A Divine Word Bishop – A Bishop of the Divine Word

Author: Bishop José Luis Corral, SVD Translator: Carlos Melvin, SVD
Subject: Living as an SVD Bishop
Language: English, Spanish
A land, with history and faces to embrace.

With great pleasure I am able to share something of my experiences in these almost two years of Episcopal ministry in the new mission that the Church has entrusted to me.
On August 31, 2019, I was ordained Coadjutor Bishop of the Diocese of Añatuya, in the Province of Santiago del Estero, Argentina. And after two months I am appointed Diocesan Bishop.
The Diocese of Añatuya was created in 1961, large in area, almost 70,000 km2., The population concentrated in some small cities and mostly scattered in rural communities that total approximately 200,000 inhabitants. It is one of the poorest dioceses in the country and therefore pastoral action has had a marked emphasis on human and social advancement since its inception.
It has 23 parishes, more than 350 chapels or community centers, 20 schools and colleges, job training centers, radios, homes for children – elderly – disabled, dining rooms, wardrobes, pharmacies, etc., all these spaces and projects are served by 35 priests, 60 religious, many lay catechists, promoters, animators, etc.
Popular religiosity is very evident in its devotions and practices, it constitutes a true reservoir of life and spirituality transmitted from generation to generation.
There are numerous challenges that in the history of the Diocese has attempted to respond to them: Eradication of ranches and the construction of houses. Being a very arid area, isolated and devoid of water, water channels, cisterns, boreholes, roads were built. Given the lack of opportunities for local development and scarcity of resources, cooperatives and community productive enterprises were promoted. Due to the lack of education and health care, due to the absence of the State, various sectors responded with educational, health and labor proposals. Today new challenges are added such as the accompaniment and containment of addicted people, women victims of violence, children with malnutrition, etc.
This brushstroke with some features can contextualize where I was invited to assume pastoral care as Bishop, land and faces that I want to embrace and where I want to give myself entirely, sharing life, faith and mission with these new brothers and sisters that the Lord gives me.

I came to offer my missionary heart

Before continuing to delve into the reflection, I want to share that when I received the news of this appointment, I lived it with uncertainty for not being in the foreseeable projects  that I envisioned within my religious province. But I also assumed it with openness and serenity, knowing that God is the one who is directing history and that if he asked me for this step now, I could count on his grace.

Of course, everything was very mobilizing and at the same time very fast, it was a great detachment and many things changed radically for me. I cannot deny that I felt the pain because suddenly I was in a new place, unknown to me, without SVD community and with all the questions and insecurities typical of a beginner and a learner. But what is always preached about availability, promptness, detachment, when the mission demands us and we discern it as the will of God mediated by the Church, now touched me in my own flesh with a new scope.
Another reason for accepting was knowing that Pope Francis wanted for this Diocese someone who came from a religious and missionary family; I felt that Añatuya was a purely missionary Diocese, with a beautiful trajectory where other missionaries gave and achieved a lot.
A Diocese of humble and hospitable people, hungry for God and seeking a dignified life for all, was presented to me as my measure and style, there were no excuses or justification to reject the request. That is why when arriving to this new mission I wanted to offer my missionary heart to be here and now and be a witness of Jesus Christ.

Divine Word Missionary forever and with great pride.

Today I feel that the years lived in the Congregation have made me very happy, I gather and treasure countless experiences that I will never stop being grateful for, they have provided me with everything that today I can display in this local church and above all they have imbued me in a spirituality that sustains and nurtures me.
Since I was in formation, I began appropriating that expression of ours of living the paschal exodus to the peripheries and borders, then growing in the prophetic dialogue with the various interlocutors, becoming transformative missionary disciples together with the companions on the journey, putting first of all the last. All this lived from a mystique that takes root in the One and Triune God, from the incarnation model of the Word, from the centrality of the Word of God and the experience of interculturality in the dynamism of the Spirit.
Today I think and feel from this rich Arnoldian heritage and I cannot but impregnate my style of being and build a christian church from it, it is like something that I cannot hide and that I transmit it in my gestures, words and attitudes.
In my Episcopal shield I was also able to capture a Trinitarian symbolic background and my motto is precisely the missionary mandate of Jesus to his disciples “Go and proclaim the Gospel” – Mt. 28,19 – which connects us with the vocation of all the baptized and with the reason for being and existing of the Church.

8 VERBS TO LINK  THE MISSION

I choose 8 verbs for the reflection, although in the last General Chapter of the Divine Word, took them out, we cannot disassociate them from the inheritance of the founding generation of our congregations that laid foundations and sowed the seed that later germinated and multiplied.

