Sometimes on a Sunday night, I start to stress a little about what I will write for the next edition of The Boston Pilot. Honestly, it's not because of a lack of topics from which to choose. For instance, our office is supporting our National Office's Ukrainian Solidarity Fund; donations will help internally displaced Ukrainians and those who have fled to Poland. Gifts can be made in tribute to Ukraine at www.propfaithboston.org.
We are also celebrating two milestones for The Pontifical Mission Societies: the 200th anniversary of the founding of The Propagation of the Faith, and the 100th anniversary of all four societies being gathered as pontifical, under the direction of the Holy Father.
The foundress of The Society for the Propagation of the Faith, Pauline Marie Jaricot, is being beatified on Sunday, May 22nd, in her hometown of Lyon, France. Locally, we'll celebrate at the 11 a.m. Mass at Sainte Anne Parish in Salem. Originally French, the parish now also includes people from the local Cameroonian, Filipino, and Congolese communities. So, with a nod to French Pauline's roots, we will celebrate with the presence of groups from countries where missionaries planted the Catholic faith.
Amidst all this, as I readied for bed last Sunday night, I pondered my choice of topics as I brushed my teeth. A voice in my head said, "Toothpaste, Maureen. Write about toothpaste."
My mind flashed to a visit to Saint Atanazio School in rural Zambia, which was supported with grants from the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA). As I went from class to class, each grade showed off their work. The first graders took me by the hand and led me to the courtyard to show off their writing skills. With sticks in hand, they proceeded to draw their letters and numbers in the dirt. With paper at a premium, this was how they practiced.
As it is at any school, when you enter the preschoolers' classrooms, it's hard not to fall in love! These little ones sang their hearts out in their local dialect -- and wiggled and clapped. The teacher showed me their lessons. On the chalkboard, she had drawn pictures of personal care products: a comb, soap, a toothbrush, and a tube of toothpaste, all gifts from MCA.
This was the first time the children would use a toothbrush and toothpaste; instructions were necessary.
There are many moments in the missions that remain close to my heart. The excitement of four-year-olds receiving their first toothbrushes with toothpaste is tough to top.
Tonight, when you brush your teeth, say a prayer of thanksgiving for the simple gifts in life. Then, act, so that more people are able to do the same.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.