Monsignor Francisco Javier Acero offers in this second part of the interview, among others, his comments on the social issue and the MCS in the Archdiocese of Mexico, the problem of vocations and the importance of lay people in diocesan life, valuing the role of the FSAR – Secular Augustinian-Recollect Fraternities – and the ARY -Augustinian-Recollect Youth- in ecclesial life.
In a previous interview you showed your interest in working on the social problematic that in the megalopolis of Mexico City will be overwhelming. Has the Archdiocese, any plan to alleviate some of the most urgent problems?
The Archdiocese of Mexico follows the global pastoral project that is for the entire country. Each of the Vicariates is also creating its own plan. The plan of the Vicariate of lay people in the world have a plan for each dimension. In the month of August in a assembly that we had in this Vicariate we were able to see the need for connection and networking between all dimensions.
Faced with the problems of migration, poverty, and forced disappearances, we must row in the same direction together and from dialogue. When a dimension works alone, isolates herself, exhausts her own initiatives and does not aim at her own recipients: the most vulnerable. Not an easy task, but one that has a development internal and external work. I believe that through dialogue and listening there are solutions.
The light that the synod has given us from the conversations of the Spirit and the evaluations as continuous improvement processes will help us to live the social dimension not as a pastoral appendix, but rather as an Archdiocese that lives in the process of permanent evangelization in solidarity with the most vulnerable.
Likewise, he showed his desire to get involved in the MCS. Has it been possible for you? What actions are you taking in this field? Does the Archdiocese have any plans to action in the short, medium and long term?
I accompany the communication office of the Archdiocese of Mexico and the weekly newspaper “From faith” that increasingly has more presence on social networks and in the social communication of a religious nature.
The Church has to be in dialogue with the world and, although there is participation in the press, radio and television on religious issues, Also the editorials that are disseminated have repercussions in the conventional and political media with a good participation in these media.
We also collaborate in the communication pastoral of the Episcopal Conference. And, of course, we are focused on social networks, making it clear that it is the message, the content, the protagonist of the news and not so much the messenger. The Communication team meets every Monday to review current events in Mexico and the world.
There is an action plan evaluated by the team of lay people who work on this team, and an institutional crisis management team. And meetings to design the covers of the magazine “From Faith”.
How is the Archdiocese treating the field of vocational culture and accompaniment of specific vocations for ordained ministry? Could offer some information?
The data is declining. There are 420 diocesan priests, 780 religious priests, 300 religious communities in the Archdiocese of Mexico. After the pandemic the youth communities of the Archdiocese, as well as the movements, they have had to start new processes.
At this moment in the vocational process there is a group of thirty young people who are following each other from their homes. The Seminar Conciliar of México has forty-five seminarians in the training process.
They are few compared to what this complex city is. There is a phenomenon in the great Mexico City of de-Christianization that has been experienced for a long time. Also in this Archdiocese there are very religious places that live the popular religiosity that we must understand and accompany. These are vocational places.
The numbers indicate that work with the laity must be better accompanied and procedural, dialoguing and creating simple and close structures where they actively participate the faithful. Men and women religious, priests and bishops encourage and accompany.
The good materials and vocational gestures that have been successful have been because they have done it from below, with a healthy presence and comprehensive support. The understanding of the new reality we live in makes us be creative and look for models. May they help us to be close and merciful to everyone. I think the Vocational education problem does not have to be reduced to numbers, rather reflect on personal convictions and in our way of living as Catholics in today’s world.
It also seems appropriate to say that our narrative has to change for complete, based on joy, availability, dedication. Wevstay stuck what we live in other times is a danger that ultimately divides us. Today we are called to be prophets of hope remembering that of Psalm 23, 4 “Although I walk along dark paths, I will not fear, because you are with me; your rod and your staff “They give me security.”
Although I believe that the auxiliary bishops – I do not know if the Cardinal as well – live together, how are you coping with the lack of a community where people with vocation for that type of life, as when you lived when you were a “friar” without any other attribute? Do you frequently visit the communities of Augustinian Recollects that are located in CDM?
