I once heard a priest say we are a “missionary church” walking together. This message was sparked when Pope Francis spoke of missionary disciples in his 2013 apostolic exhortation The Joy of the Gospel. I was reminded we are on a journey with our brothers and sisters in Christ, as missionary disciples sharing the Good News with everyone—everywhere we go.
I became more familiar with the idea of a “missionary church” when I started working in the Mission Office in Los Angeles and learned about missionaries working around the world. It became clear to me that a missionary is a companion to others on their faith journey.
Most people have the perception that missionary work must be done by priests, brothers or sisters traveling abroad to places where there is poverty and injustice. Although this is one aspect of mission work, there is another major component many of us don’t think about: our own call to mission by virtue of our baptism. Much help is needed in raising this awareness here at home. Fortunately, I am able to support this endeavor through my work with the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA).
MCA is one of the Pontifical Mission Societies that make up the Mission Office. Its primary mission is to foster in children a missionary spirit through prayer, sacrificial giving and mission education. We give our youth the tools to answer their call to mission by making them aware of the needs of children in other parts of the world.
Our office is collaborating with Deacon Leonel Yoque and Andres Garcia, mission promoters and educators for the Maryknoll Fathers and Brothers in southern California. They visit schools and share what Maryknoll missioners are doing worldwide. During one school visit, Deacon Leonel told students, “Mission starts at home and it starts with us.” I had just started working in the Mission Office and this sentence helped focus my perspective. We do not have to travel far and wide to be missionaries, but like St. Thérèse of Lisieux, patron saint of the missions, we can support and encourage mission work all from home.
During the 2015 earthquake in Nepal, our office collaborated with Maryknoll Father Joe Thaler, who works in that country, for the Hands for Nepal campaign, which raised almost $300,000 for those affected by the temblor. During his visit to Los Angeles last year, he shared with me the difficulties and joys of working in a country where Catholicism is not the primary religion. He says his mission work has allowed the people to get to know him and what he stands for.
Maryknoll missioners are companions to my office in our endeavors to foster a missionary spirit in the young church. The children are also our companions as they remind us there are no limits to God’s love.
Featured Image: Magdalena Arellano raises U.S. students’ awareness of their call to be missioners by explaining the needs of children worldwide. (Courtesy of M. Arellano/U.S.)