Celebrating Mothers in the Missions

Do you know anyone whose birthday is near Christmas? Have you heard them complain that at least at some point in their lives, people would give them one gift telling them that it "counted" for both celebrations? One of my nieces was born into what could have been this issue but for the quick thinking of my sister. While always noting both holidays, the real celebration came six months later. The party for all the little ones was a "Half-Birthday Party," complete with party hats cut in half and even half a cake. (OK, the cake itself was big enough, but it was made to look like it wasn't a whole cake!)

My mother had a similar issue with Mother's Day. Because she was born on May 6, somehow, her birthday always got relegated to second place. She would (somewhat) jokingly complain about it.

When I had my own children and became the honoree on Mother's Day, I understood the slight she felt yearly and decided to do something about it. Using my sister as an inspiration, I made sure to mark both holidays and then do something extra later in the year -- on my birthday in October, I sent my mother flowers, thanking her for my life and all she taught me.

Today, as I write this, it's my mother's birthday. You'll be reading this on Mother's Day weekend. During this week, especially, my thoughts turn to my own mother as well as to all the mothers in the missions. Who will celebrate them?

Birthdays are especially tricky in the missions -- for mothers AND their children. While a lot of people may be able to tell you the season they were born in, what phase the moon was in, or how close to a harvest they came into the world, many people don't know their actual date of birth. It's not registered with any authority.

In Malawi last year, I met a mother in a small village who was receiving aid from The Pontifical Mission Societies to rebuild her family's life after a devastating cyclone. She told me she had lived there all her life. When I asked how long that was, she didn't know.

Mother's Day in Malawi is October 15, roughly twenty-two weeks from now. Imagine if everyone reading this saved $2 each week between now and then -- a dollar for both a birthday and Mother's Day -- and sent it to us for mothers in the missions.

Now, that would be something to celebrate!

Go to www.propfaithboston.org and register your $2 a week pledge.

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