By Father Charles P. Keeney
People, events, and programs have all fallen victim to the effects of the coronavirus in our diocese. The latest, and one of the biggest victims, is the annual mission appeal. Every year dozens of very dedicated missionary priests, religious brothers and sisters, and lay missionary groups come to all the different Catholic parishes in Brooklyn and Queens. This year will be different.
Back in January, about 45 different missionary groups from faraway places like Haiti, Nigeria, Philippines, Rwanda, Uganda, Brazil, India, Peru, Bangladesh, Puerto Rico, Ireland, Kenya, Vietnam, and Tanzania were invited in the name of the Bishop of Brooklyn to make a monetary appeal to help in their missionary projects in places where our church needs so much help.
The people of our 177 different parishes have always been supportive and generous to the visiting missionaries. Last year the parishes contributed nearly $400,000 to these missionaries. The average parishioner loves hearing of the stories of God’s work being done in countries they will never be able to visit. They love seeing the missionaries in their religious robes and hearing the accents from different parts of the world. They are also inspired by the faith and devotion of these courageous men and women.
The missionaries themselves benefit in so many ways by the annual appeal. Many get to visit this country for the first and only time in their lives. They get to proclaim the gospel in the actions of the church universal in the neighborhoods of Brooklyn and Queens. They meet and become lifetime friends with so many of our faithful parishioners.
This year, because of the virus, these visitors will not be coming to renew the love of the missionary adventures of the church. We will miss their testimony of faith from our pulpits. The annual campaign will not take place because of the problems associated with the virus. We do not know when our churches will be open to full capacity, travel restrictions inhibit many of the missionaries from coming to our shores, and our own parishes and diocese will need time to heal and recover to whatever the new normal will be.
All the representatives of the missionary groups have been contacted and made aware of this decision and of our future plans. If possible, before the end of this year a special second collection will be made in all of the parishes on the same weekend and the money collected will be evenly divided among all the invited groups. The groups who have been invited this year will be invited next year to participate and share a taste of Brooklyn. Until we get to meet them next year, please keep the missionaries in your prayers.
The coronavirus hit our diocese very hard. It also hit some of our missionary groups extremely hard as well. Currents News did a story about the Maryknoll community. In their residences in Ossining, they lost 10 priests and three sisters to the virus. The Spiritan Fathers in Dublin, Ireland, lost ten priests to the virus and as many as 20 more are seriously sick as I write this article. The Salesian Sisters in New Jersey lost four sisters from the same convent. The Catholic Church here at home and throughout the world has been given a strong blow to our lives and our faith. However, the mission of the church remains the same. We are called to bring the message, person, and love of Christ to all people of the planet. May each of us use the time, talent, and treasure God has given us to continue the mission of the church.
Father Keeney is the diocesan director for the Propagation of the Faith.