CHAPTER VI: COOPERATION
No. 35 is the opening number of Ad Gentes, Chapter VI: Cooperation. Along with no. 42, the closing number of the Decree, it is one of its shortest numbers, but a key one. In fact, it can be considered the high point of the whole Decree Ad Gentes. It is a summary of the teaching in Chapters I-V and a short statement of the main purpose and desire of the Decree, i.e. a genuine renewal of the people of God in regard to their understanding of the importance of the work of evangelization and missionary activity in the life of the Church and each Catholic.
The number can be quoted here in its entirety: “Since the whole church is missionary, and the work of evangelization the fundamental task of the people of God, this sacred Synod invites all to undertake a profound interior renewal so that, being vitally conscious of the responsibility for the spread of the Gospel, they might play their part in missionary work among the nations.”
It invites all to an interior renewal, to a conversion to mission mindedness. The council Fathers were not speaking here simply as theologians trying to lay down some general principles about missionary activity in the Catholic Church. They did not want merely an intellectual assent to what they were going to say in Chapter VI. They were calling for a new understanding of our identity and our duty as Catholics. What they wanted is what the Archbishop of Detroit, Very Rev. Allen Vigneron, and his assistant bishops, in their preparations for the archdiocesan synod in November of this year, want for the Catholics of the archdiocese of Detroit, i.e. a new DNA, a new way of being Catholic, which means a complete change of heart toward evangelization at home and in the whole world.
In that understanding of evangelization, missionary work “among the nations” (i.e. ad gentes in Latin) is not just a beautiful, very interesting and inspiring adjunct to the life of the Church, but is part and parcel of its main work. Evangelization at home in one’s own diocese and missionary work among the nations are two parts of one whole. In fact, in no. 37 of this Chapter VI of Ad Gentes the Council Fathers go so far as to say: “The grace of renewal cannot grow in communities unless each of them expands the range of its charity to the ends of the earth, and has the same concern for those who are far away as it has for its own members” (italics mine).
In the rest of Chapter VI the Council Fathers will expand on the practical aspects of this new spirit for all the groups within the Church: individuals (no. 36), parishes (no. 37), bishops (no. 38), diocesan priests (no. 39), consecrated persons (no. 40), and the laity (no. 41). With that they will bring the whole of the Decree on the Church’s Missionary Activity to an end.
Mary, Mother of the Church, inspire in your children a true concern for the salvation of others and give them the courage to bring the Good News to them whenever they can.