Maryknoller's pastoral approach to people, problems evoked positive response

Maryknoll Fr. John J. Considine

By Robert Hurteau
Published by Orbis Books, $45

Pope Francis, the Argentine Jesuit, has become a media phenomenon. His pastoral approach to the world's people and their problems has struck a universal chord of positive response. Where did he come from? Robert Hurteau's new book, A Worldwide Heart, makes no reference to the pope, but it provides an excellent historical context to help people understand the tremendous changes in Latin America during the 20th century.

Hurteau, a former Maryknoll priest, uses the personal history and worldwide missionary vision of Maryknoll Fr. John J. Considine (1897-1982) to show the evolution of Catholic missionary service and influence. Particularly, he chronicles how the church has changed in Latin America, where Considine was such a major figure.

In 1961, Pope John XXIII called for all communities of women and men religious in the United States to send 10 percent of their membership for mission service in Latin America within the decade. The figure was never reached, but all religious communities responded, as did diocesan clergy and lay missionary groups.

In 1955, in Rio de Janiero, a small group of Latin American bishops had begun what would become the Episcopal Conference of Latin America, known by its Spanish acronym, CELAM. The bishops of the United States began their Latin American Bureau in 1960, and Considine was named its first director. With the Second Vatican Council (1962-65), CELAM and the Latin American Bureau came into full flower, and the Catholic churches of the Western Hemisphere worked in closer collaboration than ever before. Meanwhile, the Cold War challenged all the countries and their colonial Catholic churches to a new awakening about social justice and cultural identity.

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A version of this story appeared in the Sept 26-Oct 9, 2014 print issue under the headline: Maryknoller had a vision of mission .

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