Browsing From the Pastor's Desk

Mission Territory

Aug 3, 2018

When I was growing up in the 1950s, we received lots of magazines like Maryknoll from missionary religious orders who were busy all over the world spreading the Gospel. As children, we brought our pennies and nickels into school to add to the fund to ransom pagan babies. We were never explained how that worked; I guess we were ransoming them from the devil, but what he did with our money was unclear.

Nevertheless, there were lots of zealous priests and nuns here and not enough in Latin America, Africa, and Asia. We had enough to bring the Church to them. All that missionary work has paid off in many ways. A friend of mine was rector of a Carmelite seminary in Kenya. They have more applying to enter the seminary there than it can hold. And as I see for myself on my vacation each year, it is now priests from Africa and India who are coming here to staff many of our parishes in the U.S. Apparently, we are now a mission territory.

Of course, all the world is a mission territory. Of the 7.6 billion people in the world today, only 2.4 billion are Christian, and a big chunk of those are only nominally so...not really practicing or understanding their faith. There’s lots of missionary work to do.

Next Sunday, we will have a visitor from India, the world’s second-most populous nation, whose people are 80% Hindu and 15% Muslim. Christians are the largest of the many religions that squeeze into the other 5%. So, there is lots of missionary work to be done there, but it takes resources to do that.

Our missionary visitor will be asking for some help from us. He is from the diocese of Vijayawada, in southeast central India. This diocese has a total population of 5,142,614, of whom 260,638 are Catholics. The Catholics of the diocese are 99% Dalit (untouchables). This is not uncommon. The “untouchables” are just the kind of people Jesus preached to, those who don’t fit in and are open to listening to His Word and having a place in God’s kingdom. Anti-Christian violence in India is often directed against untouchables.

With 100 parishes and 1,120 mission stations, Vijayawada relies on 600 lay Catechists and pastoral workers to be the backbone of their evangelization effort; those workers in the field of the Lord are poor and barefoot, but rich in faith.

So the diocese of Vijayawada is looking to raise funds for three important parts of its mission. The first is for education of Dalit girls. If you have been following the news, you have seen some horrible stories of crimes in India directed against women, who are traditionally expected to be subservient to men; the Dalit women need to be able to support themselves. The second part of the mission in need of help is education and material assistance for the Catechists. And the third need is for the education and material support of seminarians.

Jesus prayed at the Last Supper that we all may be one and also asked us to do for others as we would want them to do for us. India is one with us by providing us priests from its sustenance, not from its surplus. We need to be one with its people by helping them in their efforts to make Jesus Christ present in that great, ancient, and populous land, where the harvest is rich but the machinery scarce. Please listen to our guest who will show you that, and be as Missouri generous as you can. The Lord sees all, knows all, and rewards all in His own perfectly just way.

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