Greetings to all our readers, it is a pleasure and honor for me to share with you the experience of the gospel and more on our evangelizing work in Colombia. First I should introduce myself: my name is Jeisson David Castro. I am an Old Catholic priest in the Priestly Society of St. Ignatius Loyola, known as “Ignatian Fathers, Old Catholic”. I am located in a city of Colombia called Medellin. Work in these lands is diverse as it is deeply rooted in its traditions. It is very religious due to the Spanish influence in the colony.
In the last 4 years we began a missionary and pastoral plan beyond “indoctrination” to really search for “integral evangelization”, keeping in mind that violence has strongly marked this country’s history, but also really looking for the truth despite the aftermath of the violence; although the truth is it continues from a violence that is more than 50 years old and every day is marked with inequality. It is there where our challenge as Christians and followers of Jesus should bring proposals and answers to the questions of the people who have one way or another lost hope.
I have come to realize that in this kind of work “temples” and “institutions”, while important are not fundamental. Meanwhile the heart of people still continue to suffer and in this case Christianity should bring hope and above all a voice of encouragement and strength to dignify and lift those who fall due to the same injustices to which they are always exposed.
We are within a context where it is not enough to speak like ecclesiastic institutions. It is time to listen to all those people who have been violated and that for one reason or other are on the verge of losing their faith.
The mission in Colombia that the Ignatian Priestly Society has undertaken with the general Vicariate of Latin America I.O.C.C. is to provide comprehensive care to the people, not just confining ourselves to the spiritual part, but also the human side. We will not wait for the people to look for us, instead we are going to people in their different social, cultural and perhaps even religious circles.
It is because of that our mission begins within inclusion and the promotion of a justice from truth and peace from the respect for differences. This is why our work has lead to several moments in which we have tried to inform, to train and to raise awareness. If there are not those three aspects it will be difficult to advance a mission founded in this area.
Our mission is initially discernment and spiritual accompaniment, but above all seeking a gradual restoration of each individual who has already come and who are coming to us.
One of the principles of our work is to not compete or much less rival with any church institution. Rather we believe in Christian Unity from the difference and I believe that all this is accomplished when I am aware of my differences, but searching for the common good and the unity in faith in Jesus.
One of the biggest problems facing Colombia has been intolerance and intolerance unleashes violence, and violence brings about inequality and injustice. It is sad to see that part of this has been provoked by many sectors which are also called “Christians”, but ultimately only want power and dominion over the weak.
That is why in our mission we decided to think big, to work in the area of reconciliation, but not a external type of reconciliation like we used to know, but rather a reconciliation that is born from the depths of the self and leads first to reconciliation with the self, with their history, with their reality, not aiming to forgive and forget, instead a forgiveness that remembers, but without hatred or revenge. A forgiveness with justice and without impunity. It is a demanding job, but we do not lose heart in that way because if we do not build ourselves on the basis of forgiveness it will be difficult to speak of a true Christianity which begins in love and forgiveness, but considering that whoever forgiveness breaks the chains of slavery.
But still, they also seek a consciousness in God, where God is not a character from a book or in the worst case “invented” by a group of people, but a reality that lies in our daily living.
Faced with the above, the “Consciousness in Jesus” movement was born as a way of making “universalism” (catholicism) not a name or a label, but a “praxis”, that is to say a practice, which translates into this simple example: “if we want to know the true meaning of “catholic” practice look at the arms of Jesus on the cross and of how they are”open”… and therefore where Christianity flows as a consciousness we are called to be open and inclusive.. Which speaks of the person of Jesus and his teaching, and how those trying to have a meeting with him must go through a process of personal and comprehensive restoration.
Thus our pastoral model is based on small groups of people, families and professionals, which we call “core consciousness” where people work a lot on the teachings of Jesus, and work thoroughly with our essential tool, the S.T.R The Seminary of Therapeutic Restoration, where we work in the stories of the people as stated previously, we seek a reconciliation from the inside out, and look for a personal experience of forgiveness.
As another example, we have other work fronts here in Colombia and more precisely in the city of Medellín, and that is the Rational Ecumenical Observatory “Ignaz von Dollinger”. This is one of the contributions to the global ecumenical movement and being faithful to our “Old Catholic” nature, I mean, the fact of being open to interdenominational dialogues, as a strong response to the religious intolerance that live in daily and that in Latin America is so common, and which they name with the pretext of: “defense of the faith”
For this reason, the Observatory generates a space for information, as well as a critical formation on what is the ecumenical movement and its scope for the development of our societies today, and how every day our cities become multicultural in its religious expressions, and instead of running over individual beliefs, seeking respect, as well as including those whose differences contribute to the construction of a more just, but peaceful society.
In all this work, and facing that same from religious and ecclesiastical plurality, we cannot hide the reality of what occurs here in Colombia in this regard, like many who improperly take advantage of diversity, to abuse the spiritual need of people turning them into commodities of faith. As a response to that came the Old Catholic Center of Information and Research as a means to inform and educate the people about what is really the old Catholic Church and its vision in Latin America.
Because of all the above, many use the ‘old Catholic’ name in the wrong way, to damage the persons and take their money, creating a bad image and reputation for the old Catholic churches in Latin America. That is why our work is very demanding because it involves knowledge, but also to discern the different areas of action to which we are exposed. In fact the work carried out by the C.I.I.V. goes hand in hand with the Ecumenical Observatory and the Consciousness in Jesus Movement.
In general terms and in conclusion, the Ignatian Priestly Society, put much of the formation and of the integral promotion of the people providing tools that allow them to have a free and sincere spiritual life. Also, the vicar general for Latin American seeks your pastoral action not just to relieve the spiritual emptiness, but also all those things that concerns the human realm. Again I return what is above, we are out here to preach the Gospel of love and inclusion. The key is that we must listen to those people who need to be heard and who have been silenced for various reasons.
For this reason, the Ignatian Priestly Society and the General Vicariate of Latin America, try to be innovative in the plan and pastoral projects, where we are attempting to create awareness, but also a seduction to the person and the thought of Jesus, retaking the trait characteristic of an Apostolic and Subaposolic Christianity, leading us to recognize the reality of Jesus’ humanity, leading us to recognize God’s revelation in Him, his son and our Redeemer, making clear of all this flows through the faith that comes from the Holy Spirit.
I hope this brief article has helped people gauge the task that the IOCC has in the work of evangelization and integral human development as a fundamental mission of bringing free Christianity constituting a clear choice to express faith in Jesus.
Monsignor Castro is the Vicar General of Latin America in the Old Catholic Churches International. He has also started the Society of Saint Ignatius (Jesuits) in Colombia.