Father Antonio Velasco was elected as president of the fraternity at its third general congress. The monthlong congress began Jan. 17, the fraternity's 44th anniversary.
In this interview Father Velasco comments on the future of the missionary fraternity, a new institution of pontifical right for consecrated individuals, approved as such in 2000.
Q: The theme of the congress was "A Charism at the Service of the Word." What importance does the word of God have in the fraternity, and in the life of the Church in general?
Father Velasco: Verbum Dei centers its mission on the living word of God.
With the motto of Jesus' first disciples -- "We shall dedicate ourselves to prayer and ministry of the word" -- our mission consists in living the dynamism of the word of God: to pray the word, assimilating it until it becomes our life, transforming us into it and thus teaching it to others, with the hope that they too will pray, live and teach it existentially to others.
It is a vital dynamism which makes of the Church a home that is always open.
We are aware that the word of God, exactly as it was described by the Synod of Bishops of 1985, is one of the two sources of the Church -- word of God and sacraments.
This is why the word is constituted as soul and engine, norm and spirit for the Church; it is light on her path -- as the psalm says -- light to become a communion of disciples of Jesus in his own mission.
It is the place where God speaks and manifests his will and, at the same time, it is the school of life and love for the disciples and apostles of Jesus, whether they are lay people, consecrated persons or priests.
The news of the next Synod of Bishops, with the theme the "Word of God in the Life and Mission of the Church," has been an immense joy for us. We believe it might be a breath of Spirit for the Church, for faith communities, for diocesan entities, for the ecumenical movement, as well as for the joining of forces of all confessions in a mission that frees us from the narrow ways of concentrating on internal problems and endless discussions.
Q: What are your plans as the fraternity's new president?
Father Velasco: What are my plans? I'd like to know them. Instead, I would ask what plans does the Holy Spirit have, as he is really the one who guides this work.
For my part, I believe that the tasks that have arisen from the fraternity's third ordinary congress are a priority to which I wish to respond with all my strength.
In the same way I hope to respond to the functions proper to the figure of the president, exactly as outlined by Father Jaime Bonet, founder of Verbum Dei. In short, to consolidate and guarantee the dimension of communion in diversity of the charism of Verbum Dei -- made up of a branch of celibate women, a branch of celibate men and a branch of consecrated married couples -- to work to make unity and communion of mission and of judgments in the Fraternity.
Q: Verbum Dei's founder was present at the third general congress. Did he give you some advice?
Father Velasco: During the days of the congress, not only to me but to all the participants, he repeated certain basic but extraordinarily vital things in the present time of the Church and of our world.
The first, repeated in his words, but especially by his example, is the call to live an intense spirituality, centered on continual living together with the Trinity and Mary, who dwell in us and make up our first home. From this continuous and affectionate dialogue, a missionary heart is born, on fire with the desire to attract to the love of God the greatest number of people, and without fear of the difficulties proper to the mission.
Finally, he transmitted to us a very great experience of freedom, born from prayer, which leads to seeking always new ways of evangelization without tying us to structures, schemes or our own interests, and enlightened by a hope that goes beyond human effectiveness or apparent results.
Q: Do you think that there is a lack of involvement and commitment on the part of Catholics in the evangelization of the present world?
Father Velasco: In my missionary experience over several parts of the world, I have seen people of every social condition very involved in the proclamation and living of the Gospel.
Some cases have made me kneel down and weep with gratitude and sorrow: I am speaking of Catholics, whom I have known personally, who have even shed their blood out of love for the Kingdom of God.
The picture in our Western world, however, is very confused, and people suffer much from the lifestyle that has been created which is so individualistic and superficial.
People need and want to be involved in evangelization or in the building of a world that is more solidaristic, but often they don't know how, or do not have the strength to break the virtual bubble into which a global consumerist world has gently introduced us.
With some help and support, and when people are introduced into the school of life and love which is the Gospel, people enjoy it and give the best of themselves.
I believe the Church must be forged as a true school of apostles. Only in this way will Catholics be able to give the best of themselves, and this will make them feel more linked to the Church affectively, regarding her as their own family; a family in which we participate actively and of which we can be proud despite its obvious limitations.
Q: In addition to the missionaries, consecrated persons and priests, the fraternity includes missionary married couples. Of what importance is the family from the point of view of evangelization?
Father Velasco: For us, it is vital. Not only because the family is the first evangelizer of children, but because, in addition, it contributes to the living of faith and love of priests and consecrated persons.
I think that we, the consecrated, need the contribution of Christian families to live our consecration and mission fully. The Family of Nazareth is, in fact, the best model of a community of faith.