"Are you a missionary?" If someone asked you that question, what would you say? In truth, the answer - for you and for me, for all baptized Catholics - is always, "Yes!"
I want to share with you two events that took place earlier this "Mission Month" that have nurtured my own appreciation of this missionary vocation we all share - a vocation the Catholics of the world will celebrate on World Mission Sunday, October 24.
The first was a Eucharistic Holy Hour, which gathered more than 1,000 children at the Basilica of the Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., on October 1, and, through a live broadcast on Eternal Word Television Network, also brought together millions of children here at home and around the world.
With Archbishop Gregory Aymond of New Orleans as the celebrant of this moving Liturgical event, these wonderful children learned about and celebrated how Christ is at the center of our lives and invites us, even as children, to tell others about how He has died and risen for all of us, and how Mary helps us to come to her Son. We were delighted to once again this year partner with the World Apostolate of Fatima (St. Paul-Minneapolis Division) on this Holy Hour; special thanks to our mission family in the Diocese of Arlington, Virginia(Father Patrick Posey and Sandy Bertini) and the Archdiocese of Washington, D.C. (Sister Sister Marie de la Trinite Siopongco, SSVM and Sister Maria de la Revelacion Castaneda, SSVM) for their assistance with the event, working with our national office team.
The worldwide dimension of this Eucharistic Adoration – shared with millions of children in 140 countries – was particularly powerful for me. What a wonderful way to teach how mission ad gentes is real and alive – and that children are missionaries right now, above all, as we too are, through prayer.
The second event that highlighted the centrality of "being missionary" every day was a "premiere showing" of the video production, "Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen: Servant of All." (View the recorded LiveStream presentation of the program before the film here, and the question-and-answer session that followed in the two video players below.)
Shown at St. Malachy's - the Actors' Chapel in New York City, this poignant production captivated the audience with highlights of Archbishop Sheen's illustrious life, and made special mention of his love for mission ad gentes; he had been, as I am now, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies. As I noted in that video, we are indebted to Archbishop Sheen for "putting the Missions on the map." If you are old enough to remember his original television programs or have seen some of the reruns, he masterfully told spellbinding stories from his many mission visits. In sharing them with his audience, he taught everyone that they too can be missionaries, and that we are truly "one family in mission."
Archbishop Sheen saw the need to be missionary every day, and he nurtured his love of the Missions – his self-proclaimed "greatest love" - with a daily Holy Hour before the Blessed Sacrament. Archbishop Sheen was truly a man of words and a master communicator who brought millions the message of mission and the teachings of the Church. But probably he would have us treasure most his "silence." One hour each day of his priesthood, Archbishop Sheen made that Holy Hour before our Lord present in the Eucharist. He drew on that lifelong intimacy with Jesus in the Blessed Sacrament as he spoke and wrote – and as he lived and witnessed to his faith.
Each of us too can draw strength from prayer and the Eucharist as we nurture our own missionary vocation – as we answer, "Yes!" to the question, "Are you a missionary?" every day. And we can spread the word – especially in the coming week – about the importance of World Mission Sunday, a universal celebration of our call to be the Lord's witnesses here at home and to the very ends of the earth. My prayer is that the Holy Spirit inflame us to personally invest ourselves this and every year in promoting this next-to-last Sunday as the high point of our missionary efforts each year, and to joyously remember every day, as we gather at the Table of the Lord, that we are, indeed, His missionaries, called and sent.
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.