St. Andrew’s Church youth are welcomed to a small rural community in Bolivia with a fiesta at a local community centre. Photo by Albert Mensah

Society calls on Canadian Catholics to live out the Church's missionary nature

By 
  • October 2, 2018

Everyone is called to mission and this year, the Pontifical Mission Society is calling for Canadian Catholics to answer that call. 

In preparation for the Extraordinary Mission Month in October 2019, Spiritan Fr. Alex Osei, the national co-ordinator for English Canada, is launching an awareness campaign. 

“Each Catholic person is called to be on a mission by your baptism,” said Osei. “You are baptized into Christ and you are sent to continue the mission of Christ which you have been adopted into as a son or daughter of God.”

Next year’s Extraordinary Mission Month celebrates the 100-year anniversary of a foundational apostolic letter called Maximum Illud by Pope Benedict XV (also known as “the missionary pope”). The 1919 document was written for a Church and a world that had endured the rigours of the First World War. It called people to “transcend national boundaries” and bear witness to God’s will through the Church’s universal mission. 

“The Pope (Francis) was saying that we have to go back and revisit and rethink and reflect on the missionary nature of the Church,” said Osei. “He calls us back to look at the transcendent mission, transcending national boundaries and bearing witness to the apostolic spirit.”

Osei said it is now the mission of the Pontifical Mission Society to remind the Church of its fundamental purpose — to spread the Good News of Christ in all corners of the world. 

The Pontifical Mission Society (missionsocieties.ca) acts as the Church’s official support organization for overseas missions. The Society includes four main organizations in service of the mission Church. 

The Society for the Propagation of the Faith gives financial support to mission dioceses around the world. The Society of St. Paul the Apostle supports seminaries and priestly formation in less fortunate regions. The Holy Childhood Association serves Catholic schools and childhood formation. And the Pontifical Missionary Union is a spiritual apostolate that educates and trains missionary societies. 

As national co-ordinators, Osei and his French Canada counterpart, Oblate Fr. Yoland Ouellet, are working with a small organizing committee to spread the “missionary spirit” to all Canadian dioceses. Each diocese has been commissioned to dedicate prayer vigils, Masses and host educational events to “re-evangelize ourselves” in the missionary spirit of the Church.

The Society sponsored a group of young adults to travel with Osei and Bishop Vincent Nguyen to the fifth American Missionary Congress in Bolivia July 10-14. 

Apart from attending the talks and workshops at the congress, the small delegation from St. Andrew’s Church in Toronto had the opportunity to visit the outskirts of Santa Cruz de la Sierra where the Society served the rural Church communities. They stayed with host families and volunteered in the local community.

“For us, it was just an opportunity to experience what the Church is like in Latin American,” said 24-year-old Keegan Fernandes. “Unfortunately, everything was in Spanish and none of us speak Spanish so for a lot of it, we really relied on translations and trying to figure out what that means.”

The group of 10 young delegates attended Masses with liturgical dancing, people adorned in traditional dress and receiving the Eucharist on the tongue. Ysabel Agaton said the Mass still felt like a universal celebration. 

“At the core, church is the same. At the core, we were still at home even when there were also many cultural differences,” the 25-year-old said. 

St. Andrew’s Church’s mission trip was an experiment in bringing the missionary spirit to the people of Canada. Osei said the purpose of bringing lay people into mission is to help them connect with their brothers and sisters in Christ. If more people truly realized the unity of the Church, he said, no one would be living in the margins of society. 

Still, Osei knows that he won’t be able to take every Canadian Catholic on a mission trip but there are other ways they can help. 

“I would like to invite the laypeople to bring their ideas, their understanding of mission and how the Church sees the world,” he said. “They can support us financially but also through their prayers for the missions.”

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