Secular Institutes to explore evangelization in Far East

By Antonio Anup Gonsalves

The general assembly of secular institutes in Asia, being held later this month in South Korea, is committed to finding new ways to share in the continent’s evangelization.

The Asian Conference of Secular Institutes (ACSI) meeting will be held for the first time at the Notre Dame Education Centre in Seoul Oct. 24 – 26.

“The delegates will reflect on the uniqueness of the charism of ‘secular consecration,’ which is still to be understood and appreciated,” Dr. Ivan Netto, president of ACSI, told EWTN News Oct. 15.

First given papal recognition by Pius XII’s Provida Mater Ecclesia, secular institutes are societies of either clerics or laity whose members profess the evangelical counsels and who live in a secular condition for the sake of Christian perfection.

Members of secular institutes, though they profess the evangelical counsels, live in the world, unlike members of religious institutes, who live in communities.

According to Netto, the Korean meeting is “very special” because “it is the first ACSI meeting after the canonical erection of ACSI, and the eleventh ACSI meeting since the first meeting in Bangkok, Thailand, in 1975.”

The ACSI was formally recognized by the Holy See on Sept. 27, 2011, when its statutes were approved.

Netto added that holding the meeting in Korea is significant because the Church there is unique in having been founded largely by lay people, whose state of life corresponds to that of most members of secular institutes.

He stressed that “secularity is the attitude of people who are living in the world not as a mere external condition, but as people who are aware that they have a responsibility being in the world to serve the world, to make it as God would have it: more just and human, to sanctify it from within.”

The general assembly will re-examine ACSI’s recently approved statues and reflect on “our roots, and the route ahead,” to further lay a roadmap to work at the grassroots level to be witnesses of Christ.

New office bearers will be elected, and will seek to promote study and research in relevant fields in order to gain greater insight into the present-day mission of secular institutes in Asia.

“We also look forward to the day of encounter with our fellow Korean members of Secular Institutes, to support and encourage them,” Netto said.

Pope Francis,  in his May 10 address to the participants of the General Assembly of the Italian Conference of Secular Institutes, said: “There is an urgent need to reevaluate your sense of belonging of your vocational community which, precisely because it is founded on community life, finds its strengths on it charisma.”

The Pope further added, “For this reason, if each of you are a precious opportunity for other to meet with God, it is about rediscovering the responsibility of being prophetic as a community, to seek together, with humility and patience, a word of sense that can be a gift for the country and for the Church, and to bear witness to it with simplicity.”

The ASCI members noted that in Asia there are some 40 secular institutes of pontifical right, out of the 82 which exist around the world.

Two of these were founded in Asia itself: the Institute of the Maids of the Poor, from India, and Sei Maria Zaizuko Kai, from Japan.

There are also many other secular institutes of diocesan rite in ACSI.

The conference will be attended by nearly 40 delegates representing 17 secular institutes: 14 for laywomen, two for priests, and one for laymen.