November 18, 2015 marked the fiftieth anniversary of Vatican Council II’s dogmatic constitution on divine revelation, Dei Verbum (The Word of God), which helped to usher in a new Catholic appreciation of the Bible as the Word of God.
It was also fifty years ago that a Sulpician doing formation ministry in Mérida, Yucatan (Mexico) had the dream of founding a Bible school to actively promote reading and understanding the Bible among the poor, especially in Mexico and the Hispanic world. Thus it was that Father Robert Louis RUSSELL, P.S.S. (1929-2010), founded the Apostolic Biblical College. Later, in 1980, he successfully founded a community of religious sisters and one of religious brothers (The Missionaries of the Mother of God) to perform this ministry by training lay missionary teams to go forth and instruct people on a Catholic approach to the Bible. It received formal diocesan permission in 2010.
Father Russell was an expert at using the latest biblical scholarship from Europe or North America, translating it into common Spanish, and designing and widely distributing an inexpensive popular journal to promote better knowledge of the Bible in parishes and among the poor. In addition to its summary articles, the journal was filled with pictures and illustrations to help make the biblical text more understandable for lay people.
Father Russell went home to the Lord on 16 June 2010, but his ministry in Yucatan lives on in the religious communities he founded and in the many teams of lay missionaries of the Apostolic Biblical College who continue to spread the good news of the Word of God throughout Mexico and internationally.
It is a fitting tribute to recall Father Russell’s contribution to the vision of Dei Verbum: “So may it come that, by the reading and study of the sacred books “the word of God may speed on and triumph” (2 Thess 3:1) and the treasure of revelation entrusted to the church may more and more fill people’s hearts” (DV, 26).