Every year, (Arch)dioceses across the country welcome missionaries as part of the Missionary Co-operative Program. The purpose of the program is twofold; first, our goal is to open the minds and hearts of the faithful of our local Church to the needs of the growing, young mission Church. Second, we give you the opportunity to offer your prayerful support to those laboring in the Lord's mission vineyard.
Last year, this program was mostly suspended by what upended all our lives -- COVID19 and the restrictions that came with the pandemic.
This year, most of our participants can come to Boston unless they are living in a foreign country as travel is still restricted. We have invited those affected to still set a date with our pastors for a Mission Weekend and to send a script to be read. This way, their mission story will still be shared.
Father Jeffries Foale, a Passionist missionary serving in Vietnam has always provided us with many wonderful stories and pictures. St. Cecilia and Sacred Heart Parishes in Boston will learn more about his extraordinary mission in the coming weeks.
Father Jeff says that life in Vietnam is "amazing." Although he formally retired last year at age 88, Father remains as the only foreign Passionist missionary in the country. He writes, "I still have more than enough to do helping out with routine ministry tasks. I am highly respected as a "wisdom figure" -- in this culture old people are considered wise, no other evidence required, just age! I qualify!"
He goes on to tell the story of an experience of their local Passionist theology students who served in a rural part of the country last summer.
Father quotes one: "I remember first seeing a truly poverty-stricken family. We stood in silence, afraid of approaching them, speechless. Both of us were born in poor families but had never experienced anything like this. The family lived in a torn-to-pieces tent erected on a stagnant wastewater area. The smell of the filthy water was so terrible, I wanted to vomit. The husband had a stroke and couldn't work. The wife, so thin, earned a dollar or two a day to buy a little food by helping others with washing, sweeping, and carrying things. When no calls for her help came, the family did not eat. Many people were living in such conditions."
Amid the pandemic, the work continues. With income in tatters, Father Jeff -- at age 88 -- is off to the remote north of Vietnam to visit a bishop and offer missionary help.
Please join him, in your prayers.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.