Verghese V Joseph –
With the COVID-19 pandemic almost behind us, the Catholic community across India is gearing up to actively celebrate this year’s World Mission Sunday, October 23.
World Mission Sunday is celebrated in all Catholic communities, not only in India but all over the world. It is a moment of grace to express our solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ who live in situations of poverty, violence and oppression. Every parish, school and community is invited to join in this special event. And every rupee, penny, pound and prayer given to the Pontifical Mission Organizations (also known as Missio Organizations worldwide) helps missionaries around the world to continue their work.
The Pontifical Missionary Organizations are a set of four distinct Pontifical Mission Societies with one main objective, that of promoting universal missionary enthusiasm in the hearts of the faithful. This is made possible thanks to:
(a) dissemination of information, making others aware of the importance of missions,
(b) the promotion of missionary vocations and
(c) the collection and distribution of material aid for the missions for its systematic structural works and for the young Churches which seek to build communion with other Churches for the sharing of goods and mutual aid.
For this year’s World Mission Day, the Holy Father reflected on three key phrases in his message for the theme “You will be my witnesses (Acts 1:8)”.
- ‘You will be my witnesses’ – The call of every Christian to bear witness to Christ,
- ‘To the Ends of the Earth,’ – The Enduring Relevance of a Universal Evangelistic Mission,
- ‘You shall receive power’ from the Holy Spirit – Let us always be strengthened and guided by the Spirit.
Pope Francis emphasized the importance of the theme, “The words ‘You will be my witnesses (Acts 1:8).’ were said by the risen Jesus to his disciples just before his ascension into heaven, as we learn from the Acts of the Apostles: “You will receive power when the Holy Spirit comes upon you; and you will be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the earth” (1:8). This reminds us that the Church is missionary by nature. This year, World Mission Day offers us the opportunity to commemorate several important events of the life and mission of the Church: the fourth centenary of the founding of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, today the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, and the second centenary of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. One hundred years ago, the latter, together with the Society of the Holy Childhood and the Society of Saint Peter the Apostle, received the title of “pontifical”.
“In light of this action of the Holy Spirit, we also want to consider missionary anniversaries to be celebrated in 2022. The creation of the Sacred Congregation De Propaganda Fide in 1622 was motivated by the desire to promote the missionary mandate in new territories. A providential insight! The Congregation has proven crucial in truly liberating the evangelizing mission of the Church from the interference of worldly powers, in order to establish those local Churches which today manifest such great vigor. We hope that, as in the past four centuries, the Congregation, with the light and strength of the Spirit, will continue and intensify its work of coordinating, organizing and promoting the missionary activities of the Church,” urged the Holy Father.
It was a young Frenchwoman, Pauline Jaricot, who founded the Society for the Propagation of the Faith exactly 200 years ago. His beatification will be celebrated in this jubilee year. Although in poor health, she accepted God’s inspiration to establish a network of prayer and collection for missionaries, so that the faithful could actively participate in the mission “to the ends of the earth”.
This brilliant idea gave rise to the annual celebration of World Mission Day, during which funds raised in local communities are applied to the universal fund with which the Pope supports missionary activity.
Pope Francis went on to add that in this regard, “I am also thinking of the French Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson, who created the Association of the Holy Childhood to promote the mission among children, with the motto ” Children evangelize children, children pray “for children, children help children all over the world”.
The Holy Father also highlighted the work of Jeanne Bigard, who inaugurated the Saint-Pierre-Apôtre Society for the support of seminarians and priests in missionary land. These three missionary societies were recognized as “pontifical” exactly one hundred years ago. It was also under the inspiration and guidance of the Holy Spirit that Blessed Paolo Manna, born 150 years ago, founded the current Pontifical Missionary Union, to raise awareness and encourage the missionary spirit among priests, men and women religious and all the people of God. Saint Paul VI himself was part of this latter Society and gave it papal recognition.
“I mention these four Pontifical Mission Societies (Missio) for their great historical merits, but also to encourage you to rejoice with them, in this particular year, in the activities they carry out in favor of the mission of evangelization in the Church, both universal and local. I hope that the local Churches will find in these Societies (in Missio) a sure way to promote the missionary spirit among the People of God,” Pope Francis added.
According to the National Director of the Pontifical Mission Organizations (India), Rev. Dr. Ambrose Pitchaimuthu, “We will have a more meaningful and creative celebration of this global event in our parishes and institutions, to ignite the spirit of mission in all of us. Let us not forget our baptismal commitment to Missionary Charity through our prayers and our generous contribution to the Universal Solidarity Fund, necessary for our Mission and for the World Mission.