Join Our Lifeline of Hope

During what was a very full trip visiting mission sites in Malawi -- especially those devastated by Cyclone Freddy -- we witnessed some of the worst destruction that Mother nature could provide. Whole villages of people, their homes, crops, and farm animals were swept away, first by floods and then by the force of landslides. Fertile soil to plant another year's crops was replaced by rocks and sand.

After celebrating Mass on the Solemnity of the Immaculate Conception with survivors of the tragedy, they took us to see where the river had been diverted by boulders. Bridges lay broken like a child's toy after a tantrum.

We watched as villagers helped each other cross a small stream surrounded by sand, and boulders, with livestock and huge bags of corn strapped to the back of their motorcycles. It used to be a river.

From there, we toured their parish clinic; though only a few rooms, the locals are lucky to have it. After the cyclone, it's the only one available to anyone within the journey of a day's walk. In a country with one of the highest maternal mortality rates in the world, more children will lose their mothers at birth due to lack of prenatal care and attended births.

Before moving on, we shared a meal. Two differently prepared chicken dishes, plantains, corn, stewed vegetables, potatoes, and more were laid out for the group. It never ceases to amaze me that those who have the least are so willing to share. We were happy to leave Mass Stipends with the local priests. Masses will be said for the intentions that our donors have supplied to us.

Seeing the looks of relief on the good Father's faces was so touching. Much of the work we do in our Mission Ministry is to educate the faithful about the needs of the growing Church and ask for regular, material support for our General Solidarity Fund. Every year, that fund gets split according to the needs of the local Churches in Asia, Africa, remote parts of Latin and South America, and the tiny Pacific Island countries called Oceania. Mass stipends touch individuals directly and immediately.

Without priests in those places, the Church's growth is stunted. The real "Catch-22" is that the local faithful in the missions are too poor make offerings to have Masses celebrated in their parishes, which in turn supports their priests who receive no salary for their ministry. Our stipend program is a literal lifeline of hope for them.

Join that line. Have Masses offered in the missions for your loved ones, living or deceased. Go to today!

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