My dear brothers and sisters in the Lord,
Almost 100 years ago, Pope Pius XI instituted World Mission Sunday for the whole Church with the first global Mission Sunday collection taking place in October of 1927. The Mission Sunday collection is always taken on the next to last Sunday during the month of October. That day is celebrated in all the local churches as a powerful sign of Catholic universal solidarity, so Christians throughout the world will recognize their common responsibility with regard to the evangelization of the world.
The Church is governed in several different ways, always through dioceses, however, many dioceses exist in mission countries and are very dependent on the evangelizing mission of the Holy See itself. The Propaganda Fide, the Propagation of the Faith, supervises the missionary effort of the Church. In the world today, there are over 1,100 mission dioceses that depend on this Vatican office for financial support as well as organizational assistance. The annual October collection is used for educating seminarians, training catechists, supporting schools and hospitals, and for the general use of the churches in these mission countries. Without our help, the mission of the Church is greatly diminished.
Most large nations have established offices that assist in the development effort surrounding the annual collection, and also supervise the several mission societies that help in the support of the Church in mission. Recently, our Diocese was able to release Monsignor Kieran Harrington to minister as the National Director for the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States. It is our hope that his communications skills will allow the collection to be revitalized, as over the past years, people have forgotten the mission orientation of the Church and the collection has not kept up with the generosity of the past. The Pontifical Mission Societies encompasses the four Pontifical Mission Societies of the Roman Catholic Church.
The Holy Childhood Association that many older Catholics remember was very active in our schools and religious educational programs to assist in mission countries with the needs of children. The Society of St. Peter the Apostle assists with the education of clergy and religious in mission countries. The Pontifical Missionary Union was founded by blessed Paolo Manna in 1916, a missionary who served in Myanmar. Its aim is to increase awareness of the Church’s worldwide mission among people engaged in pastoral ministry. And the Society of for the Propagation of the Faith is the development office that oversees these collections and the distributions of resources. If you remember, Bishop Fulton Sheen, who was very famous for his television program, “Life is Worth Living,” once served as the national director of the Propagation of the Faith.
The theme for this year’s World Mission Day, chosen by our Holy Father, Pope Francis, is a line from the Acts of the Apostles, “We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard.” The Apostles knew that they had been given a mission when Jesus instructed them to “Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit (Mt. 28:19). In his message this year for Mission Sunday, Pope Francis said, “Like the Apostles and the first Christians, we too can say with complete conviction: ‘We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard’ (Acts 4:20).
Everything we have received from the Lord is meant to be put to good use and freely shared with others. Just as the Apostles saw, heard and touched the saving power of Jesus (cf. 1 Jn 1:1-4), we too can daily touch the sorrowful and glorious flesh of Christ. There we can find the courage to share with everyone we meet a destiny of hope, the sure knowledge that the Lord is ever at our side. As Christians, we cannot keep the Lord to ourselves: the Church’s evangelizing mission finds outward fulfillment in the transformation of the world and in the care of creation.”
The Holy Father reminds us that each one of us, through our baptism, has that obligation now to share our faith. Some become missionaries, some become sustainers of those in the mission areas, and all of us have the responsibility to pray for the evangelizing mission of the Church in the world today. I encourage all of you to take seriously the responsibility we have to be mission minded and to assist the mission dioceses around the world.
The history of evangelization begins with the Lord’s own passionate desire to call and enter into friendly dialogue with everyone, just as they are (c.f Jn 15:12-17). World Mission Sunday is our chance to show love and solidarity for the global Church family. Through our prayers we support missionaries everywhere in the world. And by donating we respect the call of Christ to feed the hungry and to clothe the naked.
The whole Church puts out into the deep when we confront the mandate of Christ to go forth and baptize the world. We cannot really baptize without evangelizing, without announcing the Good News. This responsibility sometimes we cannot exercise personally. But through our prayers and donations, we can be part of the greater effort of the Church, so that our assistance will fulfill the fact that the faith we have we must share with others.