On Oct. 23, Bishop Richard J. Malone celebrated a special Mass at St. Rose of Lima Church in North Buffalo for World Mission Sunday, the day the Catholic Church has designated to recognize the many contributions of missionaries serving both in the United States and abroad. This week, the Sunday collections at all diocesan parishes went toward various international missions of the Catholic Church.
"It's great to be with you. I always love my visits to St. Rose and St. Mark, especially today, of course, as we celebrate our world mission day," said Bishop Malone as he extended a welcome to the consecrated religious, including sisters and other missionaries, who attended the Mass. The bishop also honored American missionaries who are currently serving the poor overseas in countries around the world.
Bishop Malone noted that at the conclusion of Mass, churchgoers are "sent out" in the final blessing of the service, which represents the idea of being sent out into the world to do God's work.
In serving others, Catholic missionaries help those who have not heard of the Gospel, as well as those who have already encountered Christianity, but are living in dire circumstances and are in desperate need of compassion and humanitarian aid, the bishop said. Bishop Malone noted that Pope Francis, as well as his recent predecessors, have put a great deal of emphasis on the New Evangelization.
According to the bishop, the word "evangelization" comes from the Greek word for "Gospel," which he said is the work of every Christian called to, "by word and the witness of our lives, to bring that joy, to bring that joy and that Good News to other people, into the situations of their lives." The New Evangelization is about reaching out to inactive Catholics who have fallen away from the Church, but there is more.
"We must not - and that is the point of World Mission Month, which October is, and this Sunday - we must not ever forget the mission that the Church calls the mission 'ad gentes,' the mission to the nations, the global mission that is ours, to bring the saving news and the healing love of the Lord Jesus around the world," the bishop said. "That's the part of evangelization, especially, we remember in October and on this day."
World Mission Sunday continues a tradition that began in 1926 under Pope Pius XI, when October was established as a time throughout the world for Catholics to reflect on, think about and re-dedicate themselves to the world missionary apostolate of the Church, as well as praying for these missions.
"Especially this year, Pope Francis has said to pay attention to the young Churches around the world, the newer dioceses, for example, that are growing up in Africa, Asia and the Pacific islands, and even in Europe and in Latin America," Bishop Malone added. "In 1990, (St. John Paul II) wrote an encyclical, 'Redemptoris Missio,' or 'The Mission of the Redeemer,' reminding us of the perennial, always important and urgent mission we have to bring Christ and His healing love, His compassion and His hope to the world around us."
In addition to those who serve in missionary apostolates, the Church also has Catholic Relief Services, which provides material and spiritual aid to nations in need, such as after the 2010 Haiti earthquake. The bishop, who once served on the board of directors of CRS, noted aid workers for this agency are separate from missionaries, but should also be recognized for the important jobs they do overseas.
Bishop Malone quoted St. John Paul II, who noted that World Mission Sunday is an "excellent occasion for an examination of conscience with regard to our missionary obligation," and missionaries are all of those who are involved in the Church. While some travel far away from the security and comfort of nations they call home, all are called to share in the missionary responsibility of the Church, he added.
"The call to us ... is to pray fervently for the missionary work of the Church, for the women and men who carry it out so generously, and for everybody else who supports them, and for everybody who serves in other parts of the world through the missionary apostolate," the bishop added. "For the longest time, we in the American Catholic Church have thought of ourselves as the senders of missionaries elsewhere, and we still do that, thank God. Thanks be to God, we have congregations of religious who represent that wonderful zeal. But now, as our culture is becoming more and more secularized, we are receiving missionaries."
"We are very thankful to those we usually call the international priests and sisters who have come from elsewhere to serve the Church in this country. It's a wake-up call for all of us. Other parts of the world need us, we need other parts of the world. It's global solidarity in faith, hope and love."