, 16 October, 2020 / 2:00 PM
Vatican officials invited Catholics to participate in the 2020 World Mission Sunday with increased prayers and financial support, as local Churches around the world continue to face the challenges of the coronavirus pandemic.
World Mission Sunday will take place this year on Sunday, Oct. 18. The day is marked by a collection for the Pontifical Mission Societies, a group of Catholic missionary societies under the jurisdiction of the pope.
Fr. Tadeusz J. Nowak, O.M.I., secretary general of the Pontifical Mission Societies, said: “In this time of pandemic, when some churches will be closed on this Mission Sunday, some will be very limited, some will only join the celebration of the Eucharist on media platforms, we are more than ever conscious of our dependence on the providence of God.”
Speaking at a Vatican press conference Oct. 16, Nowak said “and so this coming Sunday, we are all called, wherever we are, in whatever state we are, to pray fervently for the mission of the Church, that the Gospel will reach the hearts of all people.”
“And we are all called to do what we can, to offer what we can, our material goods for the support of this mission and especially for the support of the young churches so much in need of our material support.”
Bishop Protase Rugambwa, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, recalled the theme of Pope Francis’ message for the 2020 Mission Sunday: “Here I am, send me.”
“The heart of this message refers to how the mission challenges each of us, personally, in our vocation and in our belonging to the Church in today’s world,” he said.
“The celebration of this day is a source of joy for the universal Church,” Rugambwa noted, “even if in the local Churches it will be celebrated in a different way this year, due to the particular circumstances we are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Bishop Giampietro Dal Toso, adjunct secretary of the same congregation, spoke about the special fund established by Pope Francis to help local churches during the pandemic. According to Dal Toso, the fund has so far given $1,299,700 and 473,410 euros to 250 projects around the world.
When many churches were not able to -- or are not able to -- celebrate Mass publically during the pandemic, they also did not have a Sunday collection, which many relied on to pay their basic bills, he said.
The subsidies of the Pontifical Mission Societies, he explained, “went strongly in favor of dioceses for the survival of priests and the payment of current costs, but also to religious communities, or Catholic schools, as well as to particularly challenged families.”
“I realize that it is often a drop in the ocean of needs,” he said, “but it is a concrete way to indicate a communion in the Church, which makes us partakers of the joys and sorrows of the other baptized.”
Nowak also spoke at length about the example of holiness and reliance on the providence of God provided by the soon-to-be Blessed Pauline-Marie Jaricot, a 19th-century French laywoman who founded a worldwide network of prayer and charity for the Church's mission.
Jaricot's network, the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, became the first of the Church’s four pontifical mission societies.
In May, Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot, who may now be beatified.
Nowak said that the miracle received through Jaricot’s intercession “involved a very young girl who experienced acute suffocation, which resulted in her losing consciousness.”
“Her condition was so grim that she had to be kept alive by artificial life support. From a medical standpoint, there was no hope of recovery for the girl and the doctors suggested detaching her from life support systems,” Nowak explained.
“The parents refused to give up and began a novena of prayers through Pauline’s intercession. Spontaneously, and without any medical explanation, the girl revived and was restored to perfect health.”
Though the miracle is dramatic, Pauline’s life had a quality of holiness “that she radiated throughout her life,” he said.
Jaricot was born to a middle-class family after the French Revolution. She was the youngest of seven children. After losing her mother when she was 17, she took a vow of perpetual virginity and devoted herself to prayer.
“She became devoted to Eucharistic Adoration, helping the poor and had a deep desire to have the Gospel of Christ reach the ends of the earth,” Nowak said.
Her Pontifical Mission Society for the Propagation of the Faith “was a simple concept that had far-reaching consequences,” he noted. She invited friends, who were employees of her father’s silk factory, to pray for the missions and to offer one penny a week for the Church’s mission.
Each of these people were invited to find and form a group of another 10 people, and so on.
Nowak said: “What occurred was nothing short of a miracle. These groups of 10 multiplied and became teams of 100, then of 1,000. In a short time, the movement spread throughout her Diocese of Lyon in France, throughout the country, and eventually it became a worldwide network of prayer and charity for the support of the Church’s mission.”
“Today she is an inspiration for us all, especially for the laity,” he continued. “Pauline is a wonderful example of engaging fully the grace of Baptism for the work of the Kingdom of God and for the mission of the Church.”
ACI Africa was officially inaugurated on August 17, 2019 as a continental Catholic news agency at the service of the Church in Africa. Headquartered in Kenya’s capital, Nairobi, this media apostolate will strive to facilitate the telling of Africa’s story by providing media coverage of Catholic events on the African continent, giving visibility to the activities of the Church across Africa where statistics show significant growth in numbers and the continent gradually becoming the axis of Catholicism. This is expected to contribute to an awareness of and appreciation for the significant role of the Church in Africa and over time, the realization of a realistic image of Africa that often receives negative media framing.
Father Don Bosco Onyalla
Editor-in-Chief, ACI Africa