October is World Mission Month.
“We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard.” — Acts 4:20
Each year, the Catholic Church throughout the world observes a special day, World Mission Sunday, on the next-to-last Sunday of October to recognize, thank and support those who have answered the call to be missionaries. Whether here at home or overseas, it is a day that Catholics recommit to their baptismal call to spread the Gospel through prayer, participation in the life of Church and in their everyday living.
Pope Francis writes, “We recall with gratitude all those men and women who by their testimony of life help us to renew our baptismal commitment to be generous and joyful apostles of the Gospel. Let us remember especially all those who resolutely set out, leaving home and family behind, to bring the Gospel to all those places and people athirst for its saving message.
In honor of World Mission Day and World Mission Month, The Central Minnesota Catholic asked a sprinkling of missionaries with ties to the St. Cloud Diocese to briefly reflect on this year’s theme: “We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard.” Here are their responses.
By Maryknoll Father Shaun Crumb – China
Originally from Sacred Heart Parish, Glenwood
I can’t help but speak about the incredible faith of the Chinese people. Their faith can move mountains. Despite the many challenges they face in their environment, they find ways to share the Good News of Christ much like the disciples. God’s revelation speaks to us through Scripture. The faith of the Chinese people is a witness of the Word of God being lived out through the sacrifices that they have made to God and the Church, much like the way of the disciples in the early Church.
Sometimes we take our faith for granted in the United States, but the obstacles in China have made the Catholics stronger and more dedicated to the mission of the Church. The people can’t help but speak about what they have seen and heard. For example, a Chinese friend of mine continues to invite colleagues from work to join her for Mass. Another person, who is a college student, became Catholic because a friend brought her to church. Now she is studying history to learn more about the Church. Another person is helping children in a poor village and deferring graduate school for a year to serve others. The daily Mass-goers are praying for the community and the worldwide Church. The priests and sisters are disciples, who lead the way for more people to follow Christ and be witnesses to his life, death and resurrection. The Chinese people are continuing to teach me about mission through their sacrifice, commitment and faith.
By Tracy Skluzacek – Argentina
Originally from St. Boniface Parish, Cold Spring
As a high school senior, I embarked on my first international trip to Homa Bay, Kenya, as a delegate representing the St. Cloud Diocese. It was my first opportunity to experience a completely different culture and explore the meaning of global solidarity. The trip was only two weeks long, but it would profoundly impact me in the years to follow.
Not long after my experience in Kenya, I participated in various social justice projects as a college student and I recall being asked: “What should the future of mission look like in an increasingly globalized world?” I thought, if our mission is to create true global solidarity, then building relationships must be the foundation. It had to involve living alongside one another, eating each other’s food, listening to one another’s stories, going through and overcoming real struggles together and allowing for mutual contributions of time, talents and treasure. My attempt to live out this mission led me to two years of volunteering in Nicaragua after college.
Most recently, I have been living in Argentina. Throughout all my experiences meeting new people while immersed in different cultures, I continue to recognize a similar pattern: We may think or do things differently, but we have a lot more in common than we realize. We all need food, water and shelter; we all want a good education for our children, health care for our families and just societies; we all seek love and belonging. At the end of the day, we are all brothers and sisters united in one family. Sharing with others across cultures has allowed for breaking stereotypes we may have had about one another so we can truly recognize our common humanity. Building these cross-cultural relationships is vital for understanding how to best contribute to the well-being of all.
Tracy can be followed on her blog at: https://thisworldkeepsspinning.blogspot.com.
By Crosier Father Virgil Petermeier – formerly serving in Indonesia
The Crosier Community of Onamia, Minnesota, and Phoenix, Arizona
“We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Peter and John spoke thus in a court which prohibited them from speaking about the Risen Christ. I, too, want to witness to the power of that same Risen Christ I experienced in the rain forests of Papua, Indonesia. Therefore, I am publishing a book titled, “Encountering God in a Rainforest: Crosier Missionaries in Papua Indonesia.”
Since 1958, we Crosiers witnessed Papuan tribes giving up various aspects of their life and culture which they began to understand as contradictory to the presence and will of the God of love. They abandoned clan warfare and cannibalism in the early 1960s in response to the Gospel and the commandments o fGod. Missionaries’ and catechists’ pastoral and educational presence, their service to the sick and their homilies became ways through which the Risen Christ’s powerful love encouraged these people to forgive rather than seek revenge.
Vatican II documents, such as “Ad Gentes” (mission activity of the Church), inspired us missionaries to hunt for and discover various forms of God’s goodness present in the local culture for centuries. God’s Spirit had prompted these people to make sharing of food and material goods a primary value of their life together as hunters and gatherers. God had helped these people create traditional food exchanges and rituals for the sake of reconciliation. They began to travel between villages without fear of attacks. Women and men could go fishing with calm hearts and minds.
Then and now, the sacraments and ongoing evangelization invite these people to choose the way of Christ’s love as their new way of life. I hope and pray that they be ever open to the Risen Christ’s Spirit helping them to choose between good and unhealthy influences from inside and outside themselves.
+ In 1926, Pope Pius XI instituted Mission Sunday for the whole Church with the first worldwide Mission Sunday collection taking place in October 1927. That day is celebrated in all the local Churches as the feast of catholicity and universal solidarity. Watch your parish bulletins and envelopes for the World Mission Sunday collection happening in October. Donations also can be mailed to the St. Cloud Mission Office, 11 8th Ave. S., St. Cloud, MN 56301.