By Msgr.James McDonough
On Holy Thursday, the poignant lesson Jesus teaches, as we hear in Matthew 23:11, is “the greatest among you must be your servant.”
Jesus’ proclamation to serve others, particularly in the Lenten Gospel readings heard during Lent, is the invitation that missionaries follow. They respond to God’s call and bring comfort to suffering and poor people on every continent. Missionaries follow Jesus’ spirit of service by teaching the Catholic faith to children, ministering to sick and elderly people and caring for the impoverished people by bringing them the Good News of God’s merciful love.
Our lives, especially today, may be filled with challenges. In reality, our life may seem like an endless Good Friday, as we face, perhaps, a serious illness of someone we love, a job loss and financial difficulties or simply the trials of daily living. Even though our troubles are paramount, God asks us to have faith in Him and “wash one another’s feet.”
For the poor in a remote area of northern Zambia, life, too, can appear as a never-ending stream of hardships. They live in an isolated area, nine hours from the nearest town; a terrain marked by mountains and dangerous cliffs. These men, women and children lack the basic necessities of life. It would seem that they could feel hopeless except for the presence of Jesus as manifested by the religious women.
The Servants of the Mary Immaculate Sisters began their work at Our Lady of Sorrows mission in the Luano Valley of Zambia five decades ago. Today their convent – although in great disrepair – does not dampen the uplifting, life-giving service they offer to their brothers and sisters in this part of Zambia, their homeland.
Five sisters work among these villagers. One, Sister Juliet, is a nurse; others teach at the mission school. They help to raise fruits and vegetables for themselves and the people. The sisters visit the aged and the sick; they care for the littlest ones, as well, helping them to realize from an early age how much God loves them. “The sisters have a heart for the people,” said one man. “They give us a message of hope and joy, even with the struggles we face.”
Indeed, all missionaries, “have a heart for the people” of the missions and follow the model of love and service given to us by Jesus. They have been sent to establish missions in countries throughout the world. These dedicated men and women work with exemplary zeal to make Jesus known, loved, served and adored.
The Pontifical Mission Society for the Propagation of the Faith helps missionaries, like the sisters, to meet educational, health care and social service needs and, in times of crisis, disaster and emergency relief needs in more than 1,150 mission dioceses in Asia, Africa, the Islands of the Pacific and remote areas of Central and South America. For more information about the Pontifical Mission Society for the Propagation of the Faith, visit www.phillymissions.org.
Please know that you and your own difficulties, great and small, are remembered in the prayers of those you support in the missions. May you face your Good Friday challenges, ever mindful and strengthened by the hope of our Lord’s resurrection! Your gift to the missions is a true gift of love and is greatly appreciated in this time of need.
Msgr. James McDonough is the director of the Office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.