OCHOA: Missionaries worldwide say ‘We are still here’

October 13, 2020

World Mission Sunday, Oct. 18, is fast approaching. This annual celebration of prayer and financial support for the missionary work of the Catholic Church (“Here I Am, Send Me”) will take place amid a worldwide pandemic. Despite the devastating losses and frustrating limits that the COVID-19 virus brings, our faith reminds us that we still have significant tasks to undertake as members of the universal Church.

Pope Francis uplifts us in his World Mission Sunday 2020 message: “We realize that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time, important and needed, all of us called to row together.”

The priests, sisters, Church leaders and laity serving in mission lands carry on bravely.

“We know something about challenges,” Croatian Sister Veronica said from the Solomon Islands. She joined other missionaries worldwide on a video created by the Pontifical Mission Societies of Australia. “The world has changed, and everything seems uncertain. But one thing is certain: We will not leave.”

On YouTube: #WeAreStillhere MissioMalta/Eng FULL, missionaries from various cultural backgrounds repeat a similar message, “we are here for the people.”

In many rural and isolated areas around the world, Catholic hospitals and schools are the only providers of health care and education. In Africa alone, Catholics are operating more than 7,000 hospitals, 2,000 homes for the elderly and 45,000 primary schools caring for 19 million children. Cardinal Luis Tagle, prefect for the Congregation for the Evangelization of the Peoples, which oversees the Pontifical Mission Societies, explains, “In her task of evangelization, the Church is often on the front lines of major threats to human well-being.”

The pope calls upon us, Catholic parishes and dioceses around the world, to respond with prayers and financial contributions on World Mission Sunday. Masses and collections offered on the weekend of Oct. 18 will assist churches, schools, seminaries, shelters and healthcare facilities in the places in the world where the Church does not stand on its own due to poverty or conflict. The pandemic is exacerbating the hardships.

The early pandemic health restrictions gave us a glimpse of what life is like without the chance to gather for Church services and Sacraments. In some places in the world, that reality continues. In whatever way possible this Mission Sunday, may we take some time to reflect on the struggles facing our brothers and sisters around the world and our common need for God and for each other?

We are all invited to offer a contribution designated for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith through the second collection on World Mission Sunday. As Pope Francis emphasizes, “The mission that God entrusts to each of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we can only find ourselves when we give ourselves to others.” 

Hilda Ochoa is the director of the Office of Missions.