CHAPTER V: THE ORGANIZATION OF MISSIONARY ACTIVITY
As no. 29 of Ad Gentes pointed out the leading position that the body of bishops has in the missionary activity of the Church, so no. 30 does the same regarding each bishop in his own diocese.
There, no. 30 says, the bishop is the “head of the diocesan apostolate and its center of unity.” As head of the diocesan apostolate or apostolic action, he is also in charge of missionary activity in his diocese. Although we now like to equate apostolic action and missionary activity, Ad Gentes does not see missionary activity as part of a diocese’s apostolic action, but as a specific activity of its own directed toward the unbaptized. Proof of this are two sentences from this number: “All missionaries, even exempt religious, are subject to [the bishop’s] authority in all the various activities which have to do with the exercise of the sacred apostolate,” and, “[The bishop] should also take care that apostolic action is not entirely restricted to those who have already been converted, but that a fair proportion of workers and funds is directed to the evangelization of non-Christians.”
No. 30 begins with a general statement about missionary workers: they must be of “one heart and one soul” (Acts 4:32), if goals are to be reached and missionary results are to be obtained. By referring us back to the Primitive Church, the Council Fathers are telling us that missionaries should have the same zeal for Jesus Christ and His Kingdom that the early Christians had.
Now, of course, the local bishop is not alone responsible for this kind of zeal and faith among his missionaries. This is also up to the individual missionary and missionary group. But the bishop can do much by “promoting missionary activity, guiding and coordinating it, so that the spontaneous zeal of those who engage in this work may be safeguarded and fostered.” Notice here especially the words, “promote missionary activity, guide and coordinate it.” By setting common goals for the missionary apostolate of his diocese, the bishop will work toward harmony and cooperation among his missionaries. With the same goals at heart, the missionaries will find it easier to be “of one heart and one soul.”
A great help toward this cooperation will be a pastoral council in the diocese. Pope Paul VI, in his Apostolic Letter Ecclesiae Sanctae of August 6, 1966, no. 16, gave instructions about pastoral councils. Clergy, religious and lay people should all be represented in the council, since they are all subject to the bishop’s leadership in the apostolate. Even the “exempt” religious are subject to him in this matter. Exempt religious communities are those taken out of the jurisdiction of the local bishop and subject directly to the Pope (cf. Lumen Gentium, 45; CJC, 591). They are outside the jurisdiction of the local bishop regarding internal matters, but not in matters of the apostolate. We, the Mariannhill Missionaries, are such an exempt institute. Pray that we will always be obedient to the local bishop in matters of the apostolate. Amen.