Education is key in making the world a better place

When Kateri Mancini first started working at the St. Cloud Mission Office 11 years ago, her position was called, “mission educator.” Though she was excited to provide mission learning opportunities to people across the diocese, something about the title just didn’t seem to fit.

“I asked if we could change it to ‘coordinator of mission education,’” Mancini explained. “I’m not the only person who educates on mission. We are all called to mission and therefore we are all called to share it with others.”

Mancini is responsible for maintaining contact with missioners around the globe as well as with two overseas dioceses with which the Diocese of St. Cloud has partnerships — Homa Bay, Kenya, and Maracay, Venezuela. She also acts as coordinator for delegations both coming from and going to the two dioceses.

Locally, she manages the speaker’s bureau, which includes returning missioners who are willing to go into parishes and schools to speak about their mission experience, as well as mission office staff. She also maintains communications through a newsletter, website and social media and keeps track of a multitude of resources for parishes, organizations and schools.

Mission Office director Elizabeth Neville gives a presentation to seventh and eighth grade faith formation students at St. Mary church in Melrose Oct 12. (Photo by Dianne Towalski/The Visitor)
Mission Office director Elizabeth Neville gives a presentation to seventh and eighth grade faith formation students at St. Mary Church in Melrose Oct 12. (Photo by Dianne Towalski/The Visitor)

“Every parish and school is different, so there’s no one way to talk about mission that is going to fit with everyone,” she said. “We are always looking for new ways, new ideas to teach and encourage people to understand mission.”

Mancini, who always had an interest in social justice issues, said her role as coordinator of mission education helped her develop her own understanding of mission.

“I’m still very passionate about social justice,” she said, “but because I have been immersed in this ministry so long, now I have a passion toward mission. The two work closely together, but they are also different. Mission can simply be about relationship — just sitting down and being with another — not necessarily trying to change things, whereas social justice is about fostering change.”

Mission near and far

Mancini also wants people to know that mission does not solely involve those beyond borders. Mission also can happen in one’s own backyard.

Recently, Melissa Fox, youth ministry coordinator and youth faith formation director at St. Francis Xavier in Sartell, reached out to Mancini to see what resources were available to aid in instructing students about the seven themes of Catholic social teaching.

Fox has been focusing on service with the youth of the parish in what they call, “Service Sundays.” One Sunday a month, the youth in grades six through 12 are invited to participate in service projects such as making seatbelt covers that provide comfort to cancer patients receiving chemotherapy, hosting a widows and widowers dinner or baking goodies to deliver to parishioners.

First- through eighth-grade faith formation students also engage in age-appropriate activities. Ninth-grade students preparing for confirmation have additional service opportunities like spending evenings in the memory care unit and assisted living units of a local care facility, making tie blankets and providing snacks for the Church of the Week program.

“Service isn’t something that we do one year out of our lives for confirmation, “ Fox said. “Service is something that we are called to do every day, so getting the young people used to doing service is important and doing it at a younger age. It is also important to learn both ‘feet’ of service — not only doing the action but learning why it is needed, learning about the components of Catholic social teaching and what that means to us in our lives today.

“Deciding to spend a year on Catholic social teaching was important to me because it’s a big deal,” Fox added. “It’s more than one night of class. It’s a huge part of who we are as Catholics and getting our young people to understand it teaches them about their faith in a completely different way. Helping young people realize they can make a difference in our community and our world doesn’t always have to be big things. Little things work, too.”

Linda Johnson, principal of St. Mary’s School in Breckenridge, also incorporates mission-related activities into the life of the school. St. Mary’s participates in a school-wide Colombian mission study during Lent as well as the Mission Office’s Advent Toy Contest, which challenges students to create toys from recycled items.

Johnson, who was part of a 10-person delegation of educators and deacons who traveled to Brazil in 2011, wants students to understand what mission means.

“Young people need to know that people are hurting around the world and that we should do what we can to help,” she said. “We cannot be blind to the suffering of others. It begins with prayer and awareness and hopefully leads to action. I hope that through prayer and awareness students will be inspired to act and help to make the world a better place.”

Author: Kristi Anderson

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