The Mission Stories
In Nepal, people greet each other saying “Namaste!” with a slight bow, made with hands pressed together, palms touching and fingers pointed upwards. It literally means “To You!” This sign of respect was explained to me as one of the participants at the National Meeting of the Pontifical Mission Societies held in Seattle, Washington a few years ago. Our teacher was Bishop Anthony Sharma, S.J., Vicar Apostolic of Nepal, part of our extended One Family in Mission.
Bishop Sharma travelled from his country to share the work of the Church in Nepal: work that all four Pontifical Mission Societies have had a hand in helping to build. He told us a bit about the geography and culture of his country. Located between China and India, Nepal is a mostly Hindu country; just one per cent of the population is Christian. The Bishop shared that while there are many outside forces working against Christianity in Nepal, hope sustains his people. They know that “Tomorrow will be a better day because God is in control.”
Nepal’s Shepherd also came to thank us as representatives of you, our benefactors. He told us that without support from the Propagation of the Faith, the Church in Nepal would not have survived. This support made his own vocation possible.
Born twelve hours after his father’s death, Bishop Sharma knew that as the only son, he must care for his mother and carry on the family line. When his Jesuit principal asked him about the priesthood, he responded very simply, “No Way!” He knew he had other obligations. When he finally worked up the courage to tell his mother that he wanted to enter the Jesuits, she told him, “Over my dead body will you be a priest!” But as he tried to pray the thought away, the desire to serve God became greater. The day he was to leave for the seminary, he finally broke the news to his mother who walked to the doorway and prostrated herself. She told him, “You want to leave? Walk over me.”
“That was a step I had to take,” Bishop Sharma shared.
Catholics of Nepal have been graced with a courageous leader, whose strength and courage have led him to stand against many obstacles, be they political or personal. We wish him the same blessing that his mother finally gave him on the day of his ordination: “May all rocks before you turn to dust!”
-Maureen Crowley Heil
A Faith-filled Education is the Key
On one of his visits to the Mission Office, Fr. Patrick McGillicuddy, C.Ss.R. shared details of his work outside Sao Paulo, Brazil. Fr. Pat has worked for many years with what he terms ‘the throw-aways’ of society – prostitutes, drug addicts and troubled young adults. He told us the ministry at his center, named for Our Lady of Perpetual Help, is not easy to promote because of the people who he serves. “There are no adorable children or cuddly elderly people to put on a poster,” he says. “These are people that society considers trouble; most of us would rather look away.”
Fr. Pat does not avert his gaze. Instead, he has welcomed all in faith; people find shelter, food, drug rehabilitation if they need it, and, most importantly, education.
On this subject, he does not mince words. He tells us that many of the young people who come to him from the streets actually have the equivalent of a high school diploma. When they are tested for proficiency, however, they are found to be reading and writing at about a second grade level. They have been passed from grade to grade just to keep them moving through the system. Fr. Pat calls this “a disaster”.
Catholic schools in Brazil are not an option for these young people – they cannot afford the tuition. And so, they are left on the margins of their community to eke out a living any way they can unless they are blessed to have Fr. Pat enter their lives.
Because of support that he has received through the Pontifical Mission Societies in parishes across our Archdiocese, Fr. Pat offers people a new way of life. He invites them to learn about themselves, teaches them life skills, and introduces them to the key: faith in Jesus. “We never force it on anyone, of course,” Father says with his slight Irish lilt. “But they all end up asking to be baptized – every one of them.”
To hear Fr. Pat speak about his work in Brazil, click here.
Then, say a prayer of thanksgiving for your own education that allows you to read this story, and please, add a prayer for those that Fr. Pat serves – the “least of our brothers and sisters.”
-Maureen Crowley Heil
I Am Sending You
Student members of the Missionary Childhood Association hear a very special message: they are sent!
In John’s Gospel, when Jesus appeared to His disciples after the Resurrection, He told them “As the Father has sent me, so I send you.” He didn’t say it just to every other one of them or to only the ones who felt qualified for the job. He said it to ALL His followers. Each school year, the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA) is reminding students not only here in the Archdiocese of Boston but across the country that they have a mission –they are being sent to make Jesus known to the ends of the earth.
It is always a joy to speak with the youngest and newest MCA members about how this command can be carried out in their lives on a very practical level. We all agree that the “ends of the earth” can sound pretty overwhelming, if not downright impossible for kids. And yet, that’s what Jesus asks of them, if they are to live their Catholic faith fully. What could He be thinking?
