Last week's Gospel, about the Parable of the Workers in the Vineyard made me think of one of our Church's beautiful documents, 'Christifideles laici' or 'The Lay Members of Christ's Faithful.' Written in 1988, then-Pope John Paul II wrote about the baptismal call of the laity to further the mission of the Church exhorting us to listen to the landowner from the Gospel: "You, too, go into my vineyard" (Mt 20:4).
Our sainted Holy Father said, "What is first needed for the evangelization of the world are 'those who will evangelize.' In this regard everyone, beginning with the Christian family, must feel the responsibility to foster the birth and growth of vocations, both priestly and religious as well as in the lay state -- specifically directed to the missions."
It is the responsibility of all of us to build up the Church by praying for and encouraging not only priests and religious, but laity as well, to go into the whole world and preach the Gospel.
Saint John Paul II continued, "...the Church cannot withdraw from her ongoing mission of bringing the Gospel to the multitudes - the millions and millions of men and women - who as yet do not know Christ the Redeemer of humanity."
As I re-read the Exhortation after Mass last weekend, my thoughts turned to a couple I met in Zambia. Marie and Guillaume were on mission in the Diocese of Chipata. They had given up their well-paying jobs in France -- Marie in finance, Guillaume in engineering -- and had moved with their two toddlers to rural Zambia as lay missionaries with a group called Fidesco International. Guillaume was using his skills to help the diocese rebuild a hostel where they hoped to hold youth retreats. Years of neglect due to lack of funds had rendered the facilities unusable.
Marie was volunteering with Chipata's Office of the Pontifical Mission Societies (we are present in every diocese in the world!) coordinating the application process for programs which the bishop hoped to have funded through donations made to The Propagation of the Faith. Marie also made sure that projects previously funded were using the money wisely.
They managed all this while parenting two young ones and learning not only English, but the local Zambian dialect, too.
What gifts do you have to share with God's people? Are you called to the missions? "The harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few; pray therefore the Lord of the harvest to send out laborers into his harvest!" (Mt 9:37, 38)
God works in mysterious ways: perhaps when you pray, He'll send you!
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.