Pope Francis, in his message this year, highlighted that 2016 is the 90th Anniversary for World Mission Sunday. It is a moment of profound solidarity where the whole Church can financially care for “Christian communities in need” and support the “proclamation of the Gospel even to the ends of the earth.” The complete text is available here.
I would want to stress this moment of solidarity. All of us in mission are always seeking ways to raise funds for our piece of mission. This is right and good and the People of God have been very generous to us through our own annual appeals. Nevertheless, when we really look at our missionary efforts, we have to acknowledge that we do not go to the “ends of the earth.”
There is a lot happening in mission today and short-term mission trips, especially among young adults, is cultivating the missionary impulse. The stark reality, however, is that our “missio ad gentes” is not truly “Catholic” because we are not reaching out to everyone, everywhere. The Church has entrusted world mission to the Pontifical Mission Societies that works every day on behalf of the 1,111 mission dioceses – caring for the Churches in need and supporting the proclamation of the Gospel.
Is time for us to assume more responsibility for World Mission Sunday? There are many benefits to the missionary community of the United States – I would like to highlight five:
- World Mission Sunday provides an opportunity for us to tell our missionary story. We can highlight the missionary dioceses served through our parishes, campus ministries, dioceses, and religious institutes.
- It also provides a golden opportunity to cultivate the missionary spirit among the faithful and provide some mission education.
- It is a way of thanking the local church for their generosity through the Mission Cooperative Program that happens, generally, over the summer.
- It is a tangible expression of solidarity to our brothers and sisters who are taking the Gospel to the “ends of the earth” and honors the mandate given to the Pontifical Mission Societies.
- Our involvement in World Mission Sunday gives a human face to mission and demonstrates how the US Catholic Community is providing both financial and human resources for world mission.
The challenge, of course, is how to support World Mission Sunday. I offer the following suggestions:
- Stay rooted in your experience and your story. What missionary dioceses have you served in and what “corporal and spiritual works of mercy” needed financial support?
- Share your story with the local Church. Perhaps you could write an article for the local Catholic newspaper or the diocesan newsletter? Is there a “speakers’ bureaus” through the diocese?
- Networking. Introduce yourself to the mission office in your diocese. Let them know of your willingness to be helpful. If the mission office is understaffed, reach out to the pastors in the area where you currently live. Make yourself available for mission talks.
- Organize. Perhaps your organization could sponsor a reception on your own; inviting members of the local faith community to come and hear your story and your support for World Mission Sunday. This would be a great way to reach out to other “former” missionaries in the area, pastors and DRE’s, and parish leaders.
- Donate. Perhaps your organization – as a parish, a campus ministry, or a religious community – could make a donation to World Mission Sunday as an expression of solidarity to world mission.
World Mission Sunday is October 23, 2016. Donations can be made through the diocese or directly through the Pontifical Mission Societies website – www.propfaith.net.
As a coalition of organizations and individuals dedicated to mission, we need to identify, promote, and assess our efforts to cultivate the missionary spirit of the U.S. Catholic Church. I would welcome your thoughts on this vital aspect of our mission.
Together in Mission,
Dr. Donald R. McCrabb
P.S. Be sure to visit our website to see other resources for cultivating the missionary spirit.