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Father Muench Says...

We are all called to be missionaries

Oct. 18, 2017

By Father William Muench
NCC columnist

October, among other things, is the month dedicated to prayer for the Propagation of the Faith, the Missions.  On a Sunday in October, the Catholic Church celebrates World Mission Sunday, a time to remember those who dedicate their lives to being missionaries, who carry the Lord’s message and Spirit to the world.

After the Resurrection, before the Ascension Jesus instructed his apostles: “Go into the whole world and proclaim the good news to all creation.” (Mark 16:15).  We, Catholics, are a mission Church.  We are all called to be missionaries.

I have had the opportunity to meet many faith-filled bishops and priests who dedicated their priesthood to be foreign missionaries.  These priests impressed me with their readiness to make this sacrifice.  They are filled with Jesus, with a love to want to live like Jesus. They are dedicated to go into the world, to go to another place, another culture, to bring Christ to the people of another place.

Several priests from our own diocese became missionaries and gave years to work and minister in our diocesan parish in South America, in Mollendo, Peru.  I have talked with them and asked them why they chose to be a missionary.  In each case, the priest realized that he saw in this decision part of his vocation to be a priest.  God chose him; God directed him to be a priest, and  a missionary.

I have had the opportunity to meet and know many religious Sisters who became missionaries.  Their vocation to be a Sister, included a call to be a missionary.  They were willing to go to another country recognizing the need for their presence; they were ready to join in the mission to join in the mission of Christ to reach out to the poor in another place.

I can guarantee to you that their stories and dedication were truly impressive to me.  Their accomplishments were truly miraculous.

Today, I think of Madre Antonia, a Maryknoll Sister, originally from Brooklyn, who found her vocation in ministering to the people of Yankee in the altiplano of Peru.  Her love of God brought her to this place and she brought so much love and help to the people of that village. In that love she found a home in that place.
Finally, and possibly most importantly,  I have had the opportunity of meeting several lay men and lay women who chose to spend a time as a Christian missionary in a foreign land.

They chose to dedicate a part of their lives – a year or two years or more – to live with others in their homeland to share with them their Christian values. These lay missionaries sought to demonstrate their love for Jesus  just as St. Paul did as he traveled through so many places to bring the first message of Jesus. 

I remember in language school meeting a married couple who were studying in preparation of spending several years in a parish as missionaries in Bolivia with their three children.  They wanted to do this by living in this parish and sharing with these people their own love for the Lord.  I truly loved them.  This family, my friends, are not Catholic – they are dedicated Christians.  Seeing their joy of being a good Christian family it was easy to recognize their love and faith in God.  I also know a woman, now married and with her husband beginning their family, who decided to be a missionary.  After graduating from college, she chose to give two years of her young life joining in the work of the Canossian Sisters as a missionary in Egypt.

One more thing: each Sunday when I celebrate Mass in this parish here at home, I recognize that each person in this congregation is a missionary.  These people who remind me that they are just ordinary people have unique opportunities each day of bringing Jesus to the people they meet along the way.  They are truly missionaries. Their action may be something simple – living a good and Christian life – but this is truly being a missionary.  However, there may be a time when they must do something demanding, even heroic, to bring Christ’s love to someone in need, someone whose life is mixed up and they need help to change.

So, missionaries come in different forms but they are all loving and dedicated.   They realize this is a vocation from the Lord and they are ready, with God’s help, to make the world a better place. 

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