World Mission Sunday
From Monday til Thursday of this past week I was at the annual priest’s seminar held up at Nottawasaga Inn. What I got most out of this meeting was meeting so many priests from so many different countries serving here in the Archdiocese. We were reminded that the Mass is celebrated in 37 different languages every Sunday here in Toronto.
At my group table I met a young priest from Ethiopia who is the chaplain at Toronto Western and I met a priest from Poland who spent 15 years in Brazil and is now working in a Portuguese parish in the city. Talk about mobility.
Today is Mission Sunday – it’s a day on which we are asked to support the missionary activities of the church and to pray for those men and women who leave family and country to preach the gospel in other lands. I was preaching a mission in Florida and the pastor was what was known as an FBI – foreign born Irish. He told me, ‘ sure I came to this country 25 years ago to do good – and I’ve done well.’
For years Canada did a great job sending missionaries to other countries – we still have the Scarboro Foreign Mission Society and Our Lady’s Missionaries – the Maryknoll Fathers were famous in the States.
The Passionists were founded in 1745 and before our founder St. Paul of the Cross died in 1775 he’d sent missionaries to Bulgaria and even though we were small in numbers Passionist Missionaries were sent to England and the States by 1852. The American Passionists sent men to Hunan Province in Northern China in 1920. The Communists expelled them all in 1954 so we started new mission fields on the island of Mindanao in the Philippines and then in Jamaica, West Indies, in Haiti and Honduras.
From the very beginning the church was missionary – Jesus sent his disciples out, two by two, to all the towns and villages He was about to enter.
In past years Canada sent missionaries out to other countries. Today Canada is receiving missionaries from other countries. If it were not for the many priests from many lands serving so many parishes in the Archdiocese of Toronto we would be in dire straights. The truth of the matter is, we are now on the receiving end of things. I hear people complain about some of these foreign priests – how difficult it is to understand them, they have such heavy accents. I think of what the poor people in China had to put up with as our American missionaries struggled trying to preach in Chinese – what goes around comes around. Again, if it wasn’t for so many priests from so many different counties coming here – the church in Toronto would be in trouble.
The Passionists just finished a general chapter in Rome. One of the movements in our community is what we’ve called ‘restructuring’ the congregation. Our Father General, who will be here for the dedication of our new church in November, wants to move us from being too locally conscious – too territorial – to being more universal – more available to the needs of the community and church throughout the world. Vocations are scarce in Europe and North American – they are many in the Philippines, India, Indonesia, Africa – we have to spread Passionist manpower around more evenly.
On this mission Sunday we are asked to support the missionary works of the church financially and spiritually. We can pray for those men and women from Canada who have gone to serve in other lands – and we can pray for those priests who leave family and homeland and come to Canada to minister to us – learning English, getting used to our food, our climate, and our ways. It’s not easy for them and they need our prayers and patience. We are blessed to have them.
We say that the church is a missionary church – sent to preach the good news of Jesus Christ. But you good people are the church – we are all meant to preach the gospel – by the very lives we live. I love that teaching of St. Francis of Assisi – preach the gospel at all times and when necessary, use words. We can all be missionaries, witnesses to our own faith, by the lives we live, the work we do, the prayers we pray and the service we give – giving witness to our faith in Jesus Christ by what we say and what we do. Let us pray for each other that we be so.