The beautiful and familiar “Peace Prayer” attributed to St. Francis of Assisi concludes, “It is in giving that we receive, it is in pardoning that we are pardoned, it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.”

This prayer, although timeless, offers all of us a directive for Lent. It touches on the core of the Catholic faith and provides us a three-fold Lenten meditation on charity, forgiveness and the resurrection.

A small sacrifice helps us to prepare for “living for others.” St. Francis’ prayer and the season of Lent remind us that every human being may suffer and endure trials, “for His sake.” It is when we enter into the suffering of others, as Jesus did, that we may experience a glimpse of redemption.

Every week in the Catholic Archdiocese of Kisumu, Kenya, orphanages sponsored by Bishop Zacchaeus Okoth receive abandoned children from the streets and from hospitals.

Many parents or single mothers in this area must look into the eyes of their starving, crying children and tell them they have nothing to feed them. Their only hope is to send them to one of the Catholic orphanges rather than perish. The doors are always open, providing not only food for the body but hope for the soul. This is done only with the support of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Deep in the African bush in the Diocese of Chipata, Zambia, the faithful of St. John the Baptist parish gather midweek to hold a special “Makisa” Mass. This Eucharistic celebration is held every year to give thanks — zikomo in the local language. Churchgoers come bearing gifts, the fruits of their harvest, to share with all who come to the Mass. They sacrifice from their need to be sure that all are fed.

The Pontifical Mission Societies not only help provide financial support for this diocese but arrange for catechetical materials, sacred vestments and vessels, and Mass intentions for the local priest.

The spirit of Makisa and the words of the “Peace Prayer” capture the spirit of Lent — a spirit of sacrifice for the goods of others. Each year, the season of Lent serves as a reminder that our faith calls us to offer our time, talent and treasure for others, just as Jesus offered Himself for us on the Cross. The Pontifical Mission Societies stand ready to fulfill our charge from the Holy Father himself — to connect Catholics in the developed world with those most in need in the missions.

This Lent, please join us in reaching out to those who are in the greatest need — for food, shelter, education and mostly, for the saving love of the Gospel of Jesus Christ proclaimed to them regularly. Your greatest gift is your regular prayers. Please add to your prayers the Church’s mission to spread the Gospel and pray for our mission brothers and sisters who may be hearing about Jesus’ sacrifice for us at Lent for the first time.

To support the Church’s mission, call 215-587-3944, go to or e-mail

The Pontifical Mission Societies were given the title “Pontifical” in 1922 and have a special responsibility in the Universal Church. They are under the direct canonical jurisdiction of the Holy Father, who, together with the entire body of bishops, remind the faithful of their baptismal call to mission as the socities gather basic support for 1,150 mission dioceses.

More than one-third of local Catholic communities today are still considered “mission territory,” a geographical area that includes about three-fourths of the world’s population. The Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the Holy Childhood Association are two of the Pontifical Mission Societies.

Msgr. James McDonough is the director of the Office of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.