While the economy last year was experiencing the aches that have become today’s chronic pains, two extraordinary signs of generosity were emerging.

To the tune of more than $1.5 million in 2007, Catholics in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia supported the missionary work of the universal Church through their donations.

The sum includes $1.4 million for the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, which supports missionaries and their apostolic works in developing countries where the Church is young and growing. In addition, the Society for St. Peter the Apostle received $58,000 in support of seminaries and novitiates that form young people for priesthood and religious life. The Holy Childhood Association also received $11,000 as children in the Archdiocese donated to help children in mission lands throughout the world.

Behind the donations stand the prayers of Catholics here who support the Church’s work of sharing the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ to all people.

Mindful of our roots as a mission church in the United States until the early 20th century, when up to that time we received support from European Catholics, today we offer our prayers and our blessings of resources for the spread of the Gospel in 1,150 mission dioceses around the world.

One striking need is the Church in Africa. Blessed by a vibrant and growing Church membership and rich in vocations, it nonetheless is challenged to meet the human needs that result from the poverty in which our brothers and sisters in Africa live. In addition to the aforementioned contributions, archdiocesan Catholics gave $273,000 this year through a special collection to assist the Church in Africa. The amount surpassed the previous year’s collection, itself only in its third year, by more than 50 percent.

Again, in a time when it would be easier to clutch one’s checkbook tighter, Catholics in the Philadelphia Archdiocese gave their money and their prayers to support the universal Church, especially where its needs are most acute.

The Church this week presents an opportunity to focus our prayers and generous spirit once again on the missionary work that the Apostle Paul dedicated himself to nearly 2,000 years ago. On this forthcoming Mission Sunday, Oct. 19, consider attending the Mass celebrated at the Cathedral Basilica of SS. Peter and Paul in Philadelphia at 11 a.m. You can also read Cardinal Rigali’s Mission Sunday message at www.archphila.org, or learn more about the Church’s work to fulfill our Lord’s command to “go and teach all nations” at www.worldmissions-catholicchurch.org.