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Propagation of the Faith

Traveling Missionary Roads, Building the Church

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Maureen Crowley

Every day, the arrival of mail brings a new story to our attention. People serving in the missions around the world reach out to Boston hoping that our prayers and sacrifices will be able to help them spread the Gospel.

Each tale is compelling in its own right; all have a common thread. The writer is asking us to walk in solidarity with them as an "older sibling" in faith. Boston's Church is known as a place that was founded by missionaries and continues to travel with others on the mission road.

One recent note comes from Father Bernard Makadani Zulu, of Zambia. Father Bernard is a good friend of this office. In 2011, he was my host and shepherd as I traveled across his country, visiting schools, churches, orphanages, clinics, and seminaries funded by the Pontifical Mission Societies. In 2012 and 2014, he returned the visit, preaching in our parishes on behalf of The Propagation of the Faith. Recipients of our newsletters have been inspired to greater generosity by some of his beautiful photography from the missions.

Father Bernard writes to us about the hard work and organization it takes to start a faith community in Zambia. Long before a parish is erected, a group of Catholics will begin to gather for faith formation in what is called a Small Christian Community. These are generally formed in remote locations and are linked to the closest parish, which can be up to 25 miles away -- a substantial distance considering most travel is done on foot. A catechist is assigned to teach classes, and, when possible a priest will celebrate Mass. As the Community grows, they contribute to a common fund to build a worship site.

Such is the story in Nyang'mire where Father Bernard says Mass four or five times a year. With the blessing of swelling numbers of Catholics, they have outgrown their mud hut with a thatched roof and are struggling to put up a proper church. Mobilizing local resources, they are making their own bricks, digging for foundation placement, and procuring enough cement and stones to build the church up to the roof level. This has taken them four years.

With just $3000 more, this group of subsistence farmers can purchase the iron sheets, planks, and nails for the roof and be able to put in doors and window frames.

Our donors' generosity is what enables the Propagation of the Faith to travel with Father and so many more like him along missionary roads building the Church -- both literally and figuratively.

We are honored and humbled to be a part of their journey.

- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.

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