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, October 30, 2009

A Lay Missioner's Walk with Christ

This story came to us via the CNVS (Catholic Network of Volunteer Services: ). Their Executive Director, Jim Lindsay was with us a member of the U.S. delegation to the Pan-American Mission Congress in Quito, Ecuador in August 2008. We also had the priveledge of spending time with Jim at the recent U.S. Catholic Mission Association Conference in New Orleans (more on that in a later post). The CNVS has 1098 lay missioners serving internationally in 108 countries. The following story was written by one of those missoners, Carolyn Polinsky, who served in Mexico as a volunteer with the Incarnate Word Missionaries.

´´Oh, Jesus what am I doing here?´´

I ask that to Him, as Jesus is right in front of me. It is the Feast of Christ King and I am an Incarnate Word missionary in Mexico who lives in a house attached to a chapel. This morning, a group of parishioners stopped by our house and removed the statue of Jesus. Now I am part of a procession walking through the streets of Santa Fe carrying Jesus while singing, praying and chanting.

Before coming to Mexico, I wasn´t particularly active in organized religion. One of the reasons I choose to participate in a Catholic volunteer program was because I wanted to grow in faith. I ended up living in an area full of devout, active Catholics and if I were a missionary in the way the term is commonly construed-one who prostelytizes to non-believers-there wouldn´t be much to do. Instead, I see being a missionary as sharing love made possible by God and faith.

Still, it´s a bit odd that I am wandering through the streets of a Mexican slum along with people who (with Jesus on their backs) took it upon themselves to stop and direct traffic before acquiring police cars as escorts. No one else seems to find it unusual. I reminisce back to a few months ago when I spent Sundays at the movies or shopping, and Mass was something to get over with. Now, I spend complete Sundays at the parish or involved in situations like this.

I am in an introspective state as I awoke with a headache and toothache. I didn´t quite feel up to walking, but came out of curiosity and because it seemed expected. I speak little Spanish, and I am in the back of the procession as I don´t have the energy to keep up or to try and converse with anyone.

I end up chatting with Antonio who is dawdling behind. He is a fifty-five year old homeless man that Padre took in to live at the Parish. He has a low IQ. Our conversations usually consist of him repeating ¨Como estas?¨ and ¨Que bonita Caro¨ over and over. He talks and I nod without understanding what he saying. Though I sometimes get frustrated with him, I like that there is no pressure to our conversations. He is happy to be talking with someone even if he is not understood.

A big part of my life since coming here has been being part of a community that spends time or lives at the Parish. Padre surrounds himself with all types of people, including many who have difficulties finding a place in society—those with mental and developmental problems, divorced women, and young adults struggling to find a place in the world. I admire the priest for being so accepting toward others and try to follow his example, while realizing that I am blessed, as a foreigner, to be part of such a welcoming environment.

The procession goes past the home run by the Missionaries of Charity, where I spend most of my time volunteering. Women and children live there because they have no one else to take care of them and most have severe physical and developmental handicaps. At first I felt uncomfortable around the wheelchair bound women because their suffering and inability to communicate is heart-breaking. Now, I have developed a rapport with residents, and have learned to read their expressions when they want something—to be hugged, to go on a walk, to drink water, to have their hands held.

When I first began working with the women my mind raced with doubts and questions.¨How can they be allowed to suffer so much?. My being here really doesn´t make any difference. I would be doing more getting a medical degree rather than sitting here making up silly games to play with them.¨

What I have realized is that it doesn´t matter why the women are in the state they are in or if I might do more good somewhere else. Right now, they are in need of love and I have been called to love them and it is in them that I most often see Christ. I am somewhat grateful for my (small in comparison) health and communication problems because it gives me much greater empathy toward those I serve.

The walk continues past a group of men who stand on a dead-end street drinking cheap liquor. I exchange hellos with them and decline an offer to take a swig from an open container. I was introduced to them by a parish worker involved in cleaning up the streets and I make an effort to talk with them when I see them. It is the kind of situation I would have crossed the street to avoid in the United States and now I realize I shouldn´t have to hold the title of missionary in order to reach out to people whose lives have taken unfortunate turns.

