hospitality. I am thinking of inclusivity. For me it is a challenging time to be church but it is also a very exciting time. Here in St. Matthews we are passionate about developing our parish into the future and help it find its voice in the New Ireland. I wonder if you knew more about our Parish Team, which meets every Tuesday, or our Parish Council which meets on the second Tuesday of each month, might you consider giving a little of your time to St. Matthews to help develop and spread this mission?