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, December 18, 2009

Week of Celebration

A power-packed week, indeed.

That's how I would describe the events of the week of December 7.

First of all, there were several days preparing for and celebrating the 30th Anniversary on December 9 of the death of Archbishop Fulton Sheen, former radio and television personality of much fame, author of a multitude books and pamphlets, and a former National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies. It was the latter that gave me so much exhilaration during the festivities.

Certainly the highlight of the week was a beautiful Eucharistic Liturgy in solemn fashion at St. Patrick's Cathedral, with Archbishop Timothy Dolan, Archbishop of New York, as principal celebrant and homilist. Archbishop Dolan’s homily captivated all in attendance and brought everything into a good focus. He spoke of how this mission man named Fulton Sheen was truly a man for all seasons and times. He observed that everything Archbishop did, wrote and spoke was about leading others to Christ. (Read more at Archbishop Dolan's blog.) The Liturgy seemed to energize all of us who are dedicated to advancing the cause for his canonization.

Complementing the celebration at St. Patrick's Cathedral were two evenings of special note: one was a grand reception immediately following the Liturgy on December 9, at which we released our new audio documentary on the life and legacy of Archbishop Sheen, "Faithful Witness" (see photo here from reception with Bishop Daniel Jenky of Peoria, and Monsignor Stanley Deptula, Archbishop Sheen Foundation);

the other was a reception the evening before, on December 8, that served as the premiere of a video documentary, "Servant of All," commissioned by the Archbishop Fulton Sheen Foundation, which hopefully will soon be aired on national television. The excitement generated by these wonderful tools gave everyone a good "shot in the arm" for the cause. There were about 20 bishops and 75 priests in attendance for all or part of the festivities; this, too, added a dimension of support and celebration that was noted by all.

At the end of that week, I was privileged to travel to Washington, D.C. with Patty Macias and Iliana Prevost of our national office to participate in the annual Mass at the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception for the winners of the national Christmas art contest sponsored by the Holy Childhood Association in the United States.

Thirteen of the 24 national winners joined us for this festive liturgical celebration, along with family members and friends. They came from far and wide: from California, Texas, Nebraska and points all over the United States. These winners were selected from the more than 10,000 entries to our contest. (See end of this message for the winning entry from Uyen Chi Ngo, 8th grader from the Diocese of San Diego, California, whose art was featured on my Christmas card this year.)

In congratulating the winners, I highlighted for all at this Mass how the Holy Childhood Association, in its call for children to be missionaries, can make a big difference in the lives of children in faraway places and at home. I shared with these great kids how their counterparts in Developing World countries are often exploited, abused or abandoned, but how Christ makes all the difference in their lives. And I emphasized that their participation in our Christmas art contest was one way in which they were actively engaged as missionaries in sharing their faith convictions with others -- with the thousands who visit the Shrine and see their art on exhibit there (through the Feast of the Epiphany), and with many more thousands on the internet as Christmas e-greetings. Congratulations to the children of the world in their love for Christ and their participation in the Holy Childhood Association!

Yes, as I said earlier, it was quite a week, packed with celebration and affirmation of our part in this "one family in mission."

Blessings and peace to all for Christmas!