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.

Saturday, August 30, 2008

Seeing It Through Faith

As I write this to you, I am visiting the Missions of Peru. And, as the world once again watches the devastation a hurricane can wrought, I recall my own experience of natural disaster in this South American nation many years ago.

Where do we find appropriate answers at times like these? Where do we find comfort? There is a simple, yet profound answer. We, as believers, look to our faith. It is what nourishes us; it sustains us and, in the worst of times, it allows us to endure. My experience in Peru, during the worst floods in the country's history, certainly offered valuable insight into the overwhelming power of faith.

Back during that 1980s visit here, people were dying, their humble homes being washed away; there was disease and starvation. And yet, there we were, visiting missionaries from my home Diocese of Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, taking part in a religious procession with hundreds of faithful on the Feast of the Body and Blood of Christ. Their faith at work, focused on the real presence of our Lord in the Eucharist, these people were happy and hopeful.

To all who have suffered thus far from Hurricane Gustav, for all who have died and for those who mourn, know that all of us in this "one family in mission" are offering our faith-filled prayers for each one of you. To our brothers and sisters right here at home, in the Gulf States, who just three years after the decimation of Hurricane Katrina are facing similar suffering and devastation, know that the prayers of the people of the Missions are with you as well. Your brothers and sisters in Peru and throughout the Developing World have lived through similar circumstances. And, in addition to their prayers, they offer you their faith-filled example of seeing any event through in faith. May the power of our faith in Jesus, the light and hope of the world, help all who face suffering of any kind this day and in the days to come. Amen.

Friday, August 22, 2008

The World In One Room

Just yesterday, Africa and Asia were in one room. And it happened right here at the national office.

During the summer months, many visitors from the Missions come to see me. They are here in our country speaking in U.S. parishes about the Church's work among the poor and suffering of the Developing World. Others stop by to be interviewed by staff at the national office of the Pontifical Mission Societies. Both things happened on Thursday, August 21.

Around mid-morning, Bishop Antony Pappusamy of Dindigul, India, stopped by, accompanied by Father Michael Arputhan, a priest from his Catholic diocese in India who happens to be serving here in the United States at St. Mary's parish on Staten Island, New York. Bishop Pappusamy told me about his relatively new diocese, established just five years ago this November. Catholics there number about 105,000, about six percent of the total population. There are 63 local priests working alongside another 59 missionary priests. In the local seminary, 92 young men are preparing for the priesthood. And there are 173 Religious Sisters who are serving among their own people.

Bishop Pappusamy, whom I had met on a recent mission pastoral visit to India, stressed his emphasis on education. "Most in my diocese are poor farmers, and they cannot afford an education for their children," he explained. There is so far a school for 500 girl students, who will each receive a free education. One is being planned for boys as well.

As we gathered for our daily noon Mass in the national office, Bishop Pappusamy connected the words of the Gospel to the work of his diocese. "Like those who went into the byroads in today's Gospel, we too invite all in to the Church," he said. "We pray for those who don't yet know our Lord and reach out to them." Toward that end, he spoke of the 60 lay people who go to the Hindu villages and speak of Christ to families.

Concelebrating at that Mass as well was Salesian missionary Father John Thompson, who was home for a brief time before returning to his missionary work in Nigeria. He had come to the national office for an interview that will be featured in the next MISSION magazine. Before Nigeria, Father Thompson served as a missionary, for 16 years, in Sierra Leone and Liberia, during the civil war that claimed the lives of thousands in those African nations. "It's challenging," he said of his war-time service. "You must keep hatred out of the picture. You must love always the person, no matter the actions, and reach out with God's love to all."

It was quite an amazing morning and early afternoon -- like seeing the world without ever leaving one room.

Photo above, from left to right, national office staff missiologist Maryknoll Father John Gorski, Father Michael Arputham, Monsignor John Kozar, Bishop Anthony Pappusamy and Salesian Father John Thompson.

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Priceless Souvenirs

On trips we make, we inevitably return with a remembrance of our experiences. Well the souvenirs I'll bring back from Ecuador, after this week there of participating in the third Missionary Congress for the Americas (CAM), won't take up any room in my suitcase, but they have increased to overflowing my continued enthusiasm for the Lord's urgent mission in our world.

You may remember two weeks ago when I wrote about this weeklong gathering in Quito, Ecuador. This missionary congress continues to reflect the late Pope John Paul's vision of "one America." CAM represents an invitation by the Universal Church to come together as a continental church to focus on our mission history, as well as our mission awareness and mission needs.

