This Sunday’s observance of World Mission Sunday (October 22, 2023) is a reminder that, as part of our Catholic identity, we are connected to parishes throughout our diocese, country and the world. As Pope Francis writes in a letter regarding this day, “The urgency of the Church’s missionary activity naturally calls for an ever-closer missionary cooperation on the part of all her members and at every level.”
Because we are graced with so many gifts and so many resources, and because there are so many larger needs that we cannot neglect, it is important that we continue to provide practical, spiritual and prayerful support for the work of missionaries throughout the world. I am grateful that year after year our diocese has been generous in doing this.
As it has done since 1822, the money contributed to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith supports the ministries of missionary priests and religious – work carried out on the peripheries in places where the Gospel is proclaimed, and sacramental care is provided. Because our diocese is blessed to have priests from Africa and the Philippines serving in our parishes, we know firsthand of the need for and impact of our support for these pastoral ministries.
A vivid example of our commitment to that international outreach is the twinning relationships that 34 of our parishes have with parishes in Haiti. While personal visits to their sister parishes have been curtailed in recent years due to COVID and to strife and violence in parts of the country, the financial and spiritual support from our parishes has remained. Our diocese also provides support to the Diocese of Hinche, led by Bishop Désinord Jean. More than ever, our aid is critical to helping sustain the faith life of the Catholic communities in Haiti.
Through the World Mission Sunday collection, we also support the national Black and Indian Mission Office. This office contributes to sustaining Catholic missionary efforts in Black and Native communities throughout the United States, including some of the efforts in our own diocese.
While we often think of “missionary lands” as distant places, we need to remember that missionary work is being done in the Diocese of Richmond. There are parts of our diocese, especially Appalachia, that are mission territory. For many years, organizations like the Catholic Church Extension Society provided financial assistance to parishes in that area.
Money collected on World Mission Sunday supports our diocesan Home Mission Grant Program. Through this program, any of our 50 mission parishes – those challenged by a combination of financial, demographic, socio-economic and cultural factors – can apply for a home mission grant to help fund pastoral needs that otherwise would not be met.
Parishes in our diocese exemplify the “missionary cooperation” about which Pope Francis wrote by participating in the Mission Cooperative Program. Through this program, parishes in the Eastern part of our diocese are invited to provide support for parishes in the Western part that need additional resources for their ministries. These connections are critical to maintaining and building up our entire faith community.
During this year when our focus is Eucharistic Revival, we are reminded of Pope Benedict XVI’s words following the 2005 Synod of Bishops on the Eucharist: “An authentically Eucharistic Church is a missionary Church.”
As we grow in our love for and devotion to the Eucharist, let the Eucharist always be an inspiration for us to further the Church’s missionary work.