It is always moving to see a married couple evangelising on a mission together. Last year, we experienced this four times in our archdiocese of Kaunas (Lithuania) on similar missions. The Redemptorists try to help the community reclaim the missionary vocation given to all the baptised. As a result, among the guests who help to raise new disciples and missionaries, we include married couples (even sometimes with their children).
During the Russian tsarist period and communism, the soul of the Lithuanian nation was significantly wounded. Many people were exiled to Siberia, and elsewhere, families were torn. In this post-totalitarian period, the symptoms of deeper historic wounds are felt. Many families fall apart, and the presence of men in the Church is very weak.
This is one of the reasons why the mission of evangelisation of married couples from other countries is such an important part of the missionary endeavour. These married couples of Jesus’ disciples and missionaries are a fresh encouragement and a model not just for priests but for families and laity.
Many priests in Lithuania learn to work with the laity. So, these visits help Lithuanian communities to grow in this area. In some parishes, there also are signs of clericalism. The presence of competent and passionate lay witnesses of the Gospel is a proper antidote to this sickness.
Since many Redemptorists of Bratislava – Praha actively cooperate in proclaiming the Gospel with Partners in Mission, the awareness of the importance of doing it together is very strong in the ministry of Slovak redemptorstists working in Lithuania. They are also part of a lay missionary fellowship, “Tree of Life”, which cooperates with the Redemptorists in parish missions and other missionary endeavours.
In March this year in Kaunas, we had Michelle and Peter Moran, teachers and evangelists from England. In June, Scott and Donna Underwood, artists from the USA and Ilona and Bosse Vetterud from Sweden. The testimony and ministry of all these couples was a breath of fresh missionary dynamism in Lithuania. Each of these couples deserves a separate and extensive article on their own.
Recently, in the missionary month of October, we had the privilege of hosting another missionary couple in our archdiocese: Jude and Veronica Antoine from Malaysia. They both left their jobs thirty years ago. Jude worked in a bank, and Veronica was in higher management with Volvo. Now, their two daughters live in Slovakia, building missionary teams to evangelise in Europe and serving predominantly, but not exclusively, in Europe. Jude and Veronica have served so far in 40 countries worldwide.
Among other important meetings, they met with the Catholic Theological Faculty of Vytautas Magnus University. (Two Slovak Redemptorists, Rastislav Dluhý and Peter Hertel, work there as chaplains). The emphasis of the whole talk was directed to the fundamental principle that from our baptism, we are all called to be missionaries; it is not just a task for clergy. For their talk, they chose the title: ‘Lithuania – an evangelistic mission.’
For Redemptorists, such visits of missionaries from others are also a gift. It is like a breath of fresh air and a friendly encouragement to continue.
Fr Rastislav Dluhý CSSR