Becoming missionary disciples to spread the Word

March 13, 2018

From left to right, Dick Horstman, Archdiocesan Mission Council chairperson; Sharon Ettinoffe, local missionary from St. Francis of Assisi parish; Father Rafaél Dávila, Mayknoll missionary; Matt Johns, director of Outreach at Catholic Charities and Hilda Ochoa, director of the Office of Missions. Photo courtesy of Sharon Ettinoffe.

HOUSTON — Hurricane Harvey brought together the Archdiocesan Mission Office and Catholic Charities in the ongoing formation of parish mission teams through the annual Mission Workshop held on Feb. 10 at St. Dominic Center.
Father Dave Cottingham, CSSp, the first presenter, opened the day invoking the Holy Spirit with a hymn.
During his presentation, he reminded participants that authentic Catholic Spirituality cannot be separated from the mission of the Church.

He said the Church was founded for the purpose of spreading the kingdom of Christ throughout the earth, and that by virtue of Baptism, all the members of the people of God have become missionary disciples.

Father Cottingham reminded participants that being a disciple means being constantly ready to bring the love of Jesus to others; especially the poor and the sick — those who are usually despised and overlooked.

The second presentation, “Nuts and Bolts of Parish Mission,” was divided into three parts; Preparation For, Insertion In and Return From Mission.

Herb Appel, chairman of Medical Missionaries of Divine Mercy, reiterated the importance of the Holy Spirit in the discernment of God’s will in the work of the missionary.

Appel said that preparation includes determining mission location, defining mission goals and building the mission team. He also emphasized the importance of cultural awareness and consideration for the team’s personal and group safety.

From experience, he shared, “It’s not what you know that will get you in trouble, it’s what you don’t know. There is no such thing as over planning.”

Michelle Rieger of St. Anthony of Padua Catholic Church in The Woodlands emphasized the importance of building relationships, beginning with overdoing during the Insertion phase.

The key goal of the mission experience is to be the face of Christ to those we serve, she said. There should be daily opportunities to pray together and community building opportunities.

“Relationships that are mutual, empowering and collaborative should be built through inclusion of the host community in determining expectations, and also, where possible in the mission projects,” Rieger said. “The host community should also be included in evaluating the mission experience and in the ritual closing.”

Bob Kleeman, Maryknoll affiliate, shared the necessity of reflection and processing of the mission experience when returning home.

“Mission should be incorporated into daily living,” he said.

He emphasized the importance of “Telling the Story” of one’s experience to educate the parish community and to advocate on behalf of those who cannot represent themselves. Finally, in planning for the future, he said to consider an ongoing relationship with the host community.

The final presenter, Matt Johns, director of Disaster Relief Services at Catholic Charities, was a new addition to the mission workshop.

For those who usually think of mission as far away, Johns reminded participants that Hurricane Harvey has provided the opportunity for many mission projects here in the Archdiocese.

“While many throughout the Archdiocese were affected by Harvey, as a missionary Church, we are called to look beyond our own needs to support those with limited resources to rebuild,” he said.

A collaborative effort has been established between the Archdiocesan Mission Council and Catholic Charities to assist those who are most in need. Catholic Charities brings the case management process for identifying the needs, while the Mission Council, chaired by Dick Hortsman joins with mission teams, local groups and other community organizations to support the rebuild.

Response to Hurricane Harvey is unprecedented and Catholic Charities is in need of more case managers. Johns shared that the rebuilding process is long-term and will take up to three to five years.