“Seeing in the faith a sign of hope” – Interview with Archbishop Tadeusz Wojda, Metropolitan of Białystok, in the 90s an employee of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith, undersecretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples until 2017, and now a member of the Commission for the Missions of the Polish Bishops’ Conference.
Eminence, what are the missions?
First of all missions have their triple goal. The first is to preach the Word of God throughout the world, especially where the Word has arrived recently, or has not yet arrived, to give everyone the opportunity to know Jesus Christ and His Good News of salvation. Of course, we still have many places where God’s Word has not yet arrived or is just arriving. The second goal is the creation of visible structures of the Church in missionary areas: establishing of Church administrations, dioceses, parishes, seminaries, institutions of religious formation of clergy and lay people. The third element is the whole financial background and material help from the outside, which is simply necessary. The model of this help is St. Paul the Apostle, who organized collections in the communities he founded, to help those churches, those communities that were just beginning to develop or were just founded.
All these goals are very important and all are undertaken by the Church. As for the financial background, in the Church it is primarily dealt with by the Pontifical Missionary Works. Each year, on a missionary Sunday, they collect about $ 150 million, which are then distributed to all missionary dioceses. There are also many other charity-missionary organizations that also organize material help, and then send it to missions. Of course, apart from material help, spiritual assistance from the sick and suffering as well as individual and community prayer of the faithful is also important. Also this help, this background, is much wider than just material.
What are the joys of missionaries? What do the missionaries enjoy the most?
I think that every missionary has great satisfaction when he sees that the local community in which he serves is a living church, that it is growing, there are new members, there are conversions, that these people come, look for the Church and for contact with God. When they engage in the life of the parish community, seeing in the faith a sign of hope and a reference to a future life. Undoubtedly, the missionary’s joy is the fact that the Gospel permeates the everyday life of the community and forms it on the foundation of evangelical values. The great fruit of the maturing of the faith of this community are also vocations to the priesthood and to the consecrated life.
And what problems do missionaries face on missions?
Missionaries face many problems, including different sects, different local beliefs, which are many and are very strong. We live in a time of globalization, in which on the one hand there is an attempt to unify everything, all styles of life, and on the other hand there is a kind of defence against globalization, against this unification. Therefore come to the fore the local traditions and beliefs, which are not necessarily in line with the Gospel. Everyone looks for their identity so as not to get lost in this powerful world of anonymity. The Gospel helps to find your own identity. Of course, there are also a number of other difficulties, such as big religions, which do not always leave room for evangelization, prohibitions of conversion to Christianity, persecution of Christians. They are all forms of violence, civil or clan wars. Local customs, illiteracy and poor school education, widespread corruption, and pressure from various international organizations that promote attitudes contrary to the Gospel are sometimes a problem. And it is precisely because evangelization is difficult, the missionaries’ work and the fruits of their ministry are so valuable that we should support them spiritually and materially.
Press Office of the Polish Bishops’ Conference