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AD GENTES Passed by assembled bishops by a vote of 2,394 to 5, it was promulgated by Pope Paul VI on December 7, 1965.

The title is Latin for "To the Nations," and is from the first line of the decree, as is customary with Roman Catholic documents.

Ad Gentes focused on the factors involved in mission work. It called for the continued development of missionary acculturation. It encourages missionaries to live with the people they are attempting to convert, to absorb their ways and culture. It encourages the coordination of mission work through agencies and the cooperation with other groups and organizations within the Catholic Church and other denominations.

The Great Call of Apostleship In his last words to the apostles, the Lord Jesus Christ gave them a mission: Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you (Mt 28:19-20).

Christs instruction to the apostles was a great call to those who became the first bishops and the first missionaries of the Church. They were told to go ad gentesthat is, to the nations, to those who did not know Christand to proclaim the Gospel. Because the apostles were faithful and obedient to Christs command, his Church has grown and flourished.

The responsibility for fulfilling that mandate passes on unchanged to the bishops and to all the Catholics of today. The word catholicthat is, universalembodies Gods purpose for his Church. He wants to extend it to the farthest corners of the earth. He wants to show all people his love and mercy.

Missions are those particular undertakings by which the heralds of the Gospel, sent out by the Church and going forth into the whole world, carry out the task of preaching the Gospel and planting the Church among peoples or groups who do not yet believe in Christ. . . . The proper purpose of this missionary activity is evangelization (Ad Gentes, no. 6).

However, this mission is far from complete. There are many young churches that need missionaries to develop and grow. There are many dioceses, eparchies, and countries struggling with poverty, persecution, oppression, war, and immense suffering that need missionaries to witness to the light and love of Christ, bringing hope for the future.

Therefore, all Catholics, by reason of their incorporation into the Church at Baptism, should fully participate and cooperate in Christs ongoing mission to the nations.

Preach Christ Ad Gentes, "To the Nations" Where does the idea of mission come from? What exactly is mission? It consists of continuing Christs own mission. Mission, from the Latin word to send, means obeying his command always to go to all the nations, to baptize, and to teach the faith. We look to Christ himself as the model of the truly loving missionary.

Christ Sent by the Father Pope John Paul II described this in Redemptoris Missio: the ultimate purpose of mission is to enable people to share in the communion which exists between the Father and the Son (no. 23).

A personal encounter with Christ, especially in the sacraments, compels us to a greater participation in mission: what we have been so wonderfully given, we pass on to those who do not yet know of it or who stand in need of renewal. In this sense, every Catholic who has had a personal encounter with Christ has the heart of a missionary. In fact, Gods desire for the salvation of all requires that we be missionary. For there is no salvation through anyone else, nor is there any other name under heaven given to the human race by which we are to be saved (Acts 4:12).

Eucharistic Sustenance Missionaries go forth to bring the Church to where it has not yet been founded and to build up churches that are struggling. They carry with them both the Word and sacrament. The same message of Christ that was passed on to the apostles, missionaries now pass on to others. The same fervor for the Eucharistic meal that the apostles shared in, missionaries now bring to others. As John Paul II said on World Mission Sunday, 2004:

How could the Church fulfill her vocation without cultivating a constant relationship with the Eucharist, without nourishing herself with this food which sanctifies, without founding her missionary activity on this indispensable support? To evangelize the world there is need of apostles who are experts in the celebration, adoration and contemplation of the Eucharist. (Message of His Holiness John Paul II for World Mission Sunday 2004, Eucharist And Mission, no. 3) Whether missionaries are priests, religious, or lay people, it is Christ in the Eucharist, and their unity in the Holy Spirit, that sustains and inspires them.

An Invitation to Know Christ In this age of extreme moral and religious relativism, Christs mission to the world has become more difficult but even more necessary. Mission is never an imposition upon the free will of another; it is an invitation to know Christ or to know him better, and it is made in a spirit of respect toward others. In a spirit of respectful communion, Catholics must bring the promise of Gods gifts before all peoples around the world.

The Fire of the Holy Spirit As soon as the apostles received the Holy Spirit, they immediately began to proclaim Christ to the crowd (Acts 2:4). Everyone who is baptized in the name of the Father, Son, and Holy Spirit has already within them the seed of the apostles fiery enthusiasm for proclamation. The Holy Spiritthe Spirit of missionguides and strengthens our witness to Christ; the same Spirit was the driving force in the life and the mission of Christ himself (see Second Vatican Council, Decree on the Churchs Missionary Activity [Ad Gentes], no. 4).

Mission and the Global Community In some ways, modern technology and media have drawn the whole world together. Mission, while happily making use of technological advances in communications, is still very much a person-to-person ministry. Catholics want Christs mercy to reach through his Church to the farthest corners of the world.

We also recognize that our Catholic faith needs to confront those ideas that are perilous. v

Values that degrade the human spirit are also promoted worldwide today: extreme secularism, relativism, individualism, and consumerismall of which drive people further apart. They are contrary to the Gospel of Christ and to all that is good.

The light of Christ shines out from the Church in her mission efforts to unmask these evils, and to bring people to a truer communion with God and each other. The Church in mission is the sign and instrument of such a conversion.

Interreligious Dialogue and Mission In her missionary work, the Church encounters many different faiths. In many of the beliefs and convictions of non-Christian religions, the Church finds a ray of that Truth which enlightens all people, and this can be the basis for making strong bonds of dialogue among us (Second Vatican Council, Declaration on the Relations of the Church to Non-Christian Religions [Nostra Aetate], no. 2).

How do Catholics lovingly proclaim faith in Christ while respecting the differing faiths of those they encounter? This is done through interreligious dialogue, and by living our faith in Christ. While we always invite others to the Catholic faith, we also strive to understandand valuewhat is positive in their beliefs. This work is done both by missionaries abroad and by us at home.

On the basis of trust built through love, all Catholics reach out as missionaries and confidently announce the Good News of Christ with words and deeds. The best Christian testimony is love for others.

Teaching Missionaries: Fostering the Missionary Spirit through Education As in the past, the Holy Spirit is calling many Catholics to be missionaries across the globe. There is as great a need as ever for missionaries: more than one thousand dioceses and eparchies in the world are still considered mission territories. There are billions of people who have yet to encounter Christ faceto-face through his missionaries.

There are many ways to accomplish this: forming a network of concern and prayer for missions; inviting others to consider becoming missionaries; encouraging others to support missions with financial contributions. The Holy Spirit has given to those responsible for the formation of the disciples of this age a special grace to enlighten the minds of others.

Mission in the Parish Mission education must take place both in the family and in the parish. It is in the family that true Christian minds are first formed, and in the parish that families grow in faith. There are many rich opportunities to teach about mission in the parish: Religious education formation programs All sacramental preparation programs, especially Baptism and Confirmation The invitation to local missionaries or priests from overseas to visit parishes and schools The publication of missionary stories The teaching of mission histories, such as the study and reflection on the lives of co-patron saints of the Churchs worldwide missionary work, St. Francis Xavier and St. Thrse of Lisieux, and a great missionary of modern times, Blessed Mother Teresa of Calcutta The commemoration of the martyred missionaries and persecuted churches throughout the world, which brings to mind the Passion, Death, and Resurrection of Jesus Christ.