In 1926, Pope Pius XI instituted World Mission Sunday for two reasons: first, to raise people’s consciousness of missionary activity around the world and, secondly, to provide opportunities for Catholics everywhere to support the missions throughout the world. This year’s theme Baptized and Sent: the Church of Christ on Mission in the World is based on Isaiah 6:8, “Here I am Lord. Send me”.
The Catholic Church in Trinidad and Tobago has grown and developed through the work of men and women who were “sent”. Indeed, it owes its foundation—and its leadership until 1968—to the missionary endeavour. We have sent missionaries, too, among them Fr Glyn Jemmott and Bishop Gerard County, to Mexico for many years. The Spiritans have sent their men to Africa and Latin America. ‘Aunty’ Babsie Bleasdell, ‘Sister Debbie’ de Rosia, Frs Ian Taylor and Trevor Nathasingh have journeyed to several parts of the world on short missionary assignments. The Eternal Light Community has had a mission in Grenada. Living Water Community has had one in Russia for three years and another in Saba for 25 years; it has permanent missions in St Lucia and Barbados.
Pope St John Paul II once said: The Church does not have a mission, rather the mission has a Church. The Church’s purpose (mission) is to communicate in word and action the mission that the Father entrusted to His Son. We are part of that mission: we all need to do our part for the Church’s mission. Here I am Lord. Send me!
What is a Missionary?
Mission is derived from a Latin word that means “to send”. A missionary is someone who is sent out to bring the Good News of Jesus to others. Missionaries often go to far-off places, especially places where people struggle every day to survive.
They help run hospitals, schools, orphanages, clinics. They provide food programmes, and help people learn how to care for themselves and build better lives for their families and community. And, most importantly, they share their Catholic faith—with all their actions for others motivated by God’s great love for each one of us!
How are we Missionaries?
By our baptism, we become members of a family—the family of the Church. Family members have responsibilities, and our responsibility is to share our faith. Some people fulfil this responsibility by actually going to mission countries to bring the Good News of Jesus to our brothers and sisters who are most in need. Most of us are missionaries by prayer and sacrifice.
The first act of mission is to be conscious of, and to pray for, the mission. Every person is able to offer prayers. Prayers lead to sacrifices. Every person can offer up suffering, temporary or chronic, for those who suffer daily in mission lands. Every person can give up something with the intention of sacrificing for the missions. Here I am Lord. Send me!
Pontifical Mission Societies
The Pontifical Mission Societies animate the Church for mission. These societies form an international network within the Catholic Church. Their charism and aim is to assist the Holy Father in supporting young Churches with prayer and funding, and to strengthen the missionary commitment to “Go and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you” (Mt 28:19–20), under the leadership of and in close collaboration with the Holy Father and the Bishops.
The Pontifical Mission Societies consist of four societies:
• The Society of the Propagation of the Faith
• The Society of Holy Childhood
• The Society of St Peter Apostle
• The Missionary Union
Each of these societies has a unique role to play in the mission of the Church. The Society of the Propagation of the Faith was founded in France in 1822 through a young woman, the Venerable Pauline Marie Jaricot.
At 17, she privately took the vow of chastity and decided to do all she could to support missionary activity through prayer, works and charity. She organised the first collection for the missions in 1817.
I urge you to pray for the conversion of those who have never been touched by the saving grace of Jesus. Pray for those who have not heard of His love and for the Churches that are still young.
I invite our seniors, those suffering from loneliness, discomforts and all persons who are ailing to offer up your sufferings with Christ for the mission. We are all missionaries.
French Bishop Charles de Forbin-Jansen began the Holy Childhood Association (HCA) in 1843 as an organisation of “Children helping Children”. Bishop de Forbin-Jansen shared his hope of establishing an organisation to aid the children of China with Pauline Marie Jaricot, founder of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. She suggested appealing to the children of Europe to help their sisters and brothers in other countries—young people in service to other youth around the world.
Today, the Missionary Childhood Association, MCA, is established in mission lands, more than 60 nations of the world. Children are encouraged to pray one Hail Mary daily for other children and to save a small sum each month to assist their young brothers and sisters. Hence the motto, “Children Helping Children”.
The Society of St Peter Apostle was founded in 1887 in Caen, France, by mother and daughter—Stephanie and Jeanne Bigard. This society supports the education of candidates for the Catholic priesthood and the formation of men and women candidates for religious life in the missions. To date some 300,000 major seminarians, mostly in Africa and Asia have been supported.
The Missionary Union of the Clergy is an association of clerics whose sole purpose is to animate and instil missionary eagerness in pastors and communities of formation. The Union was planned as a “school of education for apostolic service”.