Living his mission, calling in Guatemala

October 11, 2011

HOUSTON — Father Jose Francisco Perez is all too familiar with World Mission Sunday. He is a walking example of the work Catholic missionaries do all over the world.

Two years removed from his ordination, May 22, 1969, Father Perez left for Guatemala City to preach the good news to an impoverished country riddled with violence and corruption.

"I've been working in the missions of Guatemala representing the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, the people of the Archdiocese for a little over 40 years," said Father Perez, who went on his mission there in Oct. 1971. "I have participated in the struggle of the people as they try to build a better, a different Guatemala. Together we have come to understand the strength God gives to those who believe in His love. In proclaiming that the Kingdom of God is near, Jesus was proclaiming that another world was possible. ‘I came that they may have life, and have it to the full.' "

A graduate of St. Mary Seminary, Father Perez serves as pastor of Jesús Nipalakin Parish and oversees 24 different communities within the parish; each community with its own church. With over a 100,000 people in that particular area where he serves and no real central church, Father Perez visits each community twice a month to celebrate Mass.

The people there, Father Perez says, "have learned that Mission is communicating the experience of the resurrected Christ. Mission is helping people organize themselves in small Christian communities so that they can proclaim the Kingdom of God and that a different and better world is indeed possible."

Not only does his missionary work involve preaching the Word, but also making sure people's health care needs are met. There are two medical clinics in the parish that help look after the needs of the community. In addition Father Perez also is the national coordinator of the "Comunidades Eclesiales de Base" (small Christian communities) and oversees the Experimental School Ciudad Quetzal that has around 350 children, pre-kindergarten to ninth grade.

"I have walked with the people in Guatemala, working towards building the local a Church through their participation in small Christian communities," Perez said. "The Latin American Episcopal Conference presents these small Christian communities as a way of being a Church. In them, the people build fraternal relations of equality and love. They learn to believe in themselves and one another. They discover that their strength lies in the capacity of sharing the little that they have, sharing what they themselves need. In the small Christian community the people celebrate life. Outside of the community, they experience the violence, fear, discrimination and corruption present in Guatemala." †

Organized by the Propagation of the Faith, it is a day set aside for Catholics worldwide to recommit themselves to the Church's missionary activity through prayer and sacrifice. In 2011, World Mission Sunday is celebrated on Oct. 23.

Annually, World Mission Sunday is celebrated on the next-to-last Sunday in October. As described by Pope John Paul II, World Mission Sunday is "an important day in the life of the Church because it teaches how to give: as an offering made to God, in the Eucharistic celebration and for all the missions of the world.

To learn more about World Mission Sunday, visit the official websites of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. Click here for the Holy Father's message for World Mission Day 2011.

Where: Co-Cathedral of the Sacred Heart 

When: Sunday, Oct. 23, 11 a.m. After Mass, mission exhibit at the Cathedral Centre, 1701 San Jacinto. Use side entrance on Jefferson. 

Local missionary groups will share pictures and offer information about their works in the missions.