We auxiliary bishops live in a house adapted to live in community. The diverse tasks that we have cause us to find ourselves in certain moments of the day and have a few days of coexistence during a month.
Of course the community life changes by not having a model of religious life governed by the constitutions, provincial life projects and community life projects. I feel accompanied by the auxiliary bishops, especially those with whom I live most at home. I think the closeness of each of them is teaching me to be close with the presbytery and the people of God. Mr. Carlos lives close to the community and makes present with us. He also lives in a small community with close people who helps him in secretarial work, mainly.
Now that you can see things from the other side, how do you see the Church’s participation of religious in the life of local Churches, and vice versa?
Your participation is important. In the Archdiocese of Mexico there are more religious than diocesan priests. And let us remember that the history of the Church in Latin American began with religious life. Next year we celebrate the V Centenary of the arrival of the first Franciscans to Mexico City. I feel that we must work together.
The contribution that the religious make in the Deanery and in the Archdiocese is very healthy, and the work of delivery and availability of many diocesan priests. The problems that we experience in consecrated and diocesan life are the same, they are human.
We must invest efforts so that we can help ourselves from experience to create community, priestly fraternity in the Dioceses and archdiocesan identity in consecrated life. This is an art. It is easy if we remove prejudices and see from history how we have to be grateful to each other.
Today consecrated life teaches the world a unique encounter between observance and prophecy, where the young are the observant and the elderly are the prophetic. This helps in the life of an Archdiocese like that of Mexico. Its own identity helps us to network and propose Jesus incarnate in the realities of the world.
I believe that in consecrated life and diocesan life we must overcome differences in plurality, understanding that we can live differently vocations and have experiences of encounter with God who is the one who unites us. Having diverse charismas helps us create community and flee from all types of victimhood. From what I am visiting and learning is that from active listening we can overcome barriers that separate us and apply mercy. Be tolerant to other forms of life opens new possibilities and makes the Spirit harmonize us and make us more prophets of light.
Do you believe that the union with the laity within the Augustinian-Recollect Family, through the Secular Fraternities and the ARY, is a good charismatic contribution to the Local churches, beyond the work of clerics?
Fraternities are lay communities of unconditional support to religious communities. They must be integrated into the pastoral care and from their integration their own Lifestyle. This enriches the life of the Diocese.
There are already religious congregations who have this very well organized with less time than ours, the Augustinians Recollects from what I know, and I express it with affection and respect, in some fraternities, the “master and disciple” complex must be overcome, since all we learn from everyone.
It is good and fundamental to know Saint Augustine and create materials for the intellectual life of our lay people. But it is about living Jesus Christ and making him known from a very ecclesial charisma such as the Augustinian Recollects.
The spirituality of the Order is for the Church and to the extent that our lay people understand that they have to being at the service of the Church they will understand the importance of creating community.
I liked what the Pope said on March 17, 2022 to the members of the General Chapter : “may we have a father’s heart and creative courage.” This is what we must offer to the laity. When we turn the structures of fraternity into meeting of friends, where the leader victimizes himself to turn them into his own pastoral, we deceive the principle and nature of secular fraternities.
I wonder with Pope Francis if we are preparing people to follow the spirituality of the Order, not only to the “friends”, nor people who are empathetic with some religious. This of preparing lay people to form other lay people from some closed structures with non-secular names tend to wear out and agony. I believe that when lay people are prepared to live with joy and discretion the gift of interiority, they are creators of community committed in some dimension of the local Church.
The invitation is that we let the lay Augustinian Recollects work in the diocesan plan from each ministry. The poison of clericalism and the laity clerical must be avoided and also look for antidotes to promote communion and healthy participation that leads to the creation of more current and less monastic.
I get the impression that the episcopacy, which is a sacrament, has awakened a wider world and feels content. I ask the Good Shepherd to fill you with his pastoral charity. Thanks for your answers..