His first function as an ordained priest in South Sudan was to assist at the funeral Mass of 14 teenagers killed in the civil war. Like the 2 million orphans in his country, violence has been Father Onesimo Keneyi Joseph Venansio's constant companion. In 1984, when he was just seven years old, his village was besieged for months during the second Sudanese war.
One man brought hope to the village: a missionary priest from Indiana, who provided the villagers with food -- for the body and soul. He transformed the life of young Onesimo, inspiring his priestly vocation.
Now, Father Onesimo is one of just 180 priests who struggle to bring peace, dignity, and hope to the 11 million souls of South Sudan who face war, extreme poverty, and high HIV/AIDS rates.
The Society for the Propagation of the Faith funds the ministries of priests and religious like Father Onesimo, who is currently studying civil and canon law at the Missionary College in Rome. The College prepares the hearts and minds of those whose vocations will face unimaginable challenges. Father's absence is an incredible sacrifice for his diocese. He shared this:
"There is a dire need for highly educated people in my country, which is why I am here, though my heart and my thoughts are always in my home, with my people."
Please keep Father Onesimo's beleaguered people, and all who are suffering in the missions, in your prayers. Also remember, the funds needed to support missionaries in places where the Church is young and struggling come from loving people who prayerfully and generously support The Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
This Lent, your support will help missionaries not only survive, but thrive in their ministries. A sacrifice of $80, $2 a day for Lent, will make a life-saving difference for many who suffer in our world. Your gift of $200, $5 a day during Lent, will help to resettle refugees fleeing war in so many violent spots in the missions.
As we journey together towards Easter, know that a gift of any size, in the hands of missionaries, helps to share our hope-filled faith in Jesus Christ with those who need it most.
Your gift at this time to The Society for the Propagation of the Faith is desperately needed to help continue the life-saving work of missionaries as they live the corporal and spiritual works of mercy among the most vulnerable in the missions.
Be assured of their prayers, and mine.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.
Recent articles in the Faith & Family section
The church's honor rollFather Robert M. O’Grady
Feel the Beat!Maureen Crowley Heil
Bonds loosedScott Hahn
Answers in Ordinary TimeLucia A. Silecchia