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.

Friday, August 10, 2012

Preach the Gospel Always

Last month I was privileged to meet with Cardinal Sean and one of his seminary classmates who is the bishop of the Apostolic Vicariate of Bluefields in Nicaragua.  An Apostolic Vicariate is a form of territorial jurisdiction established in places that do not have a diocese. It is essentially temporary, though it may last for a century or more. The goal is that the region will generate sufficient numbers of Catholics for the Church to create a diocese.  In fact, it is hoped that soon the Vicariate will be broken up into three or four dioceses.  Since its foundation in 1913, the Bluefields Apostolic Vicariate has been served by Capuchin Franciscan bishops.

At the present time the Vicariate is under the leadership of Bishop Paul Schmitz, OFM Cap., an American who has worked in Nicaragua for several decades.  It is difficult to imagine the enormity of his task.  Bluefields encompasses an area of twenty-three thousand miles and is served by thirty-one priests, twenty deacons, and fewer that a hundred religious brothers and sisters.  Its fourteen parishes are vibrant and active; however the priests rely on Mass stipends from outside sources for their survival.  The Mass offerings you make to The Society for the Propagation of the Faith enable us to help these missionary priests in their work.

Apart from the usual and expected challenges faced by any missionary, Bishop Schmitz has had life-threatening experiences to contend with.  He has dealt with earthquakes, hurricanes and a civil government that is unstable.  In 1990, while he was an Auxiliary Bishop, his arm was shattered when an unknown sniper shot a rocket propelled grenade into his car during the civil unrest in Nicaragua. The resulting explosion killed two of the sisters who were riding with him and left the third sister and Bishop Schmitz with scars that are still visible.  

Through it all, Bishop Schmitz has maintained his balance and sense of humor.  He is one of the happiest people I have ever met.  Despite all of the difficulties he has endured, he is still a living reminder of the counsel of Saint Francis of Assisi, preach the Gospel always; when necessary, use words.
-Rev. Rodney J. Copp, JCL

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