  1. OPEN. Open ourselves to the Word, interpretation and creative response to the signs of the times. Link ourselves to others with openness to understand better and love more. Arnoldo and José, the co-founding mothers and pioneers in our family pointed out to us the centrality of Scripture in our life and mission. Today we are talking about the biblical animation of pastoral care, returning to the Word as a source of catechesis, pastoral care, the liturgy, and human promotion.
  2. SHARE and UNITE . Forming communities of missionary disciples; cultivating relationships of trust, openness, co-responsibility, mutual fraternity. Unite others in networks; the poor in their struggle for justice; join with other members of the S. Arnold family and laity. Everyone has their own culture, language, and customs to share with others. Share the Word and life. Share resources and assets with the poor; practice solidarity with those who have less. Share the charism and spirituality among ourselves and with the laity. It is in our DNA to appreciate diversity as wealth, from the beginning we were configured as international, multicultural communities and it is very present to be respectful of the cultures where we intend to inculturate the Gospel and evangelize cultures. We are progressively opening the charismatic treasures to the laity and sharing in the mission no longer as owners or providers but as co-responsible for a mission that contains us all. Today we rename this attitude as synodality, where we are making the journey together.
  3. COMMIT and give TESTIMONY. Bear witness to the unity and diversity of the Kingdom of God in its openness and universality in the intercultural mission that we embrace. Our world listens more to witnesses than to teachers. Rediscover and renew the commitment to bear witness to Christ in the world through a more radical commitment to mission. As Saint Arnold said, “the missionary is not the light, he is a witness of the Light”. The first and main means that we have for evangelization is personal and community witness; no plan or strategy can replace the testimony that makes us credible and meaningful to others.
  4. CONVERTION and TRANSFORMATION. Transform ourselves and transform the world. Renewing and recreating relationships, ways and styles of life, spirit and missionary criteria. Reconfiguring new situations, local needs, current challenges and new ways of being missionaries. The love of Christ and being rooted in his Word move us to permanent conversion to grow as transforming missionary disciples. The life of Saint Joseph Freinademetz motivates us to confront ourselves with the process of his interior conversion in his insertion in the midst of the Chinese. We are never a finished and definitive product, we are on the way and today we talk about this need for permanent conversion and transformation.
  5. DIALOGUE. We are driven to cultivate an intimate dialogue with the Word, so that the beauty of this “symphony of the Word” in its fullness resonates in the world today and in our missionary communities. Fraternal dialogue, mutual learning and teamwork are necessary elements for our coexistence as brothers. The challenge is to enter into dialogue within ourselves, in the community and in the mission with our interlocutors. Those who open up to dialogue allow others to enter their home and at the same time allow themselves to be accommodated in the homes of others. We have in all our communities these beautiful testimonies of the efforts, dedication, processes of the missionaries to learn the language to which they were sent and to establish conversation with others.
  6. DISCERN and LISTEN. In prayer and action listen to the Lord, to others, to reality itself. Listen with open hearts and minds to the many ways God speaks to us. Hear the voice of God, hear both the cry of the earth and the cry of the poor. Listen to each other and together listen to the Holy Spirit. Listening is much more than listening, listening empathically, listening to the unsaid and listening to the differences, the oppositions; the different in ideas, ages, beliefs, to include and integrate. Discern what the Holy Spirit wants from each one of us and from our Congregations. Discover what God is calling us to do today. Saint Arnold Janssen is for all of us a man of faith, a teacher of discernment, he sought to recognize God’s will and when he saw it clearly, nothing stopped him from carrying it out and fulfilling it. Today we need the permanent exercise of discernment, personal and community, so that our action is not repetitive or mechanical, but sprouts from the wisdom and lucidity of deciphering the divine will in the signs and events of the times.
  7. TO BE ROOTED. Remain deeply and constantly rooted in the Word, which manifests itself in various forms, places, people, and realities. Rooting is the fruit of a real incarnation where the Lord asks us to flourish and bear fruit; It is when we conceive that smells, tastes, feelings, desires, searches of where we stay and with whom we live we can participate. The people with whom we share perceive when we are comfortable and we are with both feet in the intended place or when we are forced and forced without desire or conviction.
  8. TO SERVE. Putting the last first and responding to the needs (spiritual and material) of the poor. We are urged by the loving service of others in mission. Serve like Jesus, like our founding generation, like those who arrived in the beginnings of our communities who did not allow themselves to be won in generosity and who spent themselves giving life at times in the most hidden and silent of the everyday doing the ordinary extraordinarily. Service that seeks to bring tenderness and mercy to the discarded, awaken dignity and arouse hope

By conjugating these verbs with the grammar that Arnoldo and José, Mothers María and Josefa, Micaela and many others teach us, we are walking together, step by step, side by side, from grace to grace.

Biographical data of Fr. Obispo José Luis Corral SVD

He was born on August 12, 1968 in the city of Córdoba. He entered the Congregation of the Divine Word Missionaries in 1987, in 1996 he made perpetual vows. He received priestly ordination in 1997
He served in different apostolates as parish priest, formator and novice teachers in Argentina and Paraguay. He also accompanied the pastoral work in Maracaibo, Venezuela, at the beginning of the SVD presence in that country.
He was Provincial Superior of the South Argentine Province of the Divine Word Missionaries until July 19, 2019, when the Holy Father Francisco appointed them coadjutor bishop of the diocese of Añatuya, in the province of Santiago del Estero, Argentina, and then diocesan bishop.

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Bishop José Luis Corral SVD was born on August 12, 1968 in the city of Córdoba. He entered the Congregation of the Divine Word Missionaries in 1987, in 1996 he made perpetual vows. He received priestly ordination in 1997
He served in different apostolates as parish priest, formator and novice teachers in Argentina and Paraguay. He also accompanied the pastoral work in Maracaibo, Venezuela, at the beginning of the SVD presence in that country.
He was Provincial Superior of the South Argentine Province of the Divine Word Missionaries until July 19, 2019, when the Holy Father Francisco appointed them coadjutor bishop of the diocese of Añatuya, in the province of Santiago del Estero, Argentina, and then diocesan bishop.

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