Administering the Mission Appeal Program in the Archdiocese of Boston is like playing a game of chess with yourself. You are responsible for the moves of all players and one misstep can create a litany of problems. Did a missionary get sick? Miss a flight? Become lost in transit? Murphy's Law says that if anything can go wrong, it will, and at the worst possible moment. So, of course it will happen very close to the appeal date!
COVID19 threw us a curveball, but we kept rearranging the chess board to get the mission message out as best we could.
Although we promised 2020's missionaries that they were guaranteed an assignment for 2021, some are still unable to come from their countries because of travel restrictions. Others could not get visas.
For Father Tom Hagan, OSFS, of Hands Together, even political upheaval could not stop him from coming to Boston to remind us that because we are baptized in Christ, we have a share in His mission.
Father Tom is on mission in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, where he serves the poor in one of the worst slums in the world: Cite Soleil. For him, violence is an everyday occurrence. There are daily threats from local gangs; he has had staff members murdered and their bodies left at his mission house.
Called "the most violent place on earth" in 2012 by the UN, over 450,000 people live in profound squalor, violence, and hopelessness. Father Tom and his Hands Together co-founder, Doug Campbell, feel that these are the people Jesus calls us to serve -- the ones who have nobody else.
With help from The Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Hands Together runs eleven Catholic schools in the slum for over 12,000 children. Students receive free education, food, and Sacraments of Initiation. Four hundred wells have been drilled, providing thousands with clean drinking water. Mobile health clinics provide free medical care to thousands of residents in the eight primary neighborhoods of the slum; they feed 25,000 people monthly.
As Haiti went into lockdown after the assassination of their president, Father Tom wasn't sure he would make it to his mission appeal at Saint Mary's in Melrose. (Special thanks to Father Shawn Allen for his flexibility!) When Father got on a flight, I received a message that he was fine, and of course, he would still speak at the parish. Thirty-five years in Cite Soleil gives you nerves of steel.
Father Tom and Doug are reliable players in our yearly chess game. We are honored to be supporters of their vital work.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.
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