By Father Charles P. Keeney
The Church has designated the penultimate Sunday in October to promote the missions —this year World Mission Sunday falls on October 18th. World Mission Sunday is celebrated not only in the U.S. but globally; homilies are often given describing the work done in distant places, and sometimes there are appeals made for young people to consider a missionary vocation. The second collection on World Mission Sunday is an opportunity to be “missionaries who stay,” by financially supporting foreign missions through the Propagation of the Faith.
As Director of the Propagation of the Faith I get to meet missionaries and friends of the missions. Many of them exude zeal, passion, and courage in bringing the Word of God to all continents and islands of the world. Each missionary and generous benefactor shares unique stories of their ministries and various connections to missions. One such recent benefactor is a former Catholic high school teacher from our diocese, Paul Franzetti, who impressed me with his unique love of a particular missionary project.
Over a decade ago Paul set out to the Galapagos Islands with one of his sons, Joe, to see the wildlife unique to that part of the world. Fifteen minutes before leaving for the airport he received a call from Sr. Anne Credidio, a Brooklyn-born Sister of Charity of the Blessed Virgin Mary, who was (and still is) working in Guayaquil, Ecuador. “Sister Annie” offered to pick up Paul and Joe when they arrived at the airport in Ecuador. This first of many acts of hospitality would ignite in Paul a passion for her ministry.
Before touring the Galapagos Islands, Paul and Joe spent a free day in Guayaquil with Sister Annie. She gave them a tour of Damien’s House, the hospital she founded for patients of Hansen’s disease (leprosy). The facility cares for around 80 people. Paul witnessed firsthand the love Sister Annie had for these people, and the love they and their families showed for her. This mutual passion earned Sister Annie the nickname “the Mother Teresa of South America.”
That same day Paul and Joe toured the town. Joe was already familiar with the locale and comfortable with the residents from spending a year there as a missionary himself. Paul could not understand much Spanish, but he saw people’s faces illuminate whenever Joe mentioned Sister Annie. This visual testament was the point at which Paul knew he wanted to help Sister Annie and her patients. Though not a traditional missionary, Paul felt the drive to contribute his efforts and ability to this particular mission.
With the help of his son Joe, Paul began painting pictures of the Galapagos wildlife. These paintings turned into the creation of greeting cards and calendars with unusual and beautiful images painted by Paul with the purpose of financially supporting Damien House. In the inside of the cover of the calendars he has information about Damien House. He explains where it is, describes what work is done there, and includes a couple of pictures of Sister Annie and a couple of the patients. 100% of the profits from Paul’s artistic project still go to Sister Annie and her ministry. This extraordinary means of support is an example of a non-traditional missionary who loves the missions.
Last year over half of the parishes in our diocese distributed more than 90,000 calendars through our office. They are usually given out for free around Christmas and contain information on how to support the missions. If you see them, please thank the sponsors — and pastors — who make the Propagation of the Faith calendar project possible.
Any time, talent, or treasure you extend to the missions is deeply needed and appreciated. Paul Franzetti wanted to “make something that matters” with his promotional calendars. He has made something that matters to Sister Annie and her patients. The Office of the Propagation of the Faith makes “something that matters” to many good men and women like Brooklyn’s own Sister Annie.
Father Keeney is the diocesan director for the Propagation of the Faith.