Collection for Missions Reminds Parishioners of Need to Spread the Faith

LARGO, Fla. — John Ganno is certain he's given in the past to the World Mission Sunday collection, and he could only guess what the donations are used for.

He admitted it's difficult to remember what certain collections are for because there are so many of them throughout the year. “They kind of run together,” said Ganno, 26, a parishioner at St. Jerome Church in Largo, Fla.

When told the money goes to help mission dioceses, often in poor or war-torn countries — aiding their pastoral and evangelizing programs, catechetical work, education of seminarians and the work of religious communities — Ganno heartily approved.

“It's entirely appropriate that dioceses that don't have problems with strife and disorder and poverty give to dioceses around the world that are facing those problems, because I think it's part of our Catholic call to justice that we support our brothers, especially our brothers in faith,” he said.

The collection, to be held Oct. 23-24, is organized by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, one of the four Pontifical Mission Societies. Donations help about 1,150 dioceses in Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands and remote areas of Latin America, said Monica Yehle, director of development and programs for the Pontifical Mission Societies. The need for mission work is apparent by the numbers of people who haven't been evangelized yet. Yehle estimated that about two-thirds of the world still don't know the Gospel message.

The collection, she added, is a worldwide effort, a way for “Catholics to touch the world with the love of Jesus Christ,” since every church around the world is involved in collecting donations. She cited a poignant example of how even poor churches give what they can. In 1994, at the height of genocide occurring in Rwanda, parishioners from a church in that impoverished country gave $81, she said.

Meanwhile, in the United States, parishioners usually give around $18 million, a figure that has held steady for the past several years, she said. Worldwide, the collection brings in around $110 million to $120 million per year, she said.

In his message regarding the upcoming collection, Pope John Paul II said the theme is the “Eucharist and Mission.” He emphasized how the mission of the Church is a continuation of Christ's mission and, therefore, it should draw “spiritual energy” from the body and blood of Christ.

“At the end of every Mass,” the Holy Father said, “when the celebrant takes leave of the assembly with the ‘Ite, Missa est’ (‘Go, the Mass is ended’), all should feel they are sent as ‘missionaries of the Eucharist’ to carry to every environment the great gift received. In fact, anyone who encounters Christ in the Eucharist cannot fail to proclaim through his or her life the merciful love of the redeemer.”

The Society for the Propagation of Faith was formed in the 19th century by a lay French woman named Pauline Jaricot. The society's first collection was held in 1822, supporting missions in Kentucky, Ohio, China and the Diocese of Louisiana, which stretched from Florida to Canada.

Sister Marie de la Trinite Siopongco, who belongs to the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara order, also pointed out that World Mission Sunday is an important time to reflect on the needs of others who need to hear about Jesus.

“It is a time dedicated for us to remember that there is still mission,” said Sister Siopongco, who is the assistant secretary for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Committee on World Missions. “There are still missionaries who are laying down their lives, who have left their families and their countries in order to proclaim the good news and to share their Catholic faith in other countries because they know this is the supernatural answer to the hunger that's existing in every man's heart.”

Another beneficiary of the World Mission Sunday collection is the Catholic Near East Welfare Association, which supports Eastern Catholic churches. The association receives 9% of the collection, which is forwarded to the Congregation for the Eastern Churches, said Michael La Civita, the association's assistant secretary of communications.

Eastern churches include those in the Holy Land, Jordan, Iraq, Lebanon, Egypt and Ethiopia.

“If the Congregation (for the Eastern Churches) didn't have funding and if those churches didn't have support, many of these guys who are priests, patriarchs and the religious would not have been educated theologically,” he said.

Donations go not only to build up the Church but in some cases to rebuild it. Father Michael Moran, who spent almost 20 years as a missionary in Liberia, remembers the time in 1990 when a rocket hit St. Anthony's Church in the Archdiocese of Monrovia in Liberia, damaging the roof to his church during a time of civil war.

What might have taken months to accomplish — fixing the roof — was finished in weeks because World Mission Sunday money was available, said Father Moran, now vice provincial for the Society of African Missions in Tenafly, N.J.

He said the missionaries “really” depend on the money for help.

Father Moran added, “It's a witness to not only our faith but also our belief that we want our word spread to other people.”

Carlos Briceño writes from Seminole, Florida.