World Mission Sunday is observed Oct. 24, with a collection for the missions at parishes and, as Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski explained in a newsletter of the archdiocese’s mission office, a reminder that “this important day in the life of the Church universal fortifies our understanding of our shared call to mission, bestowed upon us at Baptism.”
Those who give generously to the missions support the work of many missionaries. Three School Sisters of Notre Dame describe the work they have done recently in the missions.
Witness to the love of Christ
Sister Mary Hope Billing continues to serve in Japan, arriving there eight years ago to work at the university founded by her School Sisters of Notre Dame community. She taught English classes, and she now serves as a volunteer at the English language learning center on campus.
Japan is not a Christian country, so “any witness of the love of Christ shown to students or adults you meet is very important,” Sister Mary Hope said. “It opens their eyes to the fact that God is love and Jesus came to earth to show us that.”
The Japanese people she’s met are open to learning about Christianity, she said. That doesn’t mean they will become Christians, though maybe in the future they will consider it. The people are respectful and helpful, she added.
“There’s an ingrained kindness in the Japanese people, and I think that comes from their respect for everyone. And their whole thrust is toward peace.”
Sister Marie Denice Houston spent two years in Kenya several years ago as a teacher. She returned to Kenya again in 2019 to share the story of the School Sisters of Notre Dame and the community’s successes with children at an orphanage there.
“The children were lovely, happy. They were at-risk children we helped with school fees and much more,” said Sister Marie Denice, who returned to St. Louis earlier this year due to health reasons.
The orphanage that housed about 160 students, grade-school through university, closed temporarily due to COVID-19, and many were placed in boarding schools, still receiving help from the School Sisters of Notre Dame.
Mission work is extremely important, especially for poor children, Sister Marie Denice said, so they can be educated to get jobs and improve their situations. Some later worked in the computer field or in agriculture, for example, while some even entered the priesthood.
Answering God’s call
Sister Andre Maureen Soete served the last 18 years in Nepal, returning to St. Louis in May. Earlier, she spent 17 years as a missionary in Japan.
The deep happiness she feels in answering God’s call to mission comes from an insight that His call is simple, she said.
“First,” she said, “be not afraid, I go before you always! Come follow me! Second, to those who see with eyes of faith, our God is ever near, reflected in the faces of all the poor and lowly of the world. Third, see the face of Christ revealed in every person standing by your side.”
These words of three songs hold much meaning and challenge, the School Sister of Notre Dame said.
“If you ask, how does Jesus live and move around in our world today, I believe it can only be through someone who knows that they hold the spirit of Jesus within themselves,” Sister Andre Maureen said. “And since Jesus is the outpouring of the love and compassion of God, then that is what we must be in the world. The love and compassion of God.”
Sister Andre Maureen served as a teacher in St. Louis and teacher and administrator in the Jefferson City Diocese. In 1986, she traveled to Japan as a high school teacher and worked for the congregation in Kyoto’s SSND regional office. In Nepal, she served as a Catholic school teacher in Bandipur at both the elementary and high school levels. Living in a different culture and learning how big the world is made an impact.
Sister Andre Maureen said that we are really all missionaries, and “each of us brings Jesus to everyone around us. But I had a special gift to go beyond my own loved ‘home culture,’ and I had the opportunity to find that the world is very big, and there are so many different ways to be and think and believe. The bigger our world is, the closer we can get to the mind and heart and love of God who thinks and creates it all.”
>> Support the missions
Archbishop Mitchell Rozanski has asked people to speak about the faith and respond to the missionary call through prayer, participation in the Eucharist and giving generously to the collection for the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.
Gifts support and sustain priests, religious and lay pastoral leaders in more than 1,100 mission dioceses in Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands and parts of Latin America and Europe as they proclaim the Gospel, build the Church, serve the poor and speak of their shared faith.
In a message for World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis asks us to remember especially all those who resolutely set out, leaving home and family behind, to bring the Gospel to all those places and people who thirst for its saving message.
For information or to donate to the missions, visit www.archstl.org/missions.