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Forming Witnesses

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Maureen Crowley

Twenty-five years ago, I was offered a job by my pastor, one that I could do in less than ten hours a week. Here's why he said I was right for the position: I was good with kids, I like to talk, and I was religious and didn't care who knew! I had spent years at home, raising my children. Truthfully, I was looking forward to a little time to figure out a plan for my life and was about to say "No, thank you, Monsignor." He got a few more words in. "Have you ever had heard of the Holy Childhood Association?"

Had I? I still had a Mite Box sitting on my shelf at home. "Children Helping Children" had not left my heart since it found a place there at Saint Michael School in Hudson, Mass.

Soon enough, I found that the Holy Spirit had different plans for my "part-time job" with the Holy Childhood Association -- now the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA) -- one of the four Pontifical Mission Societies. My part time work became a full-time vocation. I became a witness.

Some of the things I've seen are not pretty. 10,000 children die each day of hunger; about 400,000 children die each year because they have no access to clean water; 130.8 million people worldwide are forcibly displaced from their homes -- 40 percent of them are children. My mission travels have taken me to places affected by all these statistics.

The most startling fact of all? Of the over 8 billion people on our planet, an estimated 1 billion don't know who Jesus Christ is, simply because no one has told them.

These are some of the things our children learn through participation in the programs of MCA. They are also empowered to do something about it.

Seeing how children live in the developing world is a powerful way for our students to adopt the idea of being a witness. Since they won't be getting on a plane any time soon themselves, a visit from people who have is eye-opening for them. It's amazing to see the attention our children give to the real-life stories of their brothers and sisters in the missions walking for water, sitting on dirt floors at school, or missing school to work on the family farm to survive.

Then, the choice is theirs -- go and tell someone what they've seen and DO something or pretend that they didn't see it and do nothing.

God made me a witness. And, with the help of MCA, I pray that He is making witnesses of our children as well.

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


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