A good friend and partner in mission, Father Michael Montoya, MJ, recently recorded a beautiful reflection about the state of our faith mission during the pandemic. Originally from the Philippines, Father Michael has been on mission for twenty-five years. His last assignment was serving as pastor to the poorest parish in the poorest diocese in the United States, accompanying Hispanic immigrants on their faith journey on the border between Texas and Mexico.
He encouraged his parishioners to have hope and walk in faith. They trusted in God and decided to build their own house of worship. Many used their food stamps to buy taco makings, which they sold to help fund the building. They lived their mission, knowing if they worked for the good of all, God would reward them.
The parish of San Juan Diego in Mission, Texas, is proof of the power of the faith. Its soaring walls are beautifully filled with donated stained-glass windows from Saints Peter and Paul Parish, South Boston; churchgoers kneel and pray in pews gifted from Our Lady of Victory Parish, Boston; the Eucharist is consecrated on an altar dedicated on the 25th anniversary of a pastor of Holy Trinity Parish, Boston. It was re-dedicated in Texas on Father Michael's 25th anniversary.
Parishioners pray for the people of those now-closed parishes, as well as for their former pastor, Father Michael, now at home on sabbatical.
Father recorded a message for all of us; it's one to remember, pray about, and act on as we struggle to make sense of our situations.
'All around are voices that say, "It is cancelled."
From the most banal to the sacred, it is cancelled.
Public gatherings have been cancelled. Many schools are closed, as are many public establishments.
Airports and borders are all but closed. Synagogues, mosques, Christian worship and pilgrim sites -- many are closed.
Amid such context, let not our hearts be closed!
Our mission as friends and disciples of Jesus is not cancelled. Our mission to be kind is not cancelled. Our mission to be a sign of hope in the midst of darkness is not cancelled. Our mission to live our faith in a loving and merciful God is not cancelled. Our mission to love -- especially the most vulnerable -- is not cancelled.
Friends and Disciples, our mission is not cancelled!'
May Father Michael's words inspire us all to keep an open heart and to be a sign of Christ's hope in this time of great need for so many.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.