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

Preaching the Gospel in the Face of Danger

My first stop in the Diocese of Chipata, Zambia was at the house of the local Ordinary, Bishop George Lungu. Because of our truck’s brake failure, we arrived for a late dinner. Around the table, rank was dismissed; the bishop and his auxiliary shared their stories of the day with me and the many priests of the diocese gathered. I was assured that this was a nightly occurrence:  such is the brotherhood and community life of the priests under his leadership.   
 As I prepared this column, news reached me of this strong shepherd standing up publicly and firmly for one of his flock.  A Rwandan refugee and still carrying a passport from that country, Fr. Viateur Banyangandora had lived in Chipata for years and was ordained to the priesthood there in 2004.  As usual at the Lundazi Catholic Church last Sunday, Fr. Viateur gave his homily.  Bishop George states, “His message was about the ‘haves’ sharing with the ‘have nots’ as the readings of the day were saying.  Fr. Viateur spoke passionately about the plight and poverty of his parishioners and the people of Lundazi.”
On Monday, Bishop George was shocked to learn that Fr. Viateur was arrested. After being questioned locally in Lundazi, he was taken to Chipata and held without food or counsel until the bishop himself arrived and was allowed to see and feed him. Local officials feigned ignorance of the reason for Father’s detainment stating they were only following orders from Lusaka, the capital.  Bishop George describes the next events:Without being charged, Fr. Viateur was later that evening driven to Lusaka. From then on there is a black-out of information. Where was Fr. Viateur taken? Was he being fed? What did they do about his diabetes and blood pressure medicine? We will need answers.” 
Three days later, Chipata was stunned to learn that Fr. Viateur had been deported to Rwanda for “conduct found to be a danger to peace and good order in Zambia.” He had spoken for the poor.
While appealing for calm, Bishop George sent a message to his priests: “Do not be intimidated by anyone. You were ordained to preach the Gospel and this must be done even in the face of persecution. In doing so, you will be carrying out the prophetic role of being the conscience of society. As Jesus said, “Do not be afraid of those who kill the body but cannot kill the soul. Rather, be afraid of the one who can destroy both Soul and body in Gehenna” (Matt. 10:28).”
“No one shall be allowed to silence our priests.”
To read more about Bishop George's statement, click here.
To read about the Association of Zambian Diocesan Catholic Clergy's statement, click here.
-Maureen Crowley Heil 

I Was Ill and You Comforted Me

The topic of supplying adequate health care has been a “hot button item” in our country in recent months.  As Americans we have been accustomed to some of the best medical care in the world and have not had to think very much about the cost of providing it.  Because we are so fortunate, it seldom occurs to most citizens of the United States that there are parts of our world where this cannot be taken for granted.

Missionaries, in addition to providing for the spiritual well being of the people entrusted to their care, often have to address numerous other concerns.  Health care is at the very top of the list.  One of the places where this is particularly acute is the province of West Arsi, in Ethiopia.  The Consolata Missionaries operate a rural hospital in Gambo.  This hospital was founded in 1922 by Capuchin missionaries and has been entrusted to the Consolata Missionaries since 1975.  It serves one hundred thousand inhabitants of the district, not only by caring for the sick, but by engaging in preventive medicine.  They attempt to control the spread of tuberculosis, malaria, and AIDS as well as providing nutritional support and vaccinations for children.

Your support of The Society for the Propagation of the Faith enables the Consolata missionaries and many others to bring God’s love and care to the poor and disadvantaged.  By enrolling yourself or your loved one in The Society for five years, ten years or perpetually, you can be assured of inclusion in the intention of 15,000 Masses said annually in the missions for our members by grateful missionaries.  Thank you for your prayers and financial support, enabling these missionaries to live out Jesus’ command of love for the most disadvantaged of our brothers and sisters.

