Cardinal Charles Bo, Archbishop of Yangon, opened the 50th Anniversary Mid-Year Celebration of the East Asian Pastoral Institute (EAPI) on June 18 with affirming words recognizing EAPI’s significant role in the growth of the Church across Asia. The Cardinal, an EAPI alumnus himself, shared his testimony on the transforming impact of the institute in the lives of the participants and the life of the Church.
“You provided a warm welcome, you made us proud to be Catholics, your warmth and fellowship healed many of us coming out of bamboo curtain, iron curtain and all curtains” said the Cardinal recalling his experience and that of other participants from Myanmar at EAPI. “You were the field office, what Pope Francis proclaims now, to hundreds of us who came from persecuted countries. So we stand here with a heart laden with gratitude to each one of you, the present staff and those who served this institute.”
The event was for many guests and participants an experience of profound theological reflection, evoking a challenge to respond to the call of “leadership of empty-hands”, which entails selfless service to the best interest of the poor.
One of the guests, Fr James Kroeger MM, noted a significant similarity in the message of Cardinal Bo with that of Pope Francis. “The challenge is the same. We need to be a church that is moving forth, not a static Church but a Church that is moving out!”
Scalabrinian priest Fr Leonilo Mantilla, a sabbatical programme participant, was struck by what Cardinal Bo said about the Eucharist. “The Cardinal stressed the challenge to make the Eucharist a celebration that propels movements of hearts to act on the needs of the poor and not merely to be watched over during long moments of Eucharistic adoration.”
Cardinal Bo looked back on his EAPI days as a formative experience of empowerment, accompaniment, pastoral care and innovation, the four key themes for EAPI guiding the core content and process used to instil among participants a transformation of heart with passion for the mission of the Church in Asia. Like an ocean where the confluence of the five major cultural streams converge, EAPI offers all those who come through its doors enriching, life-giving and faith-nourishing multi-cultural encounters.
Another highlight of the event was the missioning of the 52 participants of Pastoral Leadership and Management for Mission programme and the 16 in the Sabbatical group. In his homily during the missioning Mass, Cardinal Bo enjoined the participants to be wary of anxieties because the Gospel imperative summons an embrace of a life of inner freedom: “Do not be anxious …God is in charge!” His final blessings, in reference to Psalm 45, were words of inspiration for all: “Go forth in your majesty, ride out to victory, defending truth, humility, and justice. Go forth to perform awe-inspiring deeds!”
With a renewed strength of commitment to ensure EAPI continues to be “a stream of hope” for Asia and beyond, Fr Arthur Leger SJ, EAPI Director, and his leadership team continue to navigate towards horizons where the institute can be more effective in the service of Church in Asia and the Universal Church in the years to come.