Observing World Mission Sunday
April 18, 2019
Later this month will be the collection for World Mission Sunday, a collection held all over the country for the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith. In our local diocese I am the director, and I’d like to write a bit about this collection and global solidarity.
First, some background about the Pontifical Society. Its existence is attributed to a French woman named Pauline Jaricot. Inspired by the letters her priest brother would send her – letters about his challenges working in the missions – Pauline started to encourage family and friends to donate just a penny to help the missions. Over time and through her efforts, this became a Pontifical Society with recognition from the pope and a regular global collection for the work of the missions.
The first collection for the society took place in 1822 and some of those funds went to support the far-off missions in a relatively new land established by the French. That land was Louisiana. Eventually, mission funds collected in Europe were used here in the New World and covered Florida, Kentucky and Canada. Our nation continued to receive support from the society until 1908. One of the most famous national directors of the society in the United States was the Venerable Archbishop Fulton Sheen, from 1950 to 1966.
Today the work of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith extends to the entire world and helps to fund the religious efforts of Catholics who hope to spread and maintain the Catholic faith in some of the most harrowing situations.
For example, every year 9 percent of the total amount collected in our archdiocese is sent to the Catholic Near East Welfare Association (CNEWA), which was founded personally by Pope Pius XI in order to serve that area of the world, which is the cradle of our faith and has seen so much strife. World Mission Sunday also helps Catholics in China who suffer under many forms of persecution and intimidation, Catholics in Latin America needing assistance to build chapels and restore churches, Catholics in Africa who need help setting up a radio tower to better communicate the Gospel message to others, and Catholics in the Pacific rebuilding after natural disasters.
The "global" part of global solidarity seems pretty clear. But what does "solidarity" mean? According to St. Pope John Paul II, it is the firm and persevering determination to work toward the good of the other. Solidarity is not just a general feeling of care and concern for those who suffer elsewhere. Rather it is a choice.
Solidarity is very much a kind of virtue of love, a choice to work for others. In this case, it is a loving choice rooted in our Christian baptism to spread the faith and support Catholic efforts around the world. It is an opportunity for all of us, who may not be called to work more directly in the mission field, to nevertheless participate in spreading the Good News, in educating children, in helping to give back to the church that so generously supported our Catholic communities here in the United States.
I would like to encourage all Catholics in the Archdiocese of Omaha to donate to World Mission Sunday, even if it is just a penny. It continues to be my honor to work as the local director and meet the many good priests and sisters who bring the Good News to all corners of the world. Please support their work through your generosity. They pray for us all; let us keep them in prayer.
Deacon Omar Gutierrez is director of the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith in the Archdiocese of Omaha. Contact him at firstname.lastname@example.org.