Operations in the name of the Irish Missionary Union (IMU) and in the name of the Conference of Religious of lreland (CORI) will cease in mid-June and a new entity, AMRI, will take on the services of both organisations. AMRI is the Association of Missionaries and Religious of Ireland. The bringing together of these two bodies, the IMU and CORI, has been a matter which has been in the planning and discussion stages for a year or more. This new organisation AMRI is seen as a means of streamlining the resources that the two separate bodies hold.
The IMU have published their last newsletter and in this issue Father Hugh MacMahon SSC, Executive Secretary, recalls the the history of the IMU which began in 1970 as an effort to meet the already changing needs of Irish missionaries. There were over 7,000 Irish missionaries then, now there are 1,500 and most of them are over sixty.
Father MacMahon writes, “In 1970 the focus of mission was still traditional Ad Gentes, ‘to the peoples of the world’. This was a wish to help people in countries where the Church was still young to advance in their search for God and meaning, a yearning that was embedded in their culture from times immemorial. It meant offering them the words and example of Christ as a fulfilment, not the denial, of what their ancestor intuited. Inevitably the missionaries got involved in meeting the people’s immediate needs, seeking social justice and showing concern for the environment. In practice this was done through establishing parish communities, schools and hospitals.
“Through this close contact with people, the missionaries discovered that they themselves had much to learn about humanity, religion and spirituality. They benefited personally from the encounter but often had difficulty in bringing this enrichment back to their home Church.”
Father MacMahon goes on to say, “The challenge today is no longer the easy-to-grasp goals of saving souls from darkness, or solving pressing injustices and material needs. Such tasks, and the building of churches and welfare institutes, have been passed on to others.
“Now the challenge facing people all over the world is the secularisation and materialism of modern culture. Churches have been badly shaken by the impact and are coming to accept that the foundations on which faith was built may not have been as deep or reliable as they thought. If faith is to be renewed they have to draw on their pre-Christian roots, realising that they too are Spirit-inspired, and also learn from the experiences, both recent and ancient, of other cultures.
“This is where missionaries are needed today. It is not so much a new role as one that has been refocused and applied to a new situation. The new approach to mission has been termed Inter Gentes (‘Between the Peoples’) rather than ‘To the Peoples’ (Ad Gentes).It calls for people who are confident that Christians have a privileged insight into the ‘Way the Truth and the Life’ and, as such, can be a fresh source of hope and inspiration in the world. But they also need the skills to listen, reflect and communicate despite language and cultural differences. How they are to be prepared and coordinated is a task that the IMU passes on to AMRI, confident that the enthusiasm and energy that brought AMRI into being will find practical and forward-looking solutions.”
Father MacMahon concluded by thanking the 3,000 readers of the newsletter and inviting them to transfer their interest and support to the new entity, AMRI.