Claretians. Our Call to be Reconcilers and Peacemakers
Part III: The Task before the Claretians
J.M. Joseph Jeyaseelan, CMF
As members of the Church who are Catholic Christians living our vocation in the footsteps of St. Anthony Mary Claret, we are invited to make our own ministry of reconciliation in whatever place we may be serving. The world is in need of peace and reconciliation. In the Autobiography of our Founder, we come across him as a person who was deeply concerned about the social realities that surrounded him. This can be seen especially during the time he was in Cuba. Our Founder was concerned about the poor and their welfare. He wanted to do something to correct systemic issues so that the poor and the marginalized could live in dignity and peace.
· Our Holy Founder St. Anthony Mary Claret was for resolving conflicts and establishing peace. When Spain was in the midst of political upheavals, our Founder did what he could for establishing peace. “Since Claret is the administrator of his town, the office of the bishop and government of Barcelona write to Claret begging him to work for peace and harmony. He tells the local government about his satisfaction and his willingness to work in that direction” (Claretian Year Book, May 15).
· Claret would not get involved in party politics or revolutions (Aut 522) but would work for disarmament, peace, and reconciliation (Aut 523). Also, he would not support those who tried to achieve political goals through the influence of the high office he held in the royal court (Aut 629).
· Furthermore, we read in the autobiography that our Founder showed great compassion to one of his adversaries and dispensed forgiveness so freely. He is wounded in Holguin and how Claret dealt with the whole incident is a great example of forgiveness and magnanimity (Aut 574-578). We also find our founder having the heart of love and forgiveness in the way he treated those who slandered him. He prayed for his enemies (Aut 628).
Being true to the spirit of our Holy Founder, the XIX General Chapter document The Mission of the Claretian Today gave us some clear orientation: “To keep in close and living touch with the different structures and pastoral urgencies of the local church, especially those related to the family, youth, the laity, human rights, justice and peace.” (213). This summons was continued by subsequent General Chapter documents: “We will strengthen the quality service in the area of justice, peace and the integrity of creation (Men on Fire with Love 61.7); “… we feel called to conform our lives and mission to a prophetic dialogue (interconfessional, inter-religious, political, etc.) and as a sign of compassion. And from here we favor what unites, reconciles, and brings peace, tears down walls that separate, supports those who work for peace and reconciliation no matter what creed they profess or outlook they may have (Missionarii Sumus 13).
In order to do effectively the ministry of reconciliation, we are called to take seriously to heart the modus operandi called “shared mission”. The transformation of the world is not entirely in our hands. Networking with likeminded others whether they come from a sister church, a governmental or non-governmental entity, or an international body like the UNICEF is much needed. Others have resources that we don’t have. They may have expertise from which we can benefit. We have resources and expertise that others may not have. The Congregation has given us clear directions in this regard: To actively participate in the defense and promotion of life, justice, and peace, collaborating with other religious or civic organizations (That They May Have Life 67.4); and to “collaborate in networks (such as NGOs), shared mission and projects of others (Missionarii Sumus 57.3).
Walking on the footsteps of our Founder, our missionaries in different continents have worked for peace and reconciliation.
· The Claretians who died as martyrs, some of whom are venerated as “blessed”, never uttered a word of hate or revenge. They spoke words of forgiveness and prayed for their enemies.
· Since 2012, we have our presence at the United Nations. We are an NGO with a focus on the following areas: climate change, migration and refugees, indigenous people, and peace and reconciliation. It shows that our Congregation has made a commitment to the promotion of peace and reconciliation.
Today, for every Claretian, for every Claretian community, and for every Claretian major organism, the ministry of reconciliation should be a key commitment.
Personally, I have seen and experienced the effectiveness of collective efforts at building a peace-loving citizenry and peace-promoting society. I have had this experience in Sri Lanka (National Peace Council, Alliance of Justice, and National Intellectuals’ Organization), South Africa (Healing of Memories Institute), the Philippines (Mindanao Peacebuilding Institute and other grassroots peacebuilding groups in Mindanao region), and in Kenya (Shalom Institute and a plethora of other organizations). It is wonderful to network and learn from them all.
In Sri Lanka, my collaboration with the Healing of Memories Institute and other academic, civil society, NGO, ecumenical, interreligious groups have been an enriching experience. We are not changing the world overnight! Through our small efforts, we try to heal the wounds of war, help people to celebrate diversity as a gift, and invite them to be peace-loving citizens by seeking justice justly, by forgiving magnanimously, and by seeking reconciliation ardently with the ethnic and religious other.
Being with other learners, activists, and survivors, and working with them, has been a great chance to learn the art of building peace together. In November 2019, we the Claretians organized a training workshop for peacebuilders and we trained over 30 men and women.
“Blessed are the peacemakers” (Mt 5:9).
J.M. Joseph Jeyaseelan, CMF