It was recently my great privilege to represent the Catholic Church of the United States at CAM4 – the Congresso Americano Misionero in Maracaibo, Venezuela. This Congress, held every five years, brings together Catholics from every country in the Americas, from Canada to Chile. It is hosted by the Pontifical Mission Societies, which is present in every country and diocese in the world. Our theme this year was “American Missionaries, Share Your Faith!” During the week long Congress, we were called on to shout it out over and over. “América Misionera: comparte tu fe!” became our greeting, our cheer and our prayer.
As you can imagine, the logistics of bringing together over 3000 delegates, housing them, feeding them and translating talks into multiple languages are immense. It began at the tiny Maracaibo airport, making sure that everyone’s name was on their delegation’s list. As luck would have it (or not have it!) mine was left off. As a non-Spanish speaker, I did my best to convince the CAM4 representative that I was indeed a delegate needing a ride, not just an accidental tourist in Maracaibo. He kept pointing to the list, however. My name was not there. It was then that I realized I had the perfect calling card – I took out my World Mission Rosary and held it up as proof of my Mission Societies identity. His eyes lit up! My ride to the credential site was secured.
We arrived at the Collegio Santa Rita, a local high school, where scores of volunteers in bright green shirts descended on us, took my bags and escorted me to an English speaker who would issue my Congress credentials and make sure I had a bottle of water and a snack. I would soon see this army of young volunteers everywhere I went! Eager to help with anything at a moment’s notice they showed the vibrancy of the mission Church, young and full of life. One in particular that day stood out to me because of her story.
|RoseAngel (right) with her fellow Voluntarios|
RoseAngel is attending college and studying French and English. She hopes to be a translator, perhaps working her country’s diplomatic corps so she can see the world. I asked her why she would take a week out of her life to volunteer for the Mission Congress, thinking perhaps it was to practice her language skills. Her answer thrilled me.
“I’m a missionary,” said RoseAngel. “I’ve always been taught that my baptism makes me a missionary. How could I miss this opportunity to share my faith?”
-Maureen Crowley Heil