The following people have been enrolled as Perpetual Members in
 The Society for the Propagation of the Faith:
 Delores T. Baronas, Bob Tero, the Foy Family, Tom, Kara, Tommy and Ryan Costello, Joe K. Chin, Marguerite Hession, Mary A. Mason, Jean Tuckey, Junior Seau, “Moose” Skowron, John F. Hayes, Jr., Rev. Daniel Moran, Priscilla Buckley, Dick Clark,  Whitney Houston,  Al Davis,  Pauline M. Hudon, Steve Jobs, Marjorie V. White, Angela, Nate, Eri, Lena, Torsten, Tucker and Massy Smith.
-Rev. Rodney J. Copp, JCL

On Missionary Roads in Zambia

In my last post about my mission trip to Zambia, readers were introduced to Fr. Bernard Makadani Zulu, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Zambia.  Fr. Bernard was my host for two weeks in June 2011 as I traveled through Zambia visiting schools, parishes, outstations, training centers, and clinics funded by the Pontifical Mission Societies.

After setting out from the capital city of Lusaka, which was quite modern, it did not take us long to leave the footprint of the population behind.  Our destination was the Diocese of Chipata.  We traveled along the Chipata Road – one of the only east/west highways in the country.  To say the infrastructure of roads and their surfaces are variable would be an enormous understatement!  At times, we traveled on perfect pavement, only to be thrown onto rutted dirt and gravel that would stretch for miles.  Because the roads were full of car-eating potholes, we drove in a serpentine fashion, covering both lanes of the road to avoid disaster.  This seems like the safe thing to do until you realize that the cars coming in the other direction are doing the same thing!  It becomes an intricate ballet of cars, buses and 18 wheeler trucks that gave me many opportunities to recite my Act of Faith.

We drove past many miles of beautiful country side and just when I began to wonder if we would ever see any people, a roadside market appeared as if it were a mirage.  Local farmers and vendors had covered tables set up at the very edge of the road to sell everything from vegetables to dried fish to beautiful and useful household baskets made from banana leaves. 

Their hope was that travelers and truck drivers would stop and buy their wares and help support their families.  A successful day at the market would bring the local person enough money to splurge on a little extra treat for their loved ones – some cooking oil, perhaps a little salt or even some sugar for their tea.

About two thirds of the way through the day long trip, I had a lesson in the harsh reality of mission life.   We began to hear a loud clunking noise from under the truck; the smell of burning brakes was obvious.  Fr. Bernard pulled over, climbed under the truck and confirmed that our left front brakes were frozen and not working.  “What will we do now? How will we stop with no brakes?” I asked.  He smiled gently and said, “We will try very hard not to have to stop.”

And so we continued, slowly, on missionary roads.
-Maureen Crowley Heil

Deliver Us From Evil

Recent news reports coming out of Hong Kong made me recall my visit July 18, 2011 with the retired Cardinal Archbishop of Hong Kong, Cardinal Joseph Zen.  The cardinal is an outspoken advocate of the Church’s right to function apart from the ongoing control and persecution by the civil government in China.

As many of you are aware, there has been a long-standing struggle between the Holy See and the arm of the Chinese civil government known as the Catholic Patriotic Association, particularly centering on the appointment of bishops in China.  Periodically, the government appoints a bishop of its own choosing, someone who is under their control and who will do what they wish without question, usurping the right of the Holy Father to make these appointments.  Then, legitimately ordained Catholic bishops are forced to ordain the priest whom the CPA has chosen.  This results in the valid but illicit (illegal) ordination of these bishops whose loyalty is directed primarily to the CPA rather than to the Holy See.

Recently Thaddeus Ma Daquin was appointed as auxiliary bishop of Shanghai with the approval of both the CPA and the Vatican.  This seemed to be a step forward.  However, as soon as he was ordained, he announced that he was resigning from the CPA in order to devote himself completely to his task as bishop.  As you may imagine, this has resulted in a firestorm of controversy and the news services report that Bishop Ma Daquin is “on retreat” at the seminary in his diocese.  He has not been seen publicly since.

 How easy it is for us to forget the trials of many of our brothers and sisters as they practice their Catholic faith.  We know that almost half of the Catholics in China still worship in underground congregations.  Persecution of the Church, subtle and otherwise, still exists in many parts of the world.  We pray for the Church in China and for all those places where the Church is not free.
-Rev. Rodney J. Copp, JCL

The True Meaning of Mission – Giving and Receiving

In my last post, readers were taken to the joyful dedication of St. Lawrence the Martyr Parish in the shanty towns outside of Lusaka, Zambia. It was the beginning of my trip across that large, sparsely populated country.  While Zambia is twenty-eight times the geographical size of the Commonwealth of Massachusetts, their population is only double ours. 

