Annually there is a national meeting of the diocesan directors of the Propagation of the Faith. Varying members of the Pontifical Mission Societies meet to listen to and to greet missionaries from throughout the world. Presentations are also made regarding the work of the National Office in New York and information is provided pertinent to the collections for the missions.
Each diocese has a mission office. It is the connection of the diocese with the mission work of the Church and vice versa. The office usually coordinates the annual Mission Sunday collection on the next-to-last Sunday in October. Remittances are forwarded to the National Office and eventually a committee of national directors meets in Rome at the Vatican office for the missions. There they decide how the funds will be distributed throughout the world to assist dioceses, religious communities, etc. in their work to make Christ known in mission areas. These funds also assist in providing health care and other needed priorities for a given community.
The Missionary Cooperative Plan is also organized through the Mission Office. Each year a missionary is assigned to a parish during the summer months. This allows them to gather some funds for their missions, but, perhaps, more importantly, allows a parish each year to learn about their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world.
Our diocese has been generous to the Mission Sunday collection as well as the Missionary Cooperative Plan. The priests and pastors have universally welcomed and assisted the visiting missionary.
The mission meeting this year will be different. We were asked to bring our computers or tablets/iPad with us. This should prove interesting.
A few years ago when I attended a meeting one of the directors asked us to look around the room and notice the faces. He said in the future they would not be the same. There would be more diversity and most of the faces would not be clergy. He was right. Times and faces have changed, and I guess with the use of the iPad so has note taking.
It is good to attend these meetings to represent the diocese and to interact with other mission directors. We learn about different approaches and what the desires of the National Office are. I find some of the talks can be less than inspiring at times, but I always find it helpful and invigorating to speak with other directors throughout the United States.
Whatever happens I always return with a new spirit, a new sense of direction, new ideas and feeling renewed.
In the Church’s Liturgical year, we have just completed the celebration of the Easter season and the feast of Pentecost.
The question to be asked is: Are we renewed in our Christian living and our desire to know Christ? Are we ready to renew the face of the earth; to be His disciples?
These annual celebrations should renew us in our commitment to the Lord. This reflection is especially important as we reflect on the feast of Pentecost. It was with the coming of the Holy Spirit that the Apostles were energized to go forth and preach the Good News of Salvation and redemption throughout the whole world.
Are we reenergized by these feasts to make Christ known in our life and in the life of others?
Recently I came across a piece of paper with an interesting message. I think it was left by a deacon after conducting a Communion service for our deacon aspirants. Maybe it was the Holy Spirit Who left it there so I could read it.
It said: “Go therefore and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and the Son and the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you; and behold, I am with you always, to the end of the ages.” Then one of the Apostles interjected, “We will accomplish these things by printing bulletins with Mass times and news of events, and we will repeat the same information over and over again with websites, email, and Facebook!”
Jesus responded with a voice faintly heard from above, as He was ascending into the heavens, “Are you kidding Me?”
This is very thought-provoking for me as a priest, but it should be for all of us. It is not only the role of the priest or deacon to bring the message of Christ to others. It is the responsibility of all of us as part of our baptismal vocation.
With less and less people attending church, the need for our evangelization is even more critical. We are to become missionaries here and now. We need to think of our families, neighbors, and our country, as mission areas.
We may have many more of the necessities of life that our brothers and sisters in mission lands have, but like them we need those who will bring Christ to us. And God has called you to do that.
That is why the Easter season leads to Pentecost so that we, without going away to a meeting, can be reenergized to make Christ known.
As the familiar prayer says: “Come Holy Spirit, fill the hearts of Your faithful and kindle in them the fire of Your love. Send forth Your Spirit and they shall be created. And You shall renew the face of the earth.”
Anchor columnist Msgr. Oliveira is pastor of St. Mary’s Parish in New Bedford and director of the diocesan Propagation of the Faith and Permanent Diaconate offices.