The readings at Mass during the Easter Season -- stretching from Easter Sunday to Pentecost -- tell us so much about the budding Church -- the early fear, the growth of community, and the sharing of goods.
These things resonate with me because I witness it in the work of the Pontifical Mission Societies, as we support missionaries who are on the front lines of helping the young Church in underserved parts of the world. It can be an anxious time for a person to embrace our faith; how do we learn the basic tenets? Will our friends or neighbors still accept us if we change from a commonly practiced way of life? How do we support each other, spiritually and materially?
These were probably questions asked by Jesus' first followers, and are still being asked daily, around the world. With support from all four Pontifical Mission Societies, missionaries are there to accompany people as they find answers.
During the Easter Season this year, we also find ourselves in a different kind of service: to war-torn Ukraine. Because they follow the Julian calendar, their Holy Week was a week after ours. Our National Director, Monsignor Kieran Harrington, chose this time to go there and stand in solidarity with our Ukrainian sisters and brothers, bringing them our support, both spiritual and material.
Monsignor Kieran said he was going for several reasons but drew on inspiration from Pope Francis, who wrote in Fratelli Tutti that we must "touch the wounded." Monsignor continued, "we really needed to not simply transfer funds, but to accompany the people in the midst of their suffering."
At the start of the trip, Monsignor Kieran stayed at a monastery near Lviv. The monks had opened their home to 170 people fleeing the war. Basilian Father Panteleimon Trofimo, head of the monastery, told Monsignor that he did not think twice about it. "We are Christians. How could we not welcome them into our home? Our place is to be with people," he said.
Everywhere he went, people wanted to tell him their whole stories -- of all the destruction and pain. But at the end, "They just hug you. Because they know they are not alone." His very presence was a proclamation of the Gospel, one that missionaries live out every day: "And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age. (Mt 28:20)"
Give to our Ukrainian Solidary Fund: www.propfaithboston.org
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.