The pope has established a COVID-19 Emergency Solidarity Fund to “come to the aid of those people and communities who are being tragically impacted by the spread of COVID-19” in mission lands.  

Certainly, Americans everywhere are struggling … families can’t access basic health care needs for fear of the virus, food supplies are limited and everywhere able-bodied members of our society are out of work laboring to make ends meet.

What we are experiencing now is what life is like every day in the mission areas supported by the pope. This is called a pandemic, but for mission families, it is a daily occurrence. And there is no supplemental aid from the government.

Out of this knowledge of the day-in-and-out struggles of people living in mission areas, Pope Francis has asked the church and its people to respond as they can.

This Tuesday, May 5, has been declared Giving Tuesday NOW. Perhaps on this day, Philadelphia would show solidarity with the pope and provide for those who cannot provide for themselves. Give now at PhillyMissions.org. The church’s activity of practical aid through its vast network shows that no one is alone in this crisis. 

The missionaries supported by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, one of the pope’s Mission Societies, do what the Lord has asked in extraordinary ways. Religious sisters and brothers, priests and lay pastoral workers reach out through hospitals and small clinics, and parish and social ministries, providing vital health care as well as basic needs, including food and shelter. 

Missionaries today, as they face the onslaught of the pandemic, are in desperate need of emergency support in order to be effective in their efforts. Their mission is to educate the communities they serve on proper hygiene techniques and preventative measures that can be taken and take care of as many of the poor as they can.   

This is seen first-hand with the Daughters of Mary in Tamil Nadu, India. “Our community is preparing food for the poor men, women and children in the streets, as they are starving … we give the food to the police department, and they serve,” says Sister Anila Christy. “We try to distance ourselves by mask, gloves and special dress as people continue to want to get too close and touch us. This ministry has to continue distributing food as there is no one in the streets or roads to give the poor anything when they beg.” 

Cardinal Luis Antonio Tagle, prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples in Rome, noted: “In her task of evangelization, the church is often on the front lines of major threats to human well-being. In Africa alone, there are over 74,000 religious sisters and over 46,000 priests operating 7,274 hospitals and clinics and managing 2,346 homes for elderly and the vulnerable. In many rural areas they are the only providers of health care and education. The pope is calling upon the church’s entire vast network to face the challenges ahead.”

Pope Francis contemplates on the crisis and the people that can be helped. “This is the moment to see the poor,” he said. “Jesus says we will have the poor with us always, and it’s true. They are a reality we cannot deny. But the poor are hidden, because poverty is bashful. To discover and help such a large number of people who are on the margins is where each of us has a chance to begin. Let’s not let it slip from us, and let’s move ahead.”

The Pontifical Mission Societies is the organization in Philadelphia that continues to do the work that Jesus himself called each of us to do: “…go and proclaim his name to the whole world.” Each of us is called to be missionary.

The Mission Societies provide prayers, humanitarian relief and material support generously given and distributed to aid the Holy See in 1,111 mission dioceses and to help sustain the local church, especially where Christianity is new. The societies care for and support these churches until they are able to be self-sufficient.  

There are three Mission Societies: The Society for the Propagation of the Faith supports the evangelization efforts of the local church. The Missionary Childhood Association educates children about their part in the church’s missionary work asking for their prayers and sacrifices. And the Society of St. Peter Apostle trains our next generation of missionary priests and religious men and women. Learn more and give at www.phillymissions.org.

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Msgr. Rodgers is director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia. 

Missionaries distribute information on social distancing to prevent further spread of the coronavirus.