The World Assembly confirms that one way of seeing, hearing, feeling and responding compassionately to the world’s needs is to carry out apostolic initiatives on today’s frontiers of ecology, the family, globalization and poverty, and youth (Lebanon 2013). It reminds us of the need to rely on community discernment in order to engage in them (Argentina, 2018). It identifies two new missionary situations: the “inclusive” Church and “spiritual ministries”. What new steps does Assembly 2023 call us to take?
The Assembly’s community discernment was inspired by the contemplation of apostolic initiatives already at work around the world. We’ll come back to this after clarifying what the CLC metaphor of the frontier means in relation to the apostolate as set out in the General Principles. Finally, we’ll introduce you to some initiatives already underway around the world, which are a source of hope.
Frontiers initiatives: what do these terms refer to?
CLC’s apostolic initiatives take place at the “frontier”, i.e. in situations identified as places of mission. The spirit with which CLC designates its privileged mission places (Lebanon, 2013; Argentina, 2018; France, 2023) needs to be clarified, because not all languages translate it in the same way. In English (the reference language for official CLC documents), the term “frontière” is distinguished from “boundaries”. Unlike “boundaries”, which imply an idea of delimitation, of enclosure, “frontier” is an open space in which landmarks are lacking for those who find themselves there, an “in-between”, and indeed a space in which creative initiatives are necessary if living together is to be possible. In French and Spanish, only one term exists, but it is polysemous.
Frontier has been the subject of reflection at all World Assemblies, resulting in the identification in 2013 (16th Assembly, Lebanon) of four privileged mission places for CLC, presented in the summary document entitled “From our roots to the frontier”: globalization and poverty, family, ecology, youth. The 17th Assembly (2018, Brazil) confirmed that these frontiers are representative of today’s world, and stressed the importance of community discernment in taking action. The 18th Assembly (2023, France) confirmed this charism and identifies two new types of situation that call for apostolic initiatives: the inclusive Church (acting against abuse and discrimination in particular), and spiritual ministries (responding to the quest for meaning by sharing the richness of Ignatian spirituality).
For CLC, frontiers are therefore situations in which the cries of the world call for compassionate action. They are neither predefined nor limited. In his homily at the Assembly’s final Eucharist, José de Pablo sj, CLC’s World Vice-Ecclesiastical Assistant, reminded us that considering ” frontiers ” in a rigid way was a trap that could paralyze us and distance us from the spirit. Therefore this is how it is identified in the World CLC orientations: the Spirit calls us to be attentive to God’s will to make Love happen here and now.
This brings us back to the specific charism of CLC. The call to mission is made on two levels: to each individual, but also to the community as a whole. Indeed, the General Principles emphasize that each companion “receives from God a call to make Christ and his saving action present around him”. On the other hand, this personal apostolate, essential and unique, is complementary to “the group apostolate in its many forms, either through group action initiated or supported by the Community through appropriate structures, or through the involvement of members in initiatives taken by existing secular or religious organizations” (PG 8, a and b).
The individual apostolate is discreet and unique for each companion, and exchanges in small communities are the main place for their discernment, which we won’t go into here. The community apostolate, on the other hand, is an inspiring source of inspiration for us today, and tomorrow. We’ll take a look at what the Assembly can offer us.
A short history of contemplating apostolic initiatives at Assembly 2023
From the very first days of the Assembly, delegates were invited to “open up to our realities” by contemplating the apostolic initiatives of various communities around the world, but also to a time of “Contemplation of the Incarnation”. On the face of it, these two moments belong to different realities: human realities and God’s realities. And yet, it is in the tension between these two dimensions that the apostolic vocation of CLC is brought to life. For example, several delegates shared with us their experiences of a particularly strong inner movement. Praise and gratitude for the abundance of apostolic initiatives. Then despair at the magnitude of the world’s cries of suffering, so much more abundant. Finally, appeasement, when the contemplation of the Incarnation resituates these tiny initiatives in a project of God that transcends us all. The mystery of evil remains unresolved, but CLC’s vocation is clear enough to pursue community discernment. The delegates then pursued a path of discernment that was both more fragile and firmer.
Examples of initiatives presented at the Assembly
Prior to the Assembly, all communities were invited to send in a presentation of apostolic initiatives carried out on their frontiers (ecology, globalization, family, youth) or in the context of Ignatian spiritual life formation (spiritual ministries). Each one-page presentation had to describe the initiative and specify the frontier, include a photo, and answer two questions:
– What makes this project a lay, Ignatian, apostolic community?
– What call was discerned that led to the development of this project?
In all, nearly 70 submissions were received from 30 communities around the world. The initiatives were received, indexed, formatted and finally translated into three languages before being printed. They were then displayed in various rooms for the Assembly. Several exchanges between delegates took place on the basis of these presentations. A special approach was chosen to discover CLC France initiatives: French companions came to meet the delegates and invited them to try out different actions themselves through more concrete workshops.
The richness of these testimonies is such that it’s impossible to give them all their due here. To illustrate their diversity and fruitfulness, we present seven apostolic initiatives through texts written by the communities themselves. We have generally respected the titles and categories mentioned by the communities, but it is remarkable that all the initiatives are situated at the crossroads of several frontiers, a sign that mission is not set in stone, but is inspired by orientations in a creative process.
Four initiatives are carried out in Latin America and Europe at different “frontier”. You’ll discover how CLC in Malta is raising awareness and forming new pre-CLX groups for young adults (“youth”), and how CLC in Cuba’s “The joys of love” workshops are designed to accompany people in the perspective and richness of belonging to a family, a group, an association or a community (“family”). You’ll get to know the CLC Saint Hugues spiritual center in France, which since 2016 has been living out integral ecology in the light of Laudato Si (“ecology”), as well as the CLC in Brazil engaged since 2018 in numerous actions to support Venezuelan migrants and refugees (“globalization and poverty”).
Three initiatives concern formation in Ignatian spirituality and the inclusive Church in the Middle East, Africa and Asia-Pacific. Communities are working to share Ignatian spirituality for a life together that respects everyone. In Egypt, CLC offers an eco-spiritual retreat open to all (Christians and Muslims), with the aim of deepening daily environmental practices by taking into account diverse spiritual experiences and sharing them with others. In Korea, CLC, which already has a long experience of training in Ignatian spirituality, created an online training platform in 2020, aimed specifically for lay people, whether or not they are “officially” called to ecclesial service. The CLC in Botswana has a spiritual assistant, Ms Anna Mokgware, who was trained by the Jesuits in South Africa and now organizes retreats for all, lay people and priests alike.