Mission: To be loving, compassionate and just toward others

July 18, 2017

Every year, all of our parishes in the Archdiocese are assigned one visiting missionary as part of the Missionary Cooperative Plan, coordinated by the Mission Office.

During one weekend, these missionaries share with the parish community stories of their mission activities and invite us to participate in their work with our prayers and financial support, enabling us to grow in awareness and care for the peoples of the world.

One of these missionaries is Sister Eleanor Ortega, who shares with us her own experience of the program and how it relates to the mission of the Church.

At a recent meeting, we had a discussion on Roger Schroeder’s book “What is the Mission of the Church?” Since then, I have been thinking about the discussion and my own charism as a Sister of St. Joseph as it relates to the mission of the Church. The charism of the Sisters of St. Joseph is to love God and to love and serve the dear neighbor without distinction. This charism relates directly to what I think is the mission of the Church today.

I have especially considered my own mission appeals, and what I have heard and seen as to what some people are doing that demonstrate their understanding of the mission of the Church that is to be loving, compassionate and just toward others. Moreover, I have heard about experiences of other missionaries who have given mission appeals.

These experiences have made me realize more that there are people who do understand the mission of the Church in our country today.
Recently I heard a television commentator say that the perpetuators of violence are far outnumbered by helping hands. I began to think about the many helping hands that I have met.

I was touched by recent experiences of compassion during mission appeals of my own and others. Recently, a missionary sister of St. Joseph shared her experience of an eight-year old boy who at the end of Mass ran to the back of the church to give his $5 donation to her. She suggested that he keep the money to help his own family; however, he insisted that he wanted to do his part to help other children less fortunate. He certainly understood the mission of the Church.

In another city, there was an elderly woman who gave $3 during a mission appeal. The woman said that she wished that she had more to give, but that the $3 was all that she had. She wanted to share what little she had with others. This reminded me of the Gospel story of the Pharisee who stood in front of the temple and wanted everyone to know that he had given a large donation.

At the same time, there was a woman in the back of the temple who gave all that she had while the Pharisee had given only a meager amount compared to the wealth that he had. So often, we see this story repeated again and again in our society where the poor help each other and those with the means to help do so in a very small way.

I also remembered a 5-year old girl who found a penny and was so excited to give that one penny to help poor children. She certainly understood the message of Jesus of reaching out to those less fortunate. There are times that we all need to look at the example of children in order to become aware of what it means to love and serve others — to be a helping hand to those living in poverty.

In doing mission appeals in different parishes throughout the U.S., I have met people that provide helping hands. They have established food pantries and have food and clothing drives for the poor. Others have “baby showers” for unmarried poor young women so that they can provide for their babies. Food gift cards are given to the homeless who stand with their signs for help at street corners and at freeway off-ramps.

Teens involved in youth ministries have taken trips with adults across the Mexican border to help build houses for the homeless. They have also been involved in going to non-denominational homeless shelters and soup kitchens.

Certainly, there are many ways that people provide helping hands that are in keeping with the Mission of the Church as described in Schroeder’s book. At the same time, one knows that more could be done. Some parishes only have a few outreach activities and those that have more do not involve their people in addressing justice issues. However, we need to applaud the different ways in which people reach out to the dear neighbor.

Perhaps if we become cheerleaders of what is being done and not dwell so much on what is not being done in terms of reaching out to the dear neighbor we can spur our Church to be more loving, compassionate and just toward others without distinction.

Sister Eleanor Ortega, CSJ, is the assistant mission coordinator of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet. Hilda Ochoa is the director of the Missions Office.