In 1926 Pope Pius XI, instituted World Mission Sunday for the universal Church. He asked Catholics to pray, learn about the missions and give donations for those working in mission territories as well as all the people they served. His concern was to foster a sense of responsibility in all Catholic people for supporting the Missions throughout the world. Today, Sunday, October 23 will be the 96th year of celebrating World Missions Sunday.
The yearly World Mission Sunday celebration reminds us that the call to bring the Gospel to others remains as necessary today as it from our very beginnings in 1st century Palestine. In our world today, being a missionary is not only those called to go to other cultures, languages and lands, it is also, perhaps even more of a challenge, to bring the Gospel to our city, our neighborhoods our society. For centuries, dedicated men and women took up the call of Jesus to bring the Gospel to others. This call led many people to sacrifice greatly in order to share their faith in the message of Jesus with others. We, here in the USA, are the beneficiaries of dedicated priests, religious men and women and faith-filled laity who brought the "Good News" of Jesus to our lands. However, vocations to religious life and priesthood have diminished sharply in the past few years.
Pope Francis reminds us, “Many parts of the world are experiencing a dearth of vocations to the priesthood and the consecrated life. Often this is due to the absence of contagious apostolic fervor in communities which lack enthusiasm and thus fail to attract. The joy of the Gospel is born of the encounter with Christ and from sharing with the poor. For this reason, I encourage parish communities, associations and groups to live an intense fraternal life, grounded in love for Jesus and concern for the needs of the most disadvantaged. Wherever there is joy, enthusiasm and a desire to bring Christ to others, genuine vocations arise.”
St. Francis of Assisi, whose feast we celebrated October 4, soon after other men began to follow after him, sent his new brothers out "two by two" to bring the Gospel to others. Francis tried to live all his life the Gospel of the Lord Jesus Christ. He wanted to share the deep love he had for Christ with others. His deep devotion to the missionary spirit he instilled in his followers as he sent them out as missionaries. It is that sense of being sent to bring Good News to others that motivated St. Francis is also what Pope Francis encourages we who are Church today to also live.
I offer below some passages from Pope Francis's Message for World Mission Day 2022 This year he chose the theme of "You shall be my witnesses" (Acts 1:8). May each of us acknowledge God's call to us to bring the Gospel to others and may we be witnesses to Christ in daily living our Catholic faith.
Excerpts from Pope Francis Message
World Mission Day 2022
The heart of Jesus' teaching to the disciples is to be witnesses of Jesus' life and message to others. As Pope Francis states, "...every Christian is called to be a missionary and witness to Christ. And the Church, the community of Christ's disciples, has no other mission than that of bringing the Gospel to the entire world by bearing witness to Christ. To evangelize is the very identity of the Church."
"Each baptized person is called to mission, in the Church and by the mandate of the Church: consequently, mission is carried out together, not individually, in communion with the ecclesial community, and not on one's own initiative."
"Saint Paul VI taught that Evangelization is for no one an individual and isolated act; it is one that is deeply ecclesial. Indeed, it was no coincidence that the Lord Jesus sent his disciples out on mission in pairs; the witness of Christians to Christ is primarily communitarian in nature. Hence, in carrying out the mission, the presence of a community, regardless of its size, is of fundamental importance."
"More and more, we are seeing how the presence of faithful of various nationalities enriches the face of parishes and makes them more universal, more Catholic. Consequently, the pastoral care of migrants should be valued as an important missionary activity that can also help the local faithful to rediscover the joy of the Christian faith they have received."
"Dear brothers and sisters, I continue to dream of a completely missionary Church, and a new era of missionary activity among Christian communities. I repeat Moses’ great desire for the people of God on their journey: “Would that all the Lord’s people were prophets!” (Num 11:29). Indeed, would that all of us in the Church were what we already are by virtue of baptism: prophets, witnesses, missionaries of the Lord, by the power of the Holy Spirit, to the ends of the earth!
Mary, Queen of the Missions, pray for us!"
This weekend, we recommit ourselves to our common vocation through Baptism to be missionaries, through prayer, participation in the Eucharist, and by generously sharing our gifts. The annual World Mission Sunday collection provides critical financial support to missionaries and communities of faith in the most economically disadvantaged regions of the globe through the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the Catholic Near East Welfare Association. Working with limited means, local churches bear witness to the Gospel amid scarcity, conflict and instability. Missionaries address all forms of material and spiritual needs to build up the church, affirm human dignity, alleviate poverty, encourage dialogue and inspire hope.
Overseen by Pope Francis, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith has a 200 year history of solidarity. Today, when you contribute to the World Mission Sunday collection, you make it possible for the Pope to provide support to:
- 844,000 catechists teaching the faith
- 258,540 Religious Sisters caring for children and families
- 38,140 seminarians preparing for the priesthood
- 26 million children in primary schools
- 12,000 clinics caring for the sick and dying
- 8,750 homes for orphaned children and the elderly
When it seems that so much divides us, World Mission Sunday rejoices in our unity as missionaries by our Baptism, as it offers each one of us an opportunity to support the life-giving presence of the Church among the poor and marginalized in more than 1,100 mission dioceses. If you are able, place a donation to support World Mission Sunday in the second collection basket, or you can make a donation online at WeAreMissionary.org/wms.
I also encourage everyone who is a citizen to VOTE in the coming election. National and State elections are on Tuesday, November 8. Early election polling sites are now open. As citizens it is our duty to participate in helping keep our country's democracy alive and well. May each of us do our part to maintain the health and wellbeing of our country.