Overall, the March lasts for three hours, during which time parishioners share snacks and buy water for me. We attend Mass and then proceed back to my house where someone rings the bells on the roof as Jesus is returned. Fifty people run up and down our stairs and my roommate Jessica and I prepare coffee and sweet breads for everybody.

¨What am I doing here? ¨

Following Jesus.
Amen, Carolyn. Amen.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I Am Sending You!

I Am Sending YOU…
(John 20:21)

This year, the student members of the Holy Childhood Association are hearing a very special message: they are being 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 to every other one of them or to only the ones who felt qualified for the job; He said it to ALL His followers. And so this school year, the Holy Childhood Association is reminding students not only here in Boston but across the country that they have a mission –they are being sent to make Jesus known to the ends of the earth.

On a recent visit to St. Joseph School in Holbrook(, I had the opportunity to speak with HCA members about how this can be carried out in their lives on a very practical level. We all agreed that the “ends of the earth” can sound pretty overwhelming, if not downright impossible for kids. And yet, that’s what Jesus is asking of them if they are to live their Catholic faith fully. What could He be thinking?

We took a few minutes to think about and discuss it – where is the ends of the earth? The list was long: China, South Africa, India, Venezuela, Thailand…was anyone in the room headed to any of those places today? No. Well, where WERE they going? A second list was made: hockey practice, dance class, piano lessons, cheerleading, home. Could it be that for today, THOSE places are the ends of the earth? We agreed that they were -- for that day, for those children, Jesus expected them to carry His Good News to the ends of THEIR earth. So, how could the Gospel be spread in those places? A final list came: we can play fair, try our hardest, help others struggling to learn skills, be cooperative and loving.

Through the Holy Childhood Association’s programs, students not only at St. Joseph’s, but those in Catholic schools and parish religious education 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?

Sunday, October 25, 2009

World Mission Sunday: Where Were You Sent?

For the approximately 600 people who braved the elements to gather at the Cathedral of the Holy Cross to celebrate World Mission Sunday on October 18th, there could only be one answer: TO THE ENDS OF THE EARTH! Whether it was to the flag bearers in the Procession of Nations, the ethnic choirs and representatives of their communities who served as lectors, readers and gift bearers -- the call that went out was plain: we are all called to be missionaries by virtue of our Baptism.

Our Mass began with a Welcome Statement from Cardinal Sean O’Malley, read by Fr. Kevin O’Leary, Rector of the Cathedral of the Holy Cross and our host for the day. Cardinal O’Malley asked all present to remember in their prayers all those people in the world who have yet to hear the Gospel proclaimed and the Missionaries who serve them with help from the Propagation of the Faith. Many of those gathered in the pews were missionaries themselves – men and women who have answered God’s call and were sent to serve Him in faraway places; in doing so, they made sacrifices about which most of us will never know.

We focused on one of these very special people during our Liturgy: Fr. Jim Hennessey. A priest of the Archdiocese of Boston, Fr. Hennessey was sent to serve the Missions in the South Pacific during World War II and was taken prisoner. He died on a P.O.W. transport ship, giving his life so that the people of the Solomon Islands could hear the Gospel proclaimed. Fr. Hennessey’s personal possessions were recently found and gifted to our Boston Mission Office by Archbishop Smith of the Solomon Islands as a token of thanks, not only for the gift of this great missionary and his life, but also for the ongoing help that the Propagation of the Faith sends to his Diocese from ours. Fr. Hennessey’s chalice, ciborium, paten and burse were on display at our World Mission Sunday celebration along with a portrait of the man.

At the end of the Liturgy, we were all sent, as we are at the end of every Mass, “…to love and serve the Lord.” It is a privilege, here at the Propagation of the Faith, to make every attempt to do so – even to the ends of the earth!