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.

Friday, June 20, 2008

Five Thousand Words

They say a picture is worth a thousand words. Then today's blog entry will be five thousand words -- plus a bit more.

Our sister-director in the Pontifical Mission Societies in New York -- Sister Pauline Chirchirillo, PBVM -- has returned from Africa. I spoke with her just this morning, and she was still filled with the joy of the "Good News" she witnessed there.

She related her visit to St. Dominic's Major Seminary (below), where she met young men whose studies are supported by Catholics here at home and throughout the world by the Society of St. Peter Apostle, one of the four Pontifical Mission Societies.

She spent time with mothers and their children at a rural health clinic (below).

There was also lots of time with children, in projects supported by the Holy Childhood Association (below). That's the Pontifical Mission Society that helps children realize that they are missionaries right here today -- through their prayers and their help.

And there was a visit as well to young women in that African nation (below) who are preparing to serve as Religious Sisters among their own people.

There's so many more "words" to "show" from Sister Pauline's journey -- and she'll be coming to our national office next week to talk about her trip. We'll also be publishing more words and pictures, as well as videos from her time in Zambia. Stay tuned!

Monday, June 16, 2008

'Good News' from Africa

Let's talk about Africa. On the one hand, it is a continent of great suffering. And yet, there is "Good News" from Africa -- from the Church there.

The Church in Africa, although extremely poor and lacking basic rights, resources and opportunities, has nonetheless thrived in growing its faith in Christ. In the midst of persecution, civil war, oppression, natural disasters, extreme poverty, and the HIV / AIDS pandemic, the faith shines brightly.

Sister Pauline Chirchirillo, PBVM, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies for the Archdiocese of New York, has been an eyewitness to the truth of that statement. Just today, she wrote this message to me as she continues her mission visit to Zambia:

"Today I had the joy of meeting the first Zambian finally professed as a Presentation Sister, a member of my Religious Community. The Church is very much alive in Zambia, and vocations are numerous."

Sister Pauline's message to me also included the "good news" related to the family of supporters of the Pontifical Mission Societies. She saw firsthand in just three days in Zambia all that is helped with contributions to these Societies. Here's her testimony:

"I visited several places funded by the gifts of young people to the Holy Childhood Association. It is wonderful to see orphans, as well as physically challenged children receive such excellent, loving care. They are so very, very happy.

"I saw minor and major seminaries, and novitiates / convents funded by the Society of St. Peter Apostle. I am more convinced than ever of the importance of the Summer appeal to our donors for support of this particular Pontifical Mission Society.

"At the Catholic television and radio stations in this country, I discovered that so much of the construction, supplies and ongoing maintenance was made possible by contributions from Catholics to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith."

After reading Sister Pauline's e-mail to me, I said a prayer of thanks for the "Good News" from Africa -- and for the loyal support from the "one family in mission" here at home and throughout the world for the Church throughout Africa, as well as Asia, the Pacific Islands and remote regions of Latin America.

Friday, June 13, 2008

A Faith-Filled Friday the 13th

We've all heard the phrase "Friday the 13th" uttered with a hint of impending doom, or at the very least, bad luck.

Well, I've never espoused that notion -- and once again, the great faith of the Missions confirmed my instincts in that regard.

The proof positive came as I was uplifted and inspired by more from our New York director, Sister Pauline Chirchirillo, PBVM, as she continues her visit to Zambia. Here's what she wrote to me, on Friday the 13th of June.

"Today is Friday the 13th and it has been a most wonderful day. We went to a village in the bush called Makunka; the name of the parish there, Holy Childhood, and it is funded by the Holy Childhood Association (HCA). They also have a clinic for the children in nearby villages. I felt like Queen Elizabeth! The women and children from the surrounding villages came to greet me and thank me for the work and money given to them by young people through HCA in the United States. They did a beautiful song and dance welcoming me, and then one to say goodbye in which I joined by dancing with them! It took us two and a half hours to get to that village which was only 35 miles away! After that we visited one of the women and we saw the hut she lives in, the little houses in which the chickens are kept, and her garden. On the way back to the car, there were about 15 cows that came running towards us to go to the lake to get a drink of water.

"Father Bernard (our host, the national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Zambia) and the Presentation Sisters in Livingstone have been just wonderful, accommodating me in every way. Tomorrow morning we will be leaving at 8 for an eight-hour drive back to Lusaka. Yesterday morning we took a break from work for an experience of a lifetime -- a visit to Victoria Falls. It was absolutely beautiful, and we got so wet despite the fact that we were wearing rain ponchos. We looked like we fell in the river! That's all for now. Love to everyone."

