Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

35 Years on 'The Prophetic Edge': Lay Missionary Movement Takes on World's Inequities

Magazine article National Catholic Reporter

35 Years on 'The Prophetic Edge': Lay Missionary Movement Takes on World's Inequities

Article excerpt

"Our task," said Edwina Gateley, "is to be faithful idiots in a world that seems to many to be abandoned by God." The Gospel is not for reasonable people or respectable people, she said. "It is for fools willing to place themselves in places of pain and poverty."

Gateley and Auxiliary Bishop Thomas Gumbleton of Detroit provided sobering presentations June 24 at a gathering in Old St. Patrick's Church in Chicago. The occasion was the 35th anniversary of the Volunteer Missionary Movement, founded by Gateley in England.

She spread the independent, lay-run movement to the United States in 1981. More than 1,700 persons over the years have participated in two-year commitments, mostly in Africa, Latin America and impoverished communities in the United States. The mandate of the movement, she said, is to stand on "the prophetic edge',--a narrow edge--between the world as "the realm of God" and the world as "the place of pain and suffering." However, she added, anyone who believes in the Gospel can be a radical witness by doing "whatever you can to stand against violence and poverty."

Gumbleton, episcopal adviser to the movement, talked of the scandalous inequalities that bedevil the human race. In a world of some 6 billion people, he said, more than 1 billion live in absolute poverty, while another billion hold 87 percent of the world's wealth. Every day, he noted, 40,000 children die of hunger-related illnesses. While many live comfortably in "willful blindness," he said, Christians are called to witness to the fact that "the reign of God is here," current events notwithstanding.

At a reception afterward, Tracy O'Heir, a 30-year-old social worker, told NCR she became a volunteer in the movement after working with African refugees in Chicago, including some of the Lost Boys of Sudan. "I was struck by their strong faith despite being forced to practice a religion that was not theirs and then having to wander around hopelessly in a country torn by violence. …

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