OCHOA: How we can support missions around the world

October 11, 2022

Febedu Mehari serves a meal of injera and a yellow split pea dish to her children in Hadush Emba, Ethiopia, Feb. 7, 2019. Centuries ago, missionaries introduced people in Ethiopia to Jesus. (CNS Photo/Will Baxter, Catholic Relief Services)

For Catholics, the autumn season signals the coming of World Mission Sunday. On the second-to-last Sunday of October, Masses are offered, and contributions are gathered to support the work of the Church in mission lands. Organized through the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, this celebration provides an annual reminder of our baptismal call to go “to the ends of the earth” with the saving message of Jesus.

The parishes of the Archdiocese will join the Oct. 23 celebration with churches, chapels and cathedrals worldwide during the Eucharist. The second collection will be sent to assist the over 1,100 dioceses designated by the pope as “mission territories.”

Where are these mission lands? They are the areas where the Catholic Church does not stand on its own due to hardship or conflict. Personnel and financial assistance from other places sustain the priests, sisters and lay catechists and provide upkeep for the churches, seminaries, religious education and media programs.

The model for sharing started with the first Christians. “They shared out the proceeds among themselves according to what each one needed” (Acts 2: 45). In the 1800s, Venerable Pauline Jaricot organized workers in Lyons, France, to offer “pennies and prayers” for the Church in the French mission lands — Vietnam, China and the North American “Louisiana Territory.” Despite many challenges, in 1822, she obtained recognition for her plan for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith from Pope XI. Consequently, her ideas inspired others to develop the four Pontifical Mission Societies that continue to this day.

Bishop de Forbin Jansen started the second society, the Missionary Childhood Association, in 1847 for children to help children around the world. In 1869, the mother and daughter team, Stephanie and Jeanne Bigard, began the Society for St. Peter the Apostle for missionary seminarians. Father Paolo Manna created the Missionary Union for mission education and communication in 1916.

In 1926, Pope Pius XI launched the first “World Mission Sunday,” increasing awareness and participation among the faithful. New saint Pope Paul VI offered further mission education with his Apostolic Exhortation, Evangelii Nuntiandi: “When the most obscure preacher, catechist or pastor in the most distant land preaches the Gospel, gathers his little community together or administers a Sacrament, even alone, he is carrying out an ecclesial act, and his action is certainly attached to the evangelizing activity of the whole Church by institutional relationships, but also by profound invisible links in the order of grace.”

Pope Francis continues proclaiming the significance of the mission effort in his annual address for World Mission Sunday:
“Christ’s Church will continue to ‘go forth’ toward new geographical, social and existential horizons, toward “borderline” places and human situations, in order to bear witness to Christ and his love to men and women of every people, culture and social status.”

Now in 2022, we join in this long tradition of generosity, celebrating the 200th anniversary of extending spiritual and financial help to the pope’s mission lands. 

Hilda Ochoa is the director of Mission Office.