by Father Charles P. Keeney
Those who donate to the Propagation of the Faith may be familiar with the Mass intention forms that accompany the thank you letters sent from our office. Have you ever wondered who says those Masses, or where they are said?
Recently Rev. Albert Amakyi visited me while he was in Brooklyn visiting his friend Rev. Brian Dowd at Queen of Angels Parish. Back home in Ghana Rev. Albert works on the faculty of a college that prepares 204 diocesan seminarians and 40 religious seminarians for the priesthood. They are studying philosophy to enter the major seminary in the next few years. Besides making friends and establishing a connection with the Missions Office, Rev. Albert also came to request Mass stipends. Year-round I receive letters, emails, and calls requesting the same from priests and bishops around the world. Rev. Albert’s visit prompted me to review the tradition of Mass stipends in our church and understand how they help our missionaries.
From the very beginnings of the Church it was customary for the faithful to donate bread and wine to be used in the celebration of the Holy Eucharist. In time, offerings of money were substituted for the materials themselves. Money given in excess of what was necessary for the procuring of the bread and wine was used to assist the poor and, eventually, to support the clergy. Thus it became customary for the priest to accept from the faithful a donation (called a “stipend”) in return for remembering a specific intention in the celebration of a Mass. Through this voluntary offering, the donor seeks spiritual benefits that God may bestow upon the persons or concerns that are specially held in prayer at the Mass. According to the Council of Trent (1545-1563), the Mass “is quite properly offered according to apostolic tradition not only for the sins, punishments, satisfactions and other needs of the faithful who are living, but also for those who have died in Christ but are not yet fully purified.”
Donors themselves are blessed through the practice; Canon #946 of the Code of Canon Law states “Christ’s faithful who make an offering so that Mass can be celebrated for their intention contribute to the good of the Church, and by that offering they share in the Church’s concern for the support of its ministers and its activities.”
The deep faith and ardent charity of the Catholics of our diocese manifests itself in the numerous Mass offerings parishioners donate to the parishes and to the missions, especially for your beloved deceased. Besides giving Masses directly to foreign missionaries who visit in person, the Missions Office has been able to give foreign missionaries checks for Mass stipends handed on by Brooklyn priests who visit the missions. In the past year many priests have taken these stipends to their homelands, especially to the island nation of Haiti. Our generosity depends on the amount of stipends that come to our office. Lately the amount on hand is considerably lower than in the past.
There are two ways to help missionary priests by stipends: remembering the Propagation of the Faith in your legacy, and contacting our office directly. A percentage of all estates left to the Propagation of the Faith are applied to Mass intentions for the deceased. Our office also arranges individual Masses, sets of Triduum, Novena, and Gregorian Masses, and Purgatorial enrollment Masses (cards for each are available) for those who request from our office. Your intentions will be satisfied by very caring priests who can definitely use our support. For more information call our office at (718) 965-7326 or email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Father Keeney is the diocesan director for the Propagation of the Faith.