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.

Tuesday, June 29, 2010

Seeing Their Believing

Mission journeys. My most recent trip to the Missions took me to both Vietnam and northern Thailand.

It was my first visit to Vietnam. Although Catholics have suffered much in the past 50-plus years with the realities of Communism, the Church is flourishing, with vocations to the Religious life and the priesthood booming.

I wish you could have joined me as I visited seminaries, some very large and bursting at the seams, and others brand new in their humble and just developing conditions. Motherhouses for Religious women are filled to capacity with some older sisters who date back further than the 1975 change of government. There are hundreds of younger Sisters from this "new era" for the Church in Vietnam.

If you were with me, you could not help but notice how young and how happy are these seminarians and those young women in formation to be Sisters. Their joy is infectious, to say the least. These young people are not naive in their desire to serve the Church, and they certainly realize that they have some real challenges ahead. But excellent formation will help them to render fruitful service among their own people, as priests and Sisters.

I had the great experience of being with 400 Religious Sisters as they finished their annual retreat, and formally celebrated and witnessed the perpetual vows of 16 new Sisters at their motherhouse. To be in the company of these happy and holy women was a beautiful experience! Most of them arrived and departed on bicycles, motor bikes or scooters; some from distant places. Their gathering seemed like that of a huge family outing, and I was treated like the "uncle" who was welcomed home.

The people of Vietnam have a very strong faith, and I was blessed to share it with them. I was particularly uplifted in visiting with those of tribal heritage who have historically been marginalized. The Church is dynamically involved in serving these beautiful and loving people. I was privileged to visit them in their local villages and to experience some of their cherished language, culture and customs.

Many of us see the deep faith of the Vietnamese who have come to live in our country - serving as missionaries to us. It is no surprise then that their faith is so alive in their homeland. And my seeing their believing firsthand was a huge blessing for me.

As is my custom, I always include all of you in my mission pastoral visits, making it a priority to extress your loving solidarity and prayerful support for people everywhere, as they too offer the same to each and everyone of us here at home. We are truly "one family in mission"!