Edited by Monica Yehle
Twin lamps – one was empty, the other, overflowing. That’s what Pauline Jaricot saw in a vision while she was at prayer. For her, the drained lamp signified the faith in France in the early 19th century. The faith of the new young churches, shining brightly in mission lands – including our own country at that time – could revitalize her home church, Pauline believed.
At that same time, Pauline’s brother, Phileas, was preparing for the priesthood. He wanted to be a missionary, and wrote Pauline, telling her about the Missions, fueling her vision of the twin lamps, and motivating her to organize support for the young mission churches of her day. She gathered groups of 10 people who would pray daily for the Missions and offer weekly help. Her plan eventually led to the establishment in 1822 of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, one of four Pontifical Mission Societies.
Letters from priests serving in the Missions today also speak of overflowing faith in the young churches of Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and Latin America. The missionaries write of their experiences, encouraging our own missionary witness, and offering insights into the lessons their service holds for the priesthood and our lives as baptized Catholics. Here is a sampling of those messages:
Greeting one another is important in every culture, but seems to be even more important in the Altiplano. Saying a simple “Buenos Días” or another appropriate greeting lets people know that they are not alone, but are part of a community. The parish priest who walks through town may receive a barrage of greetings. Paying attention to answer the greetings of the parishioners and the conversation that might follow is a form of building Church. Do we take the same custom of greeting for granted here at home?
St. Rose of Lima is the patron saint of many villages in Peru. On the days of celebration for her feast day, the villagers attend Mass as a community and then patiently walk in procession for hours through the town. A pause before many homes is made with the image of St. Rose, as the statue is carried by parishioners who think about the real St. Rose and the Lord’s love for her and for us. At home, we may be in a hurry during times of community prayer, as we think about the next item on our day’s agenda. Can we learn from the living faith of the people ad gentes of the Andes to take our time and learn to enjoy these prayer times together?
— Father Paul Habing is a priest of the Diocese of Springfield, Ill., who has served as a missionary in Peru for 20 years.
The people here are wonderful in their offer of hospitality. They try to teach us to enjoy the present moment instead of thinking about the next commitment on the list of pastoral things to do.
To be a priest for these people is to take seriously the need for prayer so that the priestly ministry may be a true reflection of the presence of the Lord. It is a call to learn from the people and guide them at the same time. They need encouragement and the invitation to practice the faith in our parish with the offer of their time and talents.
— Father James Michler is a priest of the Archdiocese of St. Louis serving in Bolivia at the parish of Maria Reina in La Paz.
When I went to Bolivia, I didn’t know what to expect. What I found was a strong faith, one that greatly enriched my own. I came to see my task as helping each person experience a loving God who knows and loves each one of them, as presenting a loving and merciful God.
At home, we need to believe and be convinced of the unity of faith that we have with our brothers and sisters in other countries. We need to come to a deeper understanding of the family of God, being enriched by the faith of others and enriching them with our faith.
— Bishop Luis M. Casey, who is a priest from the Archdiocese of St. Louis, has been the bishop of the Vicariate of the Pando in Bolivia since 1988.
In our confession of faith, we proclaim our belief in the communion of saints. Before coming to Bolivia, I must say that I pretty much limited that to the saints in heaven. But my 17 years in Bolivia has confirmed that we, the baptized pilgrim Church, are also very much a part of the communion of saints. Our prayer, charity, perseverance, sacrifice, hope and love are daily strength for all of our brothers and sisters.
Perhaps one of our greatest fears is to be alone. We participate in the universal mission of the Church by prayer and sacrifice, so that there will be a messenger — a priest, a Religious, a catechist, a woman or man of deep faith — who announces to someone with cancer, to a grandfather who is sick and alone, to the young woman who is alone bringing her child into this world, to the family that has lost someone in an accident, violence or suicide, that each is not alone, but that God is with them.
We need to pray, sacrifice and love, today and always, so that the message of God’s redemptive love continues to reach to the ends of the earth.
— Father Patrick Hayden, a priest of the St. Louis Archdiocese, is pastor of Maria Reina Parish in La Paz, Bolivia.
It’s wonderful. Indeed for me these have been very fulfilling years. The diocese where we live was only founded 50 years ago, the few first native priests have all been ordained in the last 15 years, its current bishop is the first Dominican, after two Redemptorist missionaries from the United States. Most people are simple “unchurched,” even if a good 60 percent are baptized (a figure that, for Latin American standards, is quite low).
Here is where “discovering the face of God” becomes a joyful exercise. We may not see Christ in big churches filled with hundreds of people, but we do in gatherings of so many associations of farmers, fishermen, and women working for the development of others. We may not hear Christ in very well-crafted prayers, but we do in the wisdom of people’s advice to one another. We may not find Christ in well-structured, formal celebrations, but we do in the dialogue that takes place under the shade of a mango tree at the end of the day, or in sharing a cup of coffee with a few families.
Yes, we still work, every day, to teach our people the richness of the Catholic tradition. Our task is to first recognize the way God is present here, moving people’s hearts — as God always does — and then help build a humble, welcoming Church, where the profound wisdom of our tradition and the daily lives of the people can enhance and enrich one another.
— Father Marti Colom is a priest from the Archdiocese of Mil Pauline’s Vision with Today’s Missions waukee, Wis.; he has been in the Dominican Republic since 2003.