“Go out to the highways and invite all you meet to the wedding.” (Mt 22:9) Christianity has always seen itself as an inclusive religion – inviting ALL peoples to the Wedding Banquet of God. Jesus reached out to all. He sent His Church to ALL peoples, even to the ends of the Earth. All are called to Salvation; all are called to God’s Heavenly Banquet.
So we went out from our home countries to invite all others to God’s feast of Eternal Life in Jesus Christ. But there is an aspect of this invitation that we Church people sometimes forget. What we forget is that we are not only “hosts” at the Banquet, but also “guests” ourselves. It is God’s Banquet – we invite alright, but we are also invited to this feast.
In 2008 the U.S. Columban Regional Assembly challenged us Columbans to deepen this aspect of Jesus’ mission. We called it “a spirituality of table fellowship.” It meant opening ourselves more to the gifts and talents of others. For years overseas since Vatican II, Dialogue and Partnership had been part and parcel of the way we were doing mission – listening to the local people and growing ourselves from their faith as well as sharing our faith with them. It was “table fellowship” where we not only proclaimed the Good News, but heard the Good News from others at the table. In other words, we were all “hosts and guests” at the table of the Lord.
So the 2008 Regional Assembly challenged us Columbans to greater “table fellowship,” to move from an individualist way of doing mission to a more collaborative one.
We had talks and input based on Scripture and our experience as to why this was a better way to do mission. And we decided to change some of our regional structures. We hired a COO (Chief Operating Officer) in 2009 and with him reorganized the St. Columbans, Nebraska, office for greater feedback and participation. We started a Senior Managers Group to advise on policy and operations; and we restructured our Mission Houses in El Paso, Texas/Juárez, Mexico, Los Angeles, California, St. Columbans, Nebraska, and Bristol, Rhode Island, to work better together. Combining the expertise and the mission faith of each individual has resulted in a richer Banquet for all.
It has been difficult at times, as changes are always difficult, but with patience and continued effort our “spirituality of table fellowship” has taken root in our U.S. Region and has produced, and is producing, a richer Banquet of the Good News for all of us. Such is the bounty of our Saving God!
This article originally appeared in the May 2013 Columban Mission Magazine.