Sister Pauline's commentary filled me with great gratitude -- to all who work in diocesan mission offices to tell such stories of hope and faith found in the Developing World, and to all who support, in prayer and sacrifice, the work of the Pontifical Mission Societies around the world. Stay tuned -- more inspiring, faith-filled Fridays are surely in store, no matter the date.

Monday, June 9, 2008

Out of Africa

Within a week of the launch of this "mission blog," I already have a firsthand report to share with you - straight out of Africa.

Our director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the Archdiocese of New York, Sister Pauline Chirchirillo, PBVM (shown here with me after our spring board meeting) is right now in Zambia, a country in southern Africa.

Zambia is a country of orphans and a place of extreme poverty. In four decades of independence, Zambia has found peace, but not prosperity. Some two-thirds of the population lives on less than a dollar a day. The economic challenges have been compounded by one of the world's most devastating HIV / AIDS epidemics. Zambia is one of the seven hardest-hit countries in that regard on that African continent: one in every six adults is living with HIV; some one million children are AIDS orphans. Worse, the number is expected to rise.

But there is hope amidst the suffering and poverty -- through the service of local priess, Religious Sisters and Brothers, and lay catechists who, in word and witness, help the poor and suffering come to know the "Good News" of God's great love for each one of us. That message is surely heard by orphan-residents of the Home of Joy in Lusaka, Zambia (see photographs above).

Sister Pauline arrived in Zambia on Thursday, June 5; we learned of her safe journey to Africa from her host and the national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Zambia, Father Bernard Makadani.

Just one hour ago, I received this e-mail message from Sister Pauline:

"Greetings from the heart of Africa. To date this has been a very delightful, informative visit. I have visited schools, orphanages and hospitals, all receiving help from the Holy Childhood Association.

"I went also to the minor and major seminaries, radio and video studios, and the new diocesan center; these are funded by two other Pontifical Mission Societies, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith and the Society of St. Peter Apostle. I also met and spoke with Sister-novices.

"It has been wonderful staying with the PBVMs, my Religious Community. There are missionary Sisters from Ireland, New Zealand, India and England. I have met other Religious from many different missionary communities and Zambian ones as well.

"Today I had dinner with the Bishop of Monze, Bishop Emilio Patriarca, a delightful, humble man.

"There is so much more to will have to wait until the next time."

As she closed her message, she wrote also of photographs and video footage to come from her visit. Stay tuned for more on Sister Pauline's time in Africa - a journey you are much a part of, through your prayers and support.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

A Meeting for Inspiration

Prayerful greetings and welcome to the first posting on this "mission blog"!

As national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, I hope to share thoughts with you from my own visits to the Developing World - Africa, Asia, the Pacific Islands and Latin America - as well as reports on the work carried out in Catholic dioceses throughout the United States to help encourage prayer and support of the Church's missionary work throughout the world.

This first message is about a meeting I attended in Toronto, just last week - and the inspiration it offered as we continue to remind baptized Catholics that we're all missionaries.

Members of the Catholic Press Association - the Pontifical Mission Societies included in that group - along with members of the Catholic Academy for Communication Arts Professionals gathered in that Canadian city for the annual Catholic Media Convention. We attended workshops and plenary sessions, shared meals and ideas on communication - no matter the medium - and, above all, gathered for daily Mass, receiving the nourishment to communicate the Word.

The Pontifical Mission Societies presented our own awards to Catholic magazines, newspapers and general publishers for excellence in promoting the worldwide mission of the Church. We also launched our new series of audio messages, Mission Lessons, for use on radio (including Internet and satellite), as well as for podcasting. These "moments from the Missions that teach and inspire" are reflections on my own pastoral visits to the Missions - on the life-giving service of priests, Religious Sisters and Brothers, and lay catechists - and on what I've heard and learned from missionaries throughout the years. These 60-second spots then relate those experiences to the "lessons" they hold for our everyday lives. Media professionals were supportive and affirming of our efforts in this area, and we're excited about the possibilities here.

For me, during each of those days in Canada, I could not help but think of someone so connected with both the Church's worldwide mission and the world of communications - the late Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen. Once national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies, Archbishop Sheen masterfully used the media to proclaim the "Good News" of Jesus and the teachings of the Church. Today, with the support and assistance of media professionals, we continue Archbishop Sheen's legacy. The time in Toronto told me that we are certainly on the right track - and even inspired the start of this blog. Stay tuned as I, with help from members of our "one family in mission" here at home and throughout the world, share the mission story and invite you to be a part of it.