By Msgr. James McDonough
At baptism, each of us is given a distinct responsibility. The Lord calls on us to tell the world the Good News of His love and salvation. He calls us to be His missionaries. This was the message delivered by Cardinal Justin Rigali at Mass celebrating World Mission Sunday on Oct. 19.
To be missionary everyday is Jesus’ call to us and, in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, it is a big part of my responsibility to you, the faithful. Greetings! My name is Monsignor James McDonough, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies. Our office seeks prayer, sacrifice and financial support for the Church’s missionary work.
Although our office is in Philadelphia, each day at work, through letters, e-mails and sometimes visits from missionaries, I travel to all different parts of the world, from Sri Lanka to Herrera to Mozambique to Papua, New Guinea. Our office helps respond to the needs of all these places and other countries worldwide.
Our hearts are opened as we are told of missionaries working all over the world proclaiming Jesus to the people they serve. And now, my hope through writing this column on a regular basis is to foster a missionary spirit within you and bring you stories and information on the life and needs of the Catholic Church in the missions.
During November, it seems fitting to begin with Masses and their role in helping missionary dioceses and communities. It is a holy and wholesome thought to pray for the dead. It is a theme that we reflect on especially during the month of November, the month of the Holy Souls. The Catechism of the Catholic Church tells us: “All who die in God’s grace and friendship, but still imperfectly purified, are indeed assured of eternal salvation; but after death they undergo purification, so as to achieve the holiness necessary to enter into the joy of Heaven.” [CCC no.1030]
The Catechism goes on to say that: “From the beginning the Church has honored the memory of the dead and offered prayers in suffrage for them, above all the Eucharistic sacrifice, so that, thus purified, they may attain the beatific vision of God.” [CCC no. 1032]
The other day, our office received a legacy to be used for Mass intentions for the happy repose of the soul of a loved one who died. One of my responsibilities and privileges is to send these Mass intentions to bishops in the poorest of countries around the world. The bishops then distribute them to their mission priests; poor themselves, they serve among the poorest of the human family and care for the needs of their parishioners. The priests celebrate these Masses for the intention of the donor, in this case for the happy repose of the soul of the loved one who has passed away.
The office often receives letters from priests like Father Sleeva Raju Marneni in the mission diocese of Nalgonda, India. He writes, “This mission parish is very remote and is with 14 mission stations. There is no proper transportation or electricity – the area is far behind in development and nothing is an easy task.”
Father Marneni continues, “Our people are full of spirit, but very poor, working as laborers everyday. Services in the mission stations take place evenings and having special prayers [Mass intentions] for others builds up our people’s faith, helps draw the people of other faiths and provides for some needs.”
In addition to providing Mass stipends, our office assists priests in mission lands in other ways. Some months ago, Bishop Felipe Padilla from the Diocese of Tehuantepec in southeast Mexico paid a visit. He mentioned that his diocese has a Catholic population of 1.9 million. The diocese has 25 mission stations available for the celebration of Holy Mass and only 12 chalices. Because of the generosity of some of our mission-minded friends, we were able to provide the bishop with several chalices and sets of vestments.
Thank you for your prayers for the missions. Our missionaries in 1,150 mission dioceses throughout the world pray constantly for you and for your intentions.
Remember, through prayer and sacrifice, by your words and actions, you become a missionary for the Lord.
Msgr. James McDonough is the director of the Office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.