Last Monday, April 6th, Pope Francis announced that he was establishing an emergency fund in order to aid those people and communities who are being affected by the spread of COVID19 in mission countries.
The Holy Father has asked those wishing to help the Church in the missions confront the pandemic to channel their funds through The Pontifical Mission Societies (TPMS) as he has, making the first donation of US $750,000 to start the campaign. The Emergency Fund will be used to aid impacted communities via existing Church healthcare facilities and missionaries.
According to Fides News Service at the Vatican, Cardinal Luis Tagle, Prefect of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, which oversees the Pontifical Mission Societies, said, "In her task of evangelization, the Church is often on the front lines of major threats to human well-being. In Africa alone, there are over 74,000 religious sisters and over 46,000 priests operating 7,274 hospitals and clinics, 2,346 homes for elderly and the vulnerable, and educating over 19 million children in 45,088 primary schools. In many rural areas they are the only providers of healthcare and education. The Holy Father is calling upon the Church's entire vast network to face the challenges ahead."
Look at the faces in the picture. In the center is Father Bernard Zulu, holding a baby at a Mother/Infant care center in Zambia. Funds from TPMS helped ensure that the little one's HIV positive mom didn't pass the virus on to her child. The child in the picture to Father's right caught his arm in farm equipment in rural Ecuador; if not for the nearby TPMS funded Catholic hospital, he would have lost his limb. The picture on the bottom left shows Sister Marcella of Italy binding a girl's wounds after the Haitian earthquake of 2010. TPMS is there as well.
Pope Francis appeals to all "Church entities" and individuals who "are able and desire to help contribute to this fund through The Pontifical Mission Societies" in their own communities. Here in the Archdiocese of Boston, donors can go to our website, www.propfaithboston.org or send a gift to us at 66 Brooks Drive, Braintree, MA 02184. While adhering to CDC guidelines, a staff member is collecting the mail once a week as all "social distance" rules are respected.
As we all face this pandemic, it is critical that we stand closely in "social solidarity" with our brothers and sisters in the missions. Theirs will be an unimaginable human tragedy if they must endure it without the support of the Catholic Church's healthcare infrastructure.
We prayerfully ask for your support.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.