The opening Mass -- attended by some 16,000 people -- was truly an emotional experience. The remains of St. Therese of Lisieux, co-patron with St. Francis Xavier, of the Church's worldwide missionary work, were part of the procession. They were raised with reverence at several points. I remember thinking of what a blessed example of missionary zeal we have in St. Therese. Daily, she offered her prayers and her sufferings for the work of missionaries. She herself wanted to be a missionary, but her frail health -- she died at the age of 24 -- forced her to stay at home, in the carmel of Lisieux, and be a missionary through her prayers and sacrifices. There's something to bring back, an increased emphasis on the model for all of us found in St. Therese. We can be missionaries not in spite of our challenges but sometimes through them, because of them.

A missionary witness

of prayer

and sacrifice.

Faith and love.


Priceless souvenirs,


A number of the delegation representing the United States at CAM are directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies in their home dioceses. Two who shared their thoughts with me were Father Bill Holoubek of Lincoln, Nebraska, and Father Patrick Posey of Arlington, Virginia.

For Father Holoubek, his "souvenir" is the witness to our faith he saw in the words and actions of the family he has been living with during the meeting. (Delegates may choose to lodge at a hotel, or they may opt to live with families who open up their homes to meeting participants.) "Their love for Jesus is so simply put into action in their lives," Father Holoubek told me. "It's reflected in their prayers, and in the tender way they speak of Him. To see the power of the Lord's love in the life of this family is a profound gift."

Father Posey can't wait to bring back something from his Ecuador experience to Arlington, he told me -- and that "something" is hope. "The young people here have been amazing," he said. "They've been directing us to the right places, always ready to answer a question. Pope Benedict XVI talked about hope on his journey to the United States. I've seen that hope here, among the youth in Latin America."

A missionary witness of prayer and sacrifice. Faith and love. Hope. Priceless souvenirs, indeed.

Friday, August 8, 2008

Four Million Listeners -- and Counting!

I'm going back to the beginning -- to the first blog published on, that is.

In that commentary, I mentioned that we had just launched during the May meeting of the Catholic Press Association and Catholic Academy of Communications Arts Professionals 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.

These spots continue the legacy of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, one of the four Pontifical Mission Societies, from 1950 to 1966. Archbishop Sheen masterfully used the media to proclaim the "Good News" of Jesus and the teachings of the Church. It is most fitting that we return to our roots here, while utilizing the technology in this area available to us today. In 1930, Archbishop Sheen started a weekly national radio broadcast, The Catholic Hour. Two decades later that program had an estimated audience in the millions.

Media professionals who were present at that spring meeting were supportive and affirming of our efforts in this area, and we were then most excited about the possibilities.

Well, the results are in -- and they have surpassed our expectations. The report on the release of the first 10 Mission Lessons indicates that 85% of Catholic stations are airing them, reaching a potential Catholic audience of four million! We're on the air from KBLE station in Seattle, Washington to WISP in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, and countless others in between. We're in cities, big and small. We're being broadcast in four of the five top radio markets -- New York, Chicago, San Francisco and Dallas / Fort Worth. All the major national Catholic radio networks -- EWTN, Ave Maria, Relevant and The Catholic Channel -- have been broadcasting these radio messages. And regional networks, like Guadalupe Radio, Immaculate Heart Radio, and Radio Maria have also provided their listeners with the opportunity to learn more about the Missions and the Pontifical Mission Societies -- not to mention to discover the lessons life in the Missions holds for our everyday lives.

A big "thank you" is sent to Sherry Kennedy Brownrigg of the Kennedy Brownrigg Group is the producer / distributor of our spots. A true professional who brings the best to the project, she also draws the best out of all involved. Her guiding hand and sound advice, supported by her years of experience in the audiovisual media, made our venture into radio a most successful one, and one that helped us live up to the legacy of a master communicator in our history, Archbishop Sheen. Our gratitude as well to our friends at Instructional Television of the Archdiocese of New York, where we have recorded the first three sets of these radio messages, 30 in all. And above all our profound appreciation to radio stations and networks who embraced our message and, in so doing, embraced the world's Missions as well.

The second set of 10 Mission Lessons will be distributed in September, and the final group of 10 for the year will be released this December. And this fall, around mid-September, we'll be publishing bookmark versions of these "moments from the Missions that teach and inspire" that you can download free on our web site at All our audio messages are there for free download as well. Keep "tuning in" -- online and on the air!