The Mission Hub

The Pontifical Mission Societies include the Society for the
Propagation of the Faith, the Missionary Childhood Association, the Society of St.Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. These Societies promote a prayerfulmissionary spirit among baptized Catholics and to gather a fund of support for the evangelizing and pastoral programs of more than 1,150 local churches of the Developing World.

Sunday, January 30, 2011

A Mission Thank You

During the holiday season, many of us are in touch with old friends, sharing our stories. A blessing of this job is that many missionaries I meet become my friends; I hear stories and am privileged to share them with you.
Fr. Timothy Lehane, SVD, is International Secretary
General for the Propagation of the Faith at the Vatican. I first met Fr. Tim when I traveled to Ecuador in 2006 to visit Pontifical Mission Society funded sites; Fr. Tim was serving as Ecuador’s National Director for the Mission Societies.
He recently shared a memory of his missionary work in Ecuador:
"I remember one of my own experiences of a 'Christmas story' a few years ago when I was a missionary in Ecuador.
It began one evening when a knock came to my door. I opened it to the gentle smile of a meek, shy man who stood there.
From the nervous fiddling of his fingers I could see that he was not comfortable, so after a few smiles and the offer of a cup of water, we were on our way and he told me of his plight.
We went on foot the few miles down the dusty road and across the Andean hills to a little freshly-constructed hut that he had made from the mud and grass.
As we approached, I was reminded of the Christmas stable scene.
'It's only temporary,' he said, referring to the hut, because when she passes I will go back to our farm in the Amazon jungle again, as the other children are waiting for us. I only came out to see if we could do something but the journey was too much for her. She won't last the evening.'
On entering the darkened hut, lit only by the last rays of the sun that came through the small window, I could just make out the frail figure of his young wife.
From her appearance, it was obvious that life was draining from her through a post-natal complication. We began to pray in the silence, but she was too weak to join us. Nor could she move. The sunken features of her face showed incredible suffering.
I searched for words to try and help her to experience God's spirit of holiness and love, and then something moved under the blanket in the bed beside her.
It was her little baby.
As I lifted his tiny body to my lap, I could see that he was also within the last moments of his life.
His cry was his last ode to a life weakened by extreme poverty.
There was nothing there, nothing but raw, untouched and unheeded nature. I knew in my heart that God was there because He does not abandon humanity. He too came into our world as a babe, in a small hut, as one of the weakest and poorest.
Now the words of prayer for which I had originally searched flowed easily from my impotent desire to be able to help: tears.
My heart cried from within as I tried to reach out to the pain of that Christmas family.
I wished I had a magic wand or some modern hospital with its professional team with me to help the suffering family, but reality told me it was not to be. Hospitals were a journey of several hours away. No one was with us in that small hut.
As I walked home that evening, I began a new prayer that came out of my own heart's desire to change our world. I asked for a more profound understanding of God's love in such helpless situations. My tears accompanied me all the way back; they flowed freely and unnoticed in those Andean highlands.
Most missionaries work in similar situations. Not only do we believe in His love, but we know that God has called all of us to take the Gospel in the service of life to the poor of our world.
We consecrate our own lives to this message of love.
For missionaries, Christmas and every holiday will be celebrated in such tiny huts; they will strive to show God's loving care to countless hundreds of thousands of our brothers and sisters, who meekly knock at our doors asking for comfort.
Because you have helped us by your prayer and material gifts, you too are there with us.
Thank you for remembering the missions this year and for being part of our family."
Fr. Tim's message of thanks is one given on behalf of all missionaries, no matter where they serve. We ask for your regular prayers and support so they can continue spreading the Gospel to every member of God's family, no matter the circumstances of their birth.

- Maureen Crowley Heil

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