National meeting celebrates ‘Mission in the Year of Faith’

April 30, 2013

The annual gathering for directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States (April 16 to 18), convened by National Director Father Andrew Small, OMI and hosted by the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, blended an affirmation of the vital work of directors, an emphasis on the centrality of mission in this Year of Faith and — the message offered most often by presenters — a call for greater support of the mission churches.

“Only the Church helps the Church,” Father Small told directors from dioceses throughout the United States. “Your efforts are critical to support the outreach and service of the Church in 1,150 mission dioceses.”

Day in and day out, support from the Pontifical Mission Societies sustains the work and witness of priests, religious sisters and brothers, and lay catechists in 1,150 mission dioceses in Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands and Latin America. 

That includes help for 9,000 clinics, caring for the sick and dying; 10,000 orphanages, providing a place of safety and shelter; and 1,200 schools, educating children in some of the poorest parts of our world. 

In his message to directors, offered during the homily of the opening Liturgy for the meeting on April 16 at St. Laurence Church in Sugar Land, Daniel Cardinal DiNardo acknowledged that in difficult times, people can sometimes differ about priorities and money issues come up. 

He encouraged that the missions be given an important place in our dioceses. “If they are looking for your credentials,” he said, “show them the Act of the Apostles.”

“Thank you, America,” Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, International President of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Rome, said, citing the great generosity to the worldwide solidarity fund of the Pontifical Mission Societies made by Catholics in the United States. 

He encouraged directors to be “creative and committed” in their service to continue to increase that help. His own priestly formation in his native Tanzania was supported by the Society of St. Peter Apostle, one of the four Pontifical Mission Societies. As a parish priest, a teacher at the Minor Seminary in Katoke, and a chaplain at a Catholic hospital, all in his homeland, he saw firsthand the good accomplished by the prayers and support of U.S. Catholics.

Archbishop Rugambwa presented Cardinal DiNardo with a World Mission Rosary from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. 
Inaugurated by Venerable Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen, former National Director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, one of the four Pontifical Mission Societies, the World Mission Rosary uses different colored beads to call to mind the areas of the world where the Church continues her evangelizing mission. 

In fact, a special letter from the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples to U.S. Bishops spoke of a prayer movement for the Year of Faith, central to which would be the World Mission Rosary. After praying that rosary, Archbishop Sheen had said, one would have “embraced all continents, all people in prayer.”

Directors and staff attended formation sessions in spirituality/mission theology, communication/education and development/stewardship. Lisa Hendey, blogger (, spoke about mission from the family perspective, urging directors to increase their outreach to families for prayer and support for the missions.

Hilda Ochoa, director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, found the meeting’s program to be most beneficial in refocusing local efforts for the missions, offering big picture information while providing the tools to “get the job done,” especially for raising greatly needed support for the mission churches. “Our identity as the Holy Father’s mission societies needs always to be at the forefront of our work as directors,” she said. 

Given the title “Pontifical” in 1922, the Pontifical Mission Societies have special responsibility in the Universal Church. 

They are under the direct canonical jurisdiction of the pope, who, together with the entire body of bishops, remind the faithful of their baptismal call to mission, as they gather basic support for more than 1,150 mission dioceses in Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands and Latin America. 

The Pontifical Mission Societies include the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Missionary Childhood Association, the Society of St. Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious. For more information, visit