The Pontifical Mission Societies include the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Holy Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. These Societies promote a prayerful missionary spirit among baptized Catholics and to gather a fund of support for the evangelizing and pastoral programs of more than 1,150 local churches of the Developing World.
Friday, August 22, 2008
The World In One Room
Just yesterday, Africa and Asia were in one room. And it happened right here at the national office.
During the summer months, many visitors from the Missions come to see me. They are here in our country speaking in U.S. parishes about the Church's work among the poor and suffering of the Developing World. Others stop by to be interviewed by staff at the national office of the Pontifical Mission Societies. Both things happened on Thursday, August 21.
Around mid-morning, Bishop Antony Pappusamy of Dindigul, India, stopped by, accompanied by Father Michael Arputhan, a priest from his Catholic diocese in India who happens to be serving here in the United States at St. Mary's parish on Staten Island, New York. Bishop Pappusamy told me about his relatively new diocese, established just five years ago this November. Catholics there number about 105,000, about six percent of the total population. There are 63 local priests working alongside another 59 missionary priests. In the local seminary, 92 young men are preparing for the priesthood. And there are 173 Religious Sisters who are serving among their own people.
Bishop Pappusamy, whom I had met on a recent mission pastoral visit to India, stressed his emphasis on education. "Most in my diocese are poor farmers, and they cannot afford an education for their children," he explained. There is so far a school for 500 girl students, who will each receive a free education. One is being planned for boys as well.
As we gathered for our daily noon Mass in the national office, Bishop Pappusamy connected the words of the Gospel to the work of his diocese. "Like those who went into the byroads in today's Gospel, we too invite all in to the Church," he said. "We pray for those who don't yet know our Lord and reach out to them." Toward that end, he spoke of the 60 lay people who go to the Hindu villages and speak of Christ to families.
Concelebrating at that Mass as well was Salesian missionary Father John Thompson, who was home for a brief time before returning to his missionary work in Nigeria. He had come to the national office for an interview that will be featured in the next MISSION magazine. Before Nigeria, Father Thompson served as a missionary, for 16 years, in Sierra Leone and Liberia, during the civil war that claimed the lives of thousands in those African nations. "It's challenging," he said of his war-time service. "You must keep hatred out of the picture. You must love always the person, no matter the actions, and reach out with God's love to all."
It was quite an amazing morning and early afternoon -- like seeing the world without ever leaving one room.
Photo above, from left to right, national office staff missiologist Maryknoll Father John Gorski, Father Michael Arputham, Monsignor John Kozar, Bishop Anthony Pappusamy and Salesian Father John Thompson.