Twenty-two years ago, when I started my work for The Pontifical Mission Societies, I thought of it as just that -- a job. I spent years at home, raising three children. When the time came that they were all in school, I felt the pull to return to the "real world." Little by little, I found that the Holy Spirit had different plans for me with The Pontifical Mission Societies. My part time work became a full-time vocation. I became a witness.
The process was not an easy one. I saw how much there was to learn about the reality of the world: 3 million children die each year from hunger. Over 3.5 million people die each year because they have no access to clean water -- this is the equivalent of a full jumbo jet crashing every hour. An estimated 82 million people have been forcibly displaced from their homes and are now refugees.
A faith fact that startled me was this: of the 7 billion people on our planet, an estimated 1.6 billion don't know who Jesus Christ is because no one has told them.
These are just some of the facts that I share when I speak at parish mission appeals or Catholic school and parish faith formation programs. The invitation is made to each person to be aware of a basic truth of our faith -- we are all called to be witnesses to the love of Jesus Christ in the world.
When I tell stories of the many evangelization sites around the world in which I have been privileged to immerse myself, my goal is to paint a vivid picture so that listeners of all ages will come to embrace the mission message as a part of their daily faith life. When I can show pictures or videos, people see the concrete proof of the ministry I am asking them to support with their prayers and material help.
Hopefully, whether presented through word or image, the mission stories are planted in their hearts and they feel they have 'seen' the work. Now THEY are witnesses and they have a choice -- to speak and do something about it or pretend they didn't see and do nothing.
By our baptism, we are God's witnesses on earth. Some are called to take our faith to every corner of the planet and others are entrusted with the support of their life-giving ministries.
To learn more about the missions and how you can help, visit our website: www.propfaithboston.org
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.