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BRAINTREE -- Students and teachers from over a dozen Catholic schools visited the Pastoral Center on Oct. 3 for Mission Education Day.
The annual event is organized by the Missionary Childhood Association, one of the Pontifical Mission Societies, to give students an opportunity to learn how they can support the Church's missionary work. The daylong program included speakers, crafts, lunch, and Mass with Cardinal Seán P. O'Malley.
Though an annual event, this year's Mission Education Day took place in the context of Extraordinary Mission Month, proclaimed two years ago on World Mission Sunday by Pope Francis.
Making the pronouncement in 2017, the pope asked that October 2019 be a time for "the whole Church to live an extraordinary time of missionary activity."
The pope noted that 2019 marks the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV's Apostolic Letter ''Maximum Illud,'' on the Church's mission to bring salvation to the world through Christ.
The theme of Extraordinary Mission Month is, "Baptized and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World."
The students began their day with a talk by Sarah McAteer, associate director of the Pontifical Mission Societies of the Diocese of Rockville Center in New York State, who spoke about caring for the environment.
McAteer's talk centered on "Care for Creation and that we are all called -- as part of our mission -- to care for the earth, not just because it helps the earth but also because it relieves poverty," Maureen Heil, director of programs and development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, said in an email to the Pilot.
In the afternoon, the students heard Doug Campbell, executive director of the U.S. office of Hands Together, a Catholic charity that promotes human development in the poorest communities of Haiti. Campbell showed a video about Hands Together and talked about his own experience of working among the poor.
Between the two speaking programs, Cardinal O'Malley, joined by archdiocesan director of the Pontifical Mission Societies Father Gabriel Troy, celebrated Mass for the visitors in the Pastoral Center's Bethany Chapel.
In his homily, Cardinal O'Malley talked about Jesus' commissioning of the 72 disciples in the Gospel reading, as well as the Great Commission. Cardinal O'Malley pointed out that most of the disciples died as martyrs while carrying out Jesus' final instructions.
"We're here today because of their courage and their generosity and their determination to bring the living Word of God to all the peoples of the world. Now it's our turn," Cardinal O'Malley said.
At the end of the Mass, he blessed the students' cross pendants and commissioned them to be missionaries in their communities. He also blessed World Mission Rosaries for them to take home. The World Mission Rosary was introduced in the 1950s by Archbishop Fulton Sheen who, at that time, was the national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Each decade of beads on the rosary has a different color symbolizing one of the continents of the world.
The Missionary Childhood Association also honored Joshua Cueco, a student from St. Catherine School in Norwood, who was one of the 24 winners in the National Missionary Childhood Association's Christmas artwork contest. The winning pieces will be displayed at the National Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, D.C., during Advent.