Find Your Voice for Missions
Support those who spread the Gospel around the world
Twin lamps — one was empty; the other, overflowing.
That’s what Pauline Jaricot, a young girl in early 19th-century France, saw in a vision while she was at prayer. For her, the drained lamp signified the faith in her homeland of France. The faith of the new young churches, shining brightly in the missions of her day — including the United States and the missions of China — could revitalize her home church; Pauline felt sure of it.
A Brother’s Letters
Pauline learned of the growing faith and the work of the missions from her brother, Phileas, who was preparing for the priesthood. “I have so much to tell you about the missions I don’t know where to begin,” Phileas wrote his sister in late January 1821. With every note, he became a voice for the missionaries who were building the Church, proclaiming the Gospel and serving the poor. Phileas told of persecutions of priests and religious, even martyrdom. He wrote of the hunger for the Faith the missionaries witnessed.
About Madagascar, he wrote, “an island which has so long been watered by the sweat and blood of the sons of St. Vincent de Paul,” but which had no priest at the time. “The people are so anxious to be Christian that they go to an island several hundred miles away, where there is a priest, to get their children baptized,” Phileas wrote in June 1821.
The details sparked a flame in Pauline, fueling her vision of the twin lamps and motivating her to organize support for the young mission churches of her day. She gathered groups of 10 people who would pray daily for the missions and offer weekly help. In one year, she had 500 people offering this regular help and daily prayer. Pauline wrote to her brother of her efforts, and he responded, “I have just read your letter, and I am delighted.”
Pauline’s plan for daily prayer and regular sacrifice for all the Church’s missions eventually led to the establishment in 1822 of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, one of four Pontifical Mission Societies. Within the first 100 years of its existence, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith sent some $7 million in help to the young Church in the United States. (Today, only the Diocese of Fairbanks, Alaska, receives help from the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, still benefiting from her vision.) The young Church here at home started contributing to the society in 1833, with a humble gift of $6. Today, U.S. Catholics contribute about 25 percent of the support collected worldwide for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith for some 1,100 mission dioceses.
While the location for missions has changed — now Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands and parts of Latin America and Europe — what remains are the stories of the growing faith in the missions, the need to encourage help for these young mission churches and their potential to “revitalize faith,” as Pope St. John Paul II observed about mission (Redemptoris Missio, No. 2) and as Pauline Jaricot saw in her vision of the twin lamps.
Voices for Hope and Healing
Father Obidi Gildas, a parish priest in the Ivory Coast in West Africa, serves a flock scattered among 28 outstations across many miles of dirt roads. In the clear weather, Father Obidi makes the journey via motorbike. During the rainy season, however, the roads become impassible, and those much-needed visits are virtually impossible to make. He’s working on getting a large four-wheel-drive truck to continue his ministry no matter the weather.
There’s a lot of suffering and need in his diocese, Father Obidi acknowledges. His parishioners are subsistence farmers with little access to electricity, health services and, in some cases, clean water. He accompanies them through it all, striving to be a hope-filled presence, and he is grateful for the support he receives to do so. Celebrating 10 years as a priest this year, Father Obidi notes that he offers Mass every Thursday and Saturday for those who support missionary work and for the needs of the Church in other areas of the world, because “love and charity have no borders,” he says.
In another part of Africa, in Uganda, the childhood experience of Father Eugene Kalyango fueled his priestly vocation and inspired his service. Desperate to find out why their child was still unable to walk even well after his first birthday, his parents took him to the Villa Maria Mission Hospital in central Uganda. The doctor, a religious sister, informed his parents that he was severely malnourished and advised them how best to care for Eugene. With much love and support, and the assistance of a kind neighbor who shared his supply of milk with the family, Eugene started walking and thriving.
Today, Father Eugene serves people with disabilities, young and old, at the St. Vincent Pallotti Home in Masaka, Uganda. Built in 2013, the home provides advocacy and public health education programs, as well as rehabilitation services and post-surgical treatments to the poor and marginalized.
Most importantly, staff at St. Vincent Pallotti Home empower family members to care for their loved ones at home.
“When I recall and reflect on the suffering in my early childhood, I see God’s intervention in my life,” Father Eugene said. “I use this same courage to face the challenges of other people, and I thank the Lord for having used me as an instrument of peace, joy and healing.”
World Mission Sunday
In his message for World Mission Sunday this year, Pope Francis reflects on life as a mission:
“Each one of us is called to reflect on this fact: ‘I am a mission on this Earth; that is the reason why I am here in this world’ (Evangelii Gaudium, No. 273),” he writes. He particularly addresses young people: “In speaking to you, I also address all Christians who live out in the Church the adventure of their life as children of God. What leads me to speak to everyone through this conversation with you is the certainty that the Christian faith remains ever young when it is open to the mission that Christ entrusts to us.”
|‘A Voice for Good News’|
The Pontifical Mission Societies, through their
missio.org website, offer Scripture blogs for
priests and deacons, as well as for parishioners,
• “Preaching Mission,” to enable you to be
a voice for Good News, provides, as a homily
help, connections to mission from the readings
of Sundays, feast days and holy days of obligation.
• “Mission In Scripture,” to nurture a missionary
heart, provides reflections on the missionary
themes in the readings of Sundays, feast days
and holy days of obligation.
• Missio.org also enables you to connect with
mission voices — the priests, religious and lay
pastoral leaders serving in the pope’s missions.
Their stories are told through MissioBot, the
Facebook Messenger bot of the Pontifical Mission
Societies. MissioBot also provides daily wisdom
from Pope Francis and answers questions related
to mission and faith. Visit missio.org, and click
“Chat Now” to get started.
The Pontifical Mission Societies, which include the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the pope says, “were born of young hearts as a means of supporting the preaching of the Gospel to every nation and thus contributing to the human and cultural growth of all those who thirst for knowledge of the truth.”
The “young heart” of Pauline Jaricot saw her heart, she once said, as “made for the whole world,” praying daily that she could “love without measure, without end.” Her brother, Phileas, showed her the way to do that. She heard the voices of the missions of her day from his letters and encouraged prayers and help to support their growth and service.
World Mission Sunday offers you the opportunity to be a voice for mission today, just as Phileas was for his sister, Pauline; a voice for Fathers Obidi and Eugene, and for priests, religious and lay pastoral leaders in the pope’s missions, who are building the Church and serving the poor. Materials from the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, both in print and through the MissioBot, the Facebook Messenger Bot of the pope’s mission societies, tell those stories.
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And then, as you celebrate Mass on World Mission Sunday weekend (Oct. 20-21), consider this start to your homily, borrowing the words of Phileas Jaricot: “I have so much to tell you about the missions I don’t know where to begin.” And be certain that the echo back from mission priests, religious and laity, for the prayers and support you encourage, will be, “We have learned what you have done, and we are delighted.”
The PONTIFICAL MISSION SOCIETIES are the pope’s mission societies and include the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the beneficiary of the collection on World Mission Sunday.