OCHOA: Continuing missionary cooperation

April 27, 2021

Irish “Sister Margaret” spoke at each Mass, telling tales of her many years leading faith formation groups in the Philippines. “Father Bill” addressed the parishioners, describing the schedule he followed to bring the Sacraments to the rural villages in Mexico.

While those scenarios are fictional, it is what missionaries who are visiting parishes do as a part of the Missionary Cooperative Plan — inspiring awareness of the universality of our Church.

The Missionary Cooperative Plan is an annual program that brings Catholic missionaries to speak at parishes, share their stories and seek financial support. Started in the 1930s in the Archdiocese of Newark, the plan remains an important framework for linking local parishes with the needs of the worldwide Church.

Scripture provides us with an even earlier example of “missionary cooperation.” In Romans 15:25, St. Paul explains how “the churches in Macedonia and Achaia have freely decided to give an offering to help the poor among God’s people in Jerusalem.”

Through the ages, the missionaries extended the preaching of the faith in Jesus to more people in more places. Despite great hardships, missionaries have been working in all continents. The vision for the Church expanded. Various orders developed, focusing on different geographical areas and ministries. Their efforts were affirmed during the Vatican II Council, as the leaders of the Church advocated for a global perspective in their “Ad Gentes Decree on Missionary Activity:” “The grace of renewal cannot flourish in communities unless each of these extends the range of its charity to the ends of the earth” (Ad Gentes 37).

Here in the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston, the Mission Office coordinates the Missionary Cooperative Plan on behalf of Daniel Cardinal DiNardo. Representatives of 40 missionary societies and dioceses from mission territories around the world will once again be welcomed to speak at the parishes in 2021. Assignments are changed each year so that parishioners will learn about the situation of the Church in different parts of the world. Parishioners are invited to contribute support during the second collection and to consider how they might become more involved.

The Missionary Cooperative Plan has sparked relationships of trust that have led to the development of committed local parish mission groups. Youth, young adults and school groups also participate. The worldwide COVID-19 pandemic has led to a greater understanding of how we are all called to work together in new ways to offer the works of mercy to each other.

All Catholic Christians are called to play a part. “Since the whole Church is missionary, …. the work of evangelization is the basic duty of the people of God. This sacred synod invites all to a deep interior renewal; so that, having a vivid awareness of their own responsibility for spreading the Gospel, they will do their share in missionary work among the nations. (Ad Gentes 35). As donors, prayer partners, active or associate members of mission groups, each one cooperates, working together for the common goal of bringing the love of Jesus to the ends of the earth.

By linking the stories of the missionaries to the hearts and minds of the parishioners, the Missionary Cooperative Plan helps to ensure that “each and every one of the Christian faithful may be fully acquainted with the present condition of the Church in the world, and may hear the voice of the multitudes who cry “Help us!” (Ad Gentes 36).

With increased understanding of the needs of others, “the faithful may feel this mission work to be their very own, and may open their hearts to such vast and profound human needs, and may come to their assistance” (Ad Gentes 36).

Information on the 2021 Missionary Cooperative Plan participants and schedule can be obtained at your parish office or through the Archdiocese of Galveston-Houston Mission Office.

Hilda Ochoa is the director of the Mission Office.