The Pontifical Mission Societies include the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Holy Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. These Societies promote a prayerful missionary spirit among baptized Catholics and to gather a fund of support for the evangelizing and pastoral programs of more than 1,150 local churches of the Developing World.

Thursday, November 20, 2008

To the Land of the Himalaya

Tomorrow it's off to visit family once again -- our mission family in Nepal.

Nepal, a country of South Asia, is bordered by China to the north and India to the south, east and wet. The Himalaya mountain range runs across this Asian nation's northern and western parts, and eight of the world's 10 highest mountains -- including the highest, Mount Everest, are within its territory.

In May 2007, Pope Benedict XVI named a Jesuit missionary priest who had been serving the people of Nepal as the country's first bishop. Bishop Anthony Sharma is a native son of Nepal; born, in fact, in legendary Kathmandu. He was ordained a Jesuit priest there in 1968.

The modern Catholic presence in Nepal began in the 1950s when Jesuits from India established a school in Kathmandu. According to the 2006 Catholic Directory of Nepal, the predominantly Hindu country of 25 million people has 7,500 Catholics served by 56 priests, all but 12 of them Religious, as well as 123 Religious Sisters and four Religious Brothers.

This past March, during Holy Week, Bishop Sharma celebrated for the first time a Chrism Mass with his brother priests. (At this Mass, there is the annual blessing of the oils; these oils are distributed among the parishes of the diocese for use in the Sacraments throughout the year. Priests are also invited to this special Mass and are given the opportunity to renew their vows during the Liturgy.) Some 500 Catholics joined 36 diocesan and Religious priests for that Mass at Assumption Parish, the main church in the capital city of Kathmandu.

"My happiness knows no bounds," Bishop Sharma said in his homily, according to a report in UCA News. He then urged his priests: "Don't only preach the Gospel, but be a gospel of Christ. Set an example for others, believe in what you read and teach what you believe. Let the Church and the number of followers grow by your preaching and actions ... Bring about unity in the Church ... Bring back those who have gone astray, as this is the duty of a priest."

I look forward to meeting this dynamic missionary bishop -- and to seeing the life and witness of the Church in this part of the mission world. Keep an eye on this "mission report" in early December for the mission story out of Nepal!

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