By Father Charles P. Keeney
Two Summer Mission Appeals have already taken place, and with extremely positive results. Every year dozens of missionary priests, brothers, sisters, lay missionaries, and even some bishops come to every parish in our diocese and make presentations about their various ministries.
This year, 42 different groups have been invited by Bishop Nicholas DiMarzio to make their appeals in person, asking us to help this most important work of the universal church.
As some of you know, I have been working with the Sisters of Saint Gemma Galgani and their ministry in Tanzania. In March, I had the opportunity to make an appeal at St. Gerard Majella in Hollis, where the pastor, Father Josephjude Gannon, was very welcoming.
The way the collections were taken was a little different and very efficient. Congregants entered by the main door of the church and left by a side exit where baskets for the collections were set up. The pastor made an announcement at the end of each Mass explaining that one of the baskets was for the parish and the other for the appeal. When people made their donations as they left the church, more money was placed in the mission basket than the parish basket! In fact, the mission collection was the largest in four or five years!
In April I went to a very different kind of parish. I visited St. Bartholomew in Elmhurst — a very large and vibrant parish with 15 weekend Masses, many of them in Spanish and one in Chinese. This community was hit very hard by the coronavirus. The pastor, Father Richard Beuther, found that people did not like to watch the livestream (“They said they could watch television at home!”) The pastor responded by accommodating three extra Masses during attendance restrictions. Father Beuther also placed information in the bulletin about the appeal ahead of time.
In the 14 Masses at which I spoke, I was met with excited and interested parishioners. They were very welcoming and dozens came up to me at the end of the Masses asking for more info about the sisters in Africa. Their generosity to the mission appeal was outstanding! (The final total was not known at the writing of this article but it was far more than any of the past five years.) I will forever remember with joy saying Mass and preaching at St. Gerard Majella and St. Bartholomew.
Both pastors made very generous offers to do more than what was necessary to help the missions. Father Gannon offered a room at his second parish, Incarnation, should a visiting missionary need it. He also showed interest in involving his academy with a twinning project with the sisters in Africa. Father Beuther also offered lodging should one of the visiting missionaries not find any at the parish to which Bishop DiMarzio has invited them or elsewhere. He showed his love of the missions by being open to a second appeal if the diocese wanted to send St. Bartholomew another group.
Each year the Propagation of the Faith Office will only send one group to each parish. Parishes are free to invite other missionaries in addition to the groups invited by the bishop, but not in place of the bishop’s Summer Mission Appeal invitees.
Each parish in the Diocese of Brooklyn is mandated to welcome them every year and live the words from St. Matthew’s final judgment where Jesus said, “When I was a stranger you welcomed me.”
Between now and the end of September your parish will welcome a missionary or a missionary representative. Please check your bulletin for advance notice, and come to church that weekend with positive anticipation and openness for a good presentation.
Please be prayerful and generous to the appeals, which will be about the most important work of our church: the spreading of the Gospel. Many missions in the developing world rely on the help they receive from the Summer Mission Appeals to perform their spiritual and corporal works of mercy among some of the poorest of the poor. When we respond to the missionary appeals, we respond to the work of the Catholic Church and the work of the Kingdom of God.
May the appeals in your parishes be as educational, uplifting, and successful as the first two of this round of presentations.
Many thanks to Fathers Gannon and Beuther and to the people of St. Gerard’s and St. Bartholomew’s.
Father Keeney is the diocesan director of the propagation of the faith.