The first time that the Claretian Missionaries ventured out of the comfort zone (missions in Spanish-speaking areas of Africa or Latin America, or the European context) without skimping on distance or complexity: that’s China. From those humble beginnings in 1929, from two missionaries until today, the Claretian Missionaries have been growing and expanding throughout Asia. Four Major Organisms makes up ASCLA-East, present in 10 countries that bring together some 2,150 million people, 28% of the world’s population.
The Claretian Mission in Asia began and continually develops today as a response to the call made by the different Local Churches to collaborate with them in our missionary and cordimarian charism. Our missionary work is mostly located in popular areas, some of them being especially difficult due to religious-political tensions such as Zamboanga-Basilan or an unfavorable economic situation such as in East Timor and some areas of the Philippines especially sensitive to natural disasters. In these areas, the Claretian Missionaries accompany the announcement of the Good News with actions that seek to recreate and empower local communities, either Christian or not, that are being set aside by a predatory and extractive economic development focused on obtaining maximum benefit for capital and unaware of the social wounds it causes.
As Claretian Missionaries the Word occupies a central place in our pastoral ministries and missionary accompaniment. Claretian Publications or the Pastoral Bible Foundation, for example, are known throughout Asia for their effort to deliver the Word and the spiritual and theological formation at affordable prices. The Word became flesh and the challenge before us is that this Flesh, that often becomes cannon fodder, crushed and humiliated, is transformed into word, announcement, prophecy, and promise.
Mary, our mother and foundress, continually encourages us to listen to reality with a maternal heart and to “do what He tells us.” We are aware that we cannot do anything alone and that is why we live the mission with others – lay people, congregations and Local Churches – and we invite others to let themselves be willed by God, to be fiat of God’s mission for humanity. Through platforms such as the Institute for Consecrated Life in Asia (ICLA) we promote this vision of Church twinned and shared mission throughout Asia thanks to the many congregations that send their students, mostly religious, to be formed there. Our Church in Asia owes much to women who hold more than half of the Catholic vault. Without their work our societies and our Church would be unviable and in our pastoral work we seek the qualified presence of women in equality.
This educational work also extends to schools ranging from kindergarten to higher studies. Many of its students have been able to finish their studies thanks to the generous solidarity of the Church. We both know that when a member is injured or underdeveloped, we all suffer. A faith that is not solidary does not know the Christ of the Gospel … no matter how firm it seems.
ASCLA-E is a diverse confederation that faces different challenges: the elderly and stagnation of the Church of Japan, the difficulty of doing away ethnocentrism and be open to others in Korea, Japan, Taiwan, Hong Kong and Macao; the challenges of diversity and religious tolerance in Myanmar, the Philippines, Indonesia and Timor Leste; the authoritarian political regimes of the Marxist court in China, Myanmar and Vietnam; or the democracies of the rest of the countries threatened by corruption and more concerned with the welfare of capital and its club than the economic, social, ecological, spiritual and human welfare of the rest. In some instances we are prophetic, or at least we want to be prophetic, in the midst of a Church that often likes to keep old systems, respect the traditions, and not raise one’s voice … but this, as Claret would say, does not daunt us!
As immediate challenges, there is the promotion of sustainable and supportive development, which breaks the pockets of poverty and exclusion that mark many of our societies. Then there is the interreligious dialogue and the incarnation of the evangelical announcement through a sincere dialogue with the local cultures that recovers the original “Asian tone” that the evangelical announcement from the lips of Jesus have had.