People tend to chuckle when I tell them that my boss is Pope Francis. I point out that because the word "Pontifical" is in our title, we do indeed belong to the Holy Father. Our work allows him to broadly direct the missionary work of the Church. So, it is always a banner day when the Epiphany rolls around and "The Boss" gives out a shout out. Especially, this year!
We began our big year with the Feast of the Epiphany, also International Missionary Childhood Day, celebrating children who, through their daily acts of prayer and offering of material gifts, pay homage to the Christ Child and become his missionaries, like the Magi.
After that day's Angelus, Pope Francis greeted those he calls his "young missionaries" saying, "Epiphany is in a special way the feast of Missionary Childhood, that is, of those children and young people -- there are many, in various countries of the world -- who commit themselves to pray and offer their savings so that the Gospel is announced to those who do not know it. I want to say my thanks to them: boys and girls, thank you! And remember that the mission begins with Christian witness in everyday life."
Since we call ourselves One Family in Mission, we were thrilled to share the day with our "big brother," The Propagation of the Faith, as Pope Francis also issued his message for World Mission Sunday, a day when every church in the world celebrates the work of missionaries and offers contributions to our General Fund to support them.
Pope Francis noted the major anniversaries that his Pontifical Mission Societies will celebrate in 2022. Exactly 200 years ago, a young French woman, Pauline Marie Jaricot, founded the Propagation of the Faith. Pauline was inspired by God to establish what the Pope calls, "a brilliant idea ... a network of prayer and collection for missionaries," making it possible for all of us to have a hand in mission work. We'll be waving the banner high as we celebrate Pauline's beatification in May of this year!
The Propagation of the Faith, along with the Missionary Childhood Association, The Society of St. Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union were united in 1922 as "Pontifical." The Pope said he "encourages (the faithful) to rejoice with his Pontifical Mission Societies, in this special year, for the activities they carry out in support of the mission of evangelization in the Church."
He concludes, "Mary, Queen of the Missions, pray for us!"
Let the celebrations begin!
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.