At our recent National Conference of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States (TPMS USA), we had a special guest with us: Archbishop Giovanni Del Toso, President of TPMS at the Vatican.
Many of us had the pleasure of "meeting" the archbishop via Zoom in 2021 when our Vatican office sponsored a webinar for updating our skills in what we call mission animation: helping the faithful of our own (Arch)dioceses better understand the needs of the young mission Church by encouraging prayer and material gifts to help it grow. In person, the archbishop proved to be affable and down to earth as he shared stories and encouragement for our work.
In his address, Archbishop Del Toso spoke of the three charisms of TPMS -- faith, mission, and universality. Faith, he said, is our starting point; he reminded us that it is to be constantly shared during our lives. He quoted Saint Pope John Paul II's encyclical Redemptoris Missio, "Faith is strengthened when it is given to others!"
Secondly, the archbishop explained, "Mission is the maturity of faith. It means that I share the truth that I have received. If the announcement of Christ is important for my life, it is important to share with others; they are waiting to receive it."
Universality is the third part of our TPMS makeup because we are catholic (small 'c' intended), which means we are all-encompassing and all-embracing. Our ministry helps the local Church be open to others, whether they live locally or somewhere around the globe. This comes from the foundation of our Societies two hundred years ago, when Pauline Marie Jaricot insisted that our work support all foreign missions, not just a few.
Archbishop Del Toso took a wide-ranging number of questions. He explained that each year, our General Fund is split into subsidies for each mission territory; there are currently over 1,100. These subsidies help the mission Churches survive daily. After that, bishops are allowed to apply for extra-ordinary subsidies for special projects. The amount left in the Fund dictates how many can be supported. National TPMS Directors from 120 countries vote on which proposals are approved. There is never enough left to say "Yes" to all the needs.
The archbishop ended by reminding us of something Saint Pope Paul said in his encyclical Evangelii Nuntiandi. I couldn't help but smile as the same quote hangs over my desk. "People listen more willingly to witnesses than to teachers, and if they do listen to teachers, it is because they are witnesses."
By my mission witness, I hope to make you one, too.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.