We take a few minutes to think about and discuss it – where is the ends of the earth? The list is unusually long: China, South Africa, India, Venezuela, Thailand. Is anyone in the room headed to any of those places today?
Well, where ARE you going? A second list is made: hockey practice, dance class, piano lessons, after school care, home. Could it be that for today, THOSE places are the ends of the earth?
The real lesson is for that day, for those children, Jesus expected them to carry the Good News to the ends of THEIR earth. So, how could the Gospel be spread in those places? A final list comes: we can play fair, try our hardest, help others struggling to learn skills, be cooperative and loving.
Through the Missionary Childhood Association’s programs, students in Catholic schools and parish faith formation programs across our Archdiocese are being formed to be missionaries. They are being sent to the ends of their earth and beyond.
Where is Jesus sending YOU today?
-Maureen Crowley Heil
Sometimes, Mission is a Real Circus!
Part of our “One Family in Mission” Team here in the Pontifical Mission Societies’ office is Sr. Lisa Valentini, a Missionary Sister of the Most Sacred Heart of Jesus. Sr. Lisa visits the Archdiocese most summers – many of you have had the pleasure of hearing her speak in your parish as part of the Propagation of the Faith’s Missionary Cooperative Appeal. The MSC Sisters serve in 22 countries around the world; much of their work is supported by the generous prayers and sacrifices made by the donors to all four Pontifical Mission Societies.
During one visit to our office, Sr. Lisa shared the charism statement of her order with us: We, as MSC Sisters, are called to make Jesus known and loved everywhere.
Sister feels that this gives her and her Sisters the freedom to be exactly who God calls them to be as His witnesses in the world. The Sisters are nurses, doctors, social workers, teachers…it’s an endless list of professional women sent out into the world to minister to God’s people.
You might be surprised to learn that, while it was still travelling, MSC Sisters serving the 300 workers of the Ringling Brothers Barnum and Bailey Circus! Srs. Dorothy and Bernard, who once served in Papua New Guinea, worked for ten years as teachers and catechists for the child performers and children of the circus workers, most of whom are Catholic and from mission countries. As they traveled to perform, the children obviously needed to be taught to read and write, but they most importantly need the consistency of Catholic Religious Education. The sisters provided it all, including sacramental preparation. One year, when the circus came to Boston, they coordinated seven First Holy Communions, six Confirmations and a wedding at St. Michael’s Church in North Andover!
Sister Lisa has been a foreign missionary in Peru, Mexico, Haiti and the Dominican Republic where she was called by God to be a teacher. She is quick to remind us, however, that we are all called to be missionaries, no matter where we live or what our work is, because we are baptized. This gives us all a share in her Sisters’ charism: to make Jesus Christ known and loved to the ends of the earth.
-Maureen Crowley Heil
One Family in Mission
Throughout the year, our Mission Family regularly gives thanks for many things. We are thankful to serve the people of God both here in the Archdiocese of Boston and throughout the mission world. Mostly, we are prayerfully indebted to you, our donors. Without the sacrifices and prayers made by the members of the Pontifical Mission Societies, our work would be impossible.
This week, we gratefully reflect on the following:
Some of the first donations to the Propagation of the Faith were sent to one of the greatest mission lands of the time – the United States of America. Sent to help build churches and schools and train priests, these monies were concrete evidence of the belief of 19th century Catholics that we deserved a chance to know the Catholic faith. Here in the U.S., we continued to receive support from the Propagation of the Faith until 1908. We are now the largest donors in the world to that Society, helping over 1150 mission dioceses have the same start on the road to faith that was afforded to us.
Every week, we gather for Mass in our home parishes in the Archdiocese; our children receive their sacraments regularly and there is clergy present to offer prayers over the graves of our loved ones. This is a privilege not shared by all Catholics and one that the Society of St. Peter the Apostle seeks to correct by helping to raise up a local clergy in the missions. With your donations, seminaries and houses of religious formation for men and women are built; scholarships are given to worthy candidates.
Children are often referred to as the future of world. We believe that they have a faith job -- a mission-- now. As members of the Holy Childhood Association, our children are learning that their brothers and sisters in Christ need their prayers and sacrifices so that they may share the blessings common here—those of clean water, education, and the knowledge that Jesus loves them.
Young and old, clergy and laity, spiritual and material support: for all these things, we are grateful. They make us One Family in Mission.
-Maureen Crowley Heil
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