Open Doors Open Hearts

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Disciple: Open Doors Open Hearts

José
Good morning! I’m Zé.

Teresa
Good morning! I’m Teresa. We are a married couple. We were born 31 years ago in the city of Porto…

José
…The most beautiful city in Portugal.

José
We have belonged to the Redemptorist family for some years now. I was 5 years old when I began celebrating in a redemptorist church.

Teresa
In my case it happened a little later, I think I was 15 when I first met a redemptorist missionary.

José
Although our first steps in faith were taken within the Redemptorist family, this happened to us in different places and only later did our paths cross.

Teresa
But we had something in common that captivated us at different stages of our life and which played a key role in drawing us closer and closer to the redemptorist charism. The common theme of utmost importance to both of us was that the Redemptorists focus on the importance of community.

José
That’s how we grew up: in a community nourished by the redemptorist charism, surrounded by people of all ages who seek to learn together what it means to be a Christian and what it is to follow the man from Nazareth.

Teresa
Yes, the redemptorist communities are made up of many men and women, some married, others not, some with children, others with grandchildren… What they have in common is the willingness to live in the same way as the first communities described in the Acts lived.

José
Over time, we realized that these open communities fostered the context of growth in faith to their members, while at the same time, they nurtured their own religious communities.

Teresa
And through open communites, Jesus was being presented to us and, at the same time, we were getting to know the Redemptorist charism that helps to reveal Him.

José
Well, this is just a short account of the beginning of our story. The God was presented to us through the redemptorist charism, and this inevitably shaped our life and transformed us too. With our feet set firmly on the redemptorist way, in recent years, we have committed ourselves to finding the means to dedicate our whole life to Christ and His Mission.

Teresa
And how we can do it together, as a couple.

José
Yes, we have been experiencing that God calls us to a missionary life, as a couple and within the Redemptorist family. And, of course, we wanted to answer this calling.

Teresa
So, one of the small steps we took happened in 2018 after an important period of formation and discernment. In November of that year we made a public commitment as Lay Missionaries of the Most Holy Redeemer.

José
A missionary couple. A redemptorist couple.

Teresa
As time went by, one thing became crystal clear to us: it is fundamental for us not to separate our life into different parts or different pieces – of work, family, faith. We gradually began to understand that being a missionary is a matter of identity. It is not a question of what we do at a certain time or place, but who we are.

José
Yes, deep down, we want to live the Vita Apostolica, announcing the Gospel to the most abandoned, living in community framework and working in partnership with religious and other lay partners. We believe that, of the many possible ways to fulfil our vocation, the one that God is calling us to, demands a more radical commitment to the Mission. And, in the end, what we have been trying to do is to wait on Him so that He can show us how to do it, both here and now and in the future.

Teresa
Last year, our life became an itinerant one. We began to visit redemptorist communities around the world. What moved us was the desire to learn more about our Redemptorist family and to share the missionary initiatives that are being developed in the more than eighty countries that have a redemptorist presence. We believe that this can help us to become more aware of and experience the missionary solidarity, so necessary in our Congregation.

José
As a result of what we experienced in Portugal and from what we learned in the Conference of Europe and in the Conference of North America, we have come to realize that our charism requires us to be open to the world. We are not a congregation of monks, but a family of missionaries.

Teresa
We saw this, for example, in Lviv, Ukraine, in the way our Redemptorist Missionary Sisters work and live with the student community of the Greek Catholic University in Lviv. They live on the first floor of the university residence and in the residence hall is the community chapel. Located next to the lift, which is used by many of the resident students, the chapel is always open and available to all who want to pray or simply to sit in silence. These sisters of ours share their days with those who live and study there. And some of them are also classmates. They organize formation, sharing and spiritual meetings. Above all, they are always available to listen, to talk, to pray. And there is, indeed, a great friendliness and bond between the sisters and the students who live and learn at the University.

José
It is undoubtedly an open presence, an available presence and a very close presence. It is truly a very beautiful mission.

Teresa
Another aspect that drew our attention as we saw and got to know the different initiatives was the fact that there is not a standard formula or model to be followed for evangelization. Instead, the starting point for evangelization is conviviality and dialogue with all men and women. One of the places where this is explicitly found is in our community in Gent, Belgium.

The lack of standard formulas but instead keeping a watchful eye on the signs of the times and living close to men and women, led to a missionary renewal in that place. What used to be an old, closed monastery, whose confreres had lost their hope, has become, through the action of the Spirit, a project with open doors and renewed missionary vigor called Clemenspoort. And it is an openness to everyone, regardless of race, color, age, gender, or even religion. It happens in a very beautiful building, in which one feels at ease, and where there is space to pray, where there is space to meditate, to study, to have coffee, to celebrate, and to be heard.

José
Yes, to be heard. And the truth is that this importance of listening has been a recurring topic in other conversations that we have had with different missionaries. The ministry of listening is something that has been present since our origins and we believe that, in fact, it is one of the privileged means for that opening to the world, along with that dialogue with everyone. Both have proven to be so necessary in the task of evangelization. The curious thing is that, over the past year, many confreres and lay people have confided to us that they also experienced the urgency of such a Church, a Church with open ears, a Church capable of a new availability. A Church capable of sitting at a coffee table with a cup in hand and ready to listen to the world. These conversations were for us a valuable witness of what the Spirit is inspiring among us.

José
Looking at our constitutions and making a bridge to what we mentioned at the beginning of this video, it is quite clear that we have the task of forming communities with those to whom we are sent as missionaries. When we think about it, the most immediate example that comes to our minds is The Welcome Home, in Winnipeg, Canada.

Teresa
The Welcome Home is a missionary project that is 25 years old and its name is self-explanatory. It is a house with open doors to welcome everyone and which is already forming a community with the least of the city, particularly with the poorest.

This house was formed by some redemptorist religious and lay people and its twofold cornerstone is: the Community and the Mission. Presently, residing in the house are a confrere of ours, a layman and a redemptorist student, but the life of the house goes on hand in hand with the redemptorist religious community that is just a few streets away and with the many volunteers and Redemptorist Lay Associates who believe in this project and dedicate themselves to it on a regular basis.

José
It is a house full of life. There are cooking classes with women and young people, there are mornings of formation in the faith, there are support and follow-up meetings for people who are trying to free themselves from addictions, there is also outreach help with food and basic goods for people who are going through financial difficulties. There is a daily program with different life lessons but only one rule: open doors. And all those looking for a home will find it here. All are welcome. And thus, they form a community in which they sometimes are the ones who help and sometimes they are the ones who are helped.

Teresa
And they celebrate together! While it is not possible to celebrate together every Sunday, but they do celebrate together at least twice a month!

It is, without a doubt, a real community life!

José
So we shared just a few examples of how we, redemptorists, remain open to the world, the way we try to foster a missionary dialogue with the men and women of today, avoiding evangelizing formula, and how we take on the task of creating missionary communities seriously. The good news is that we are convinced that in the more than 80 countries where we are present, there will still be more stories to tell, as well as more challenges too.

Teresa
We continue to try and stay true to our charism, knowing that our Master is Jesus and that the Spirit continues to call us to announce the Plentiful Redemption of our God.

And we’ll do this together!

Authors and translation: Teresa Ascensão and José Silva Oliveira


This post is also available in: polski (Polish) Español (Spanish)


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