Practicing 'Masika' this Lent

In Chipata, Zambia, the faithful of St. John the Baptist outstation gather midweek to hold a special "Masika" Mass. This special harvest celebration is held to give thanks -- zikomo in the local language -- to God for the yield of the land, which is vital to the subsistence farmers of this rural area. The members come bearing gifts to share with their church, sacrificing from their own need. Sacks of corn, coffee, bananas, avocados, and live chickens, representing ten percent of their farms' production, are given so that the tiny outstation can continue to serve the needs of all.

They come at a moment's notice, called by the clang of rocks hitting a rusty tire rim that serves as their church bell. The parishioners never know when their priest -- or any priest for that matter -- will be present to receive their gifts at the altar of the Lord. When they hear the "bell," they drop everything, gather their goods, and head for the church.

The spirit of Masika is the spirit of Lent -- a spirit of sacrifice for the good of others. As always, The Pontifical Mission Societies stands ready to fulfill our charge from the Holy Father: to connect Catholics around the world with those most in need in the missions. From Africa to Asia, from the Pacific Islands to Latin and South America, the poor wait for our prayers and sacrifices, just as we waited for help from others as our American Church struggled to develop during the 19th century.

This Lent, please join us in reaching out to those who are in the greatest need -- for food, shelter, access to clean water, education, but mostly, for the saving love proclaimed in the Gospel of Jesus Christ.

Every day, priests, religious, and lay men and women, missionaries all, proclaim the Good News as they struggle to teach children to read and write, seek access to medical care for the elderly, and offer the opportunity for a better life to countless souls. Your greatest gift to them is your regular prayers -- please add missionaries and the people to whom they minister to your daily prayers.

Your material sacrifice is also vital to the work of missionaries.

In the spirit of Masika, we ask you to sacrifice this Lent, prayerfully and generously, to The Pontifical Mission Societies, for the good of others around the world, knowing that as you offer, so shall you receive -- the prayers of many grateful people in the missions!

For your continued and faith-filled support, we offer you the promise of our prayers, as well, and a heartfelt zikomo!

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