I would soon learn that getting from one place to another took a lot of patience and good company!  I am sometimes short on the first of these, but in Zambia, never lacked for the second.

My host and driver was Fr. Bernard Makadani Zulu, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Zambia, pictured here with one of the many children his mission work has saved.  Fr. Bernard had thoughtfully prepared a picnic lunch for us, knowing that villages were few and far between on the road.  As we traveled along in the truck loaned to us by the Bishop’s Conference, Fr. Bernard began to tell me about his lifelong link to the Pontifical Mission Societies.  He said he felt especially connected to his work because all four Societies had been responsible for a part of his faith formation.  As a child, the Holy Childhood Association had been responsible for his sacramental preparation.  The Society of St. Peter Apostle had helped to build the seminary he attended and also gave him a yearly scholarship making his ordination a reality. The Missionary Union had encouraged so many to lift him up in prayer as he learned.  And of course, The Society for the Propagation of the Faith had made it possible for him and his family to worship in a parish church at all.

Now, as National Director, it is his job not only to oversee all the projects that are helping to build up the Zambian Catholic Church, but also to animate the faithful of Zambia – to help them to understand that because they are baptized, they too are missionaries obliging them to pray and sacrifice for others to learn the faith.  While most Zambians are subsistence farmers, living on about $1,500 a year, they take this obligation seriously. Last year, Zambian Catholics sent $12,531 to the General Fund in Rome to be dispersed to the missions including $3590 sacrificed by Zambian children for the work of the Holy Childhood Association.  Along with those funds, came untold prayers as well.

To see more about Fr. Bernard and his work with the children of Zambia, click here and learn about the true meaning of mission - giving and receiving.
-Maureen Crowley Heil

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

Gratitude for New Beginnings

As my plane left Entebbe, Uganda on June 14, 2011, I found myself reflecting on the two weeks of joyous faith I had found in the mission Church of Uganda.  At every stop, whether it was a school, a parish, a rural outstation, or the Bishops’ headquarters itself I met and prayed with men, women and children who were devoted to the spread of the Gospel.  Each one was so very grateful to our Pontifical Mission Societies for the support provided so that their work could be done. 

Children in schools and parishes across the country sang their Holy Childhood Association National Anthem for me (click here and watch Building Bridges at St. Maria Goretti School in Tororo, Uganda) as they told me about their own faith formation made possible by the sacrifices of their brothers and sisters in Christ around the world.  Priests and Sisters gave me tours of the seminaries and novitiates and introduced me to the next generation of Uganda’s clergy and sisters.  They acknowledged that without the help of The Society of St. Peter Apostle, their education and that of the current students would be impossible.

And of course, the mark of the Propagation of the Faith was everywhere I turned!  Churches, hospitals, feeding programs, clean water projects…the list is as endless as our donors’ generosity.

I found myself happily exhausted – I had not laid my head on the same pillow more than once the whole trip – but more lay ahead.  I was headed to Zambia where I would spend another two weeks as the guest of Fr. Bernard Makadani Zulu, National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of Zambia.

Needless to say, I hit the ground running!  My very first day found me as an honored guest, representing you, at the dedication at a new parish, St. Lawrence the Martyr.  The church building, which had taken five years to complete, had been partially funded by the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.  The parish will serve the residents of the shanty towns that are home to the poor of Lusaka in a place called Kamwala/Misisi.  The faithful gathered from neighboring parishes in droves.  The ceremony was so well attended that we celebrated the five hour Liturgy outside – the new structure could not hold us all!

With young men dancing in native costumes leading the way, the throngs processed around and through the worship site following the Papal Nuncio, Archbishop Nicolas Girasoli and Joseph Cardinal Mazombwe, Archbishop Emeritus of Lusaka (pictured above, center).  Both men then planted saplings in front of the church as signs of the new life of faith begun that day.

One journey had ended, another had just begun.  Like the parishioners of St. Lawrence the Martyr Parish, I was filled with gratitude for both.

-Maureen Crowley Heil