Extraordinary Mission Month – Te Marama o te Tino Mīhana

WelCom October 2019: October 2019 –Whiringa-ā-Nuku 2019 Baptised and sent: the Church of Christ on mission in the world – Kua iriiria, kua tukuna: kua tukuna te Hāhi o te Karaiti ki te manaaki…

WelCom October 2019:

October 2019 –Whiringa-ā-Nuku 2019

Baptised and sent: the Church of Christ on mission in the world – Kua iriiria, kua tukuna: kua tukuna te Hāhi o te Karaiti ki te manaaki mīhana i te ao

Pope Francis has asked all Catholics to celebrate a special ‘missionary month’ in October 2019. In conjunction with the 100 years since the 1919 apostolic letter Maximum Illud by Pope Benedict XV on the Church’s missionary activity, Pope Francis has set October 2019 as an Extraordinary Missionary Month to foster greater awareness of the Second Vatican Council’s decree on missionary activity, missio ad gentes – ‘To the Nations’ – and to enliven the missionary transformation of Church life and pastoral activity. 

The logo of the Extraordinary Month of Mission represents a world made up of different races that proclaim the greatness of God. Yellow gold for the people of Asia. Red for the Americas. Green for Africa. Blue for Oceania, White for Europe. All are called to be baptised and sent.

The Extraordinary Month of Mission – A Season of Grace

Fr Bernard Espiritu svd, National Director MissioNZ

The celebration of the Extraordinary Month of Mission was initially announced to celebrate the centennial anniversary of the Apostolic letter of Pope Benedict XV called Maximum Illud (translated as: ‘that momentous event’). Maximum Illud begins by citing the Great Commission in Mark 16:15 – Jesus designating his disciples to be missionaries. This is a significant event in our Salvation History – God has found a Church to carry on His Mission! Pope Benedict XV aimed to inject new perspectives on the understanding of mission. He wanted to bring a renewed enthusiasm to missionary work. In the end it even helped pave the path toward the Vatican II Decree on the mission activity of the Church – Ad gentes.

Ad gentes, which means ‘To The Nations’, establishes evangelisation as one of the fundamental missions of the Church and reaffirms the tie between evangelisation and charity for the poor. It also calls for the formation of strong Christian communities as well as strong relations with other Christians; and it lays out guidelines for the training and actions of the missionaries.

In declaring the Extraordinary Month of Mission, Pope Francis chose a theme that wells from Maximum Illud. Baptised and Sent: The Church of Christ on Mission in the World. He recaptures his understanding of what it means to be a Christian. Baptised and Sent is another way of saying a Christian is a missionary-disciple of Jesus. A Christian is not intended to be alone; to be a Christian means to be part of a community of believers – the Church. The momentous command of Jesus is given not just to the individual believer, but to an individual believer who is part of a church community.

We celebrate because God believes in us – he passed on his mission to us. The mission is not who is more valuable among us: the laity or the clergy? Men or women? The youth or the elders? We celebrate because we find support in each other to be able to proclaim the Good News. We celebrate because together we are called to evangelise.

Pope Francis gave guidelines on how we can celebrate the Extraordinary Month of Mission that it may become a season of grace. May it be a time of growth. 

1. As believers, we are in constant pursuit of God, who is a Person. God becomes a person in our prayers, meditations, and Christian living. 

2. We find God’s reflections in the lives of the great saints like Saint Therese of the Child Jesus or Saint Francis Xavier. We also see God’s manifestations in the exemplary contemporary witnesses of faith, living or deceased: dedicated parents, tireless missionaries, faithful friends. We learn from them. 

3. We grow in the understanding of our faith in biblical, theological, and spiritual formation. Our parishes offer opportunities for learning. 

4. Become engaged in missionary charity. Let us find ways how to share our time, talent, and treasure. We can save some money, which we can share as our offering to help missionaries in other parts of the world.

Extraordinary Mission Month: www.october2019.va/en.html

Prayer for The Extraordinary Month of Mission – October 2019

Heavenly Father,
when your only Begotten Son 
Jesus Christ rose from the dead,
He instructed His followers to
‘Go and make disciples of all nations’. 
Your Holy Spirit 
has led us to understand 
that through our Baptism 
we are called and sent to share 
in this mission of the Church.

Empower us by the gifts of the Holy Spirit 
to be courageous and zealous 
in bearing witness to the Gospel, 
so that the mission entrusted to the Church, 
which is still continuing, 
may find new and productive expressions 
that bring life and light to the world.

Help us make it possible 
for peoples to experience 
the saving love and mercy 
of Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with You
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever.

– From the heart of Pope Francis.

Pope Francis Message for World Mission Day 2019: www.october2019.va/en/messaggio-giornata-missionaria-2019.html

MissioNZ Mission Month poster

No man is an island. No religion is an island. Both seek to dialogue and an attitude of openness in truth and love must characterise the conversation shared with people who are non-Christians. Pope Francis expressed this in the Joy of the Gospel, his first Apostolic Letter. 

Good missionaries are those who are open to listening and are also able to share their joys and sorrows. Our poster depicts that peace comes through reaching out to others. We are Baptised and Sent to be bringer of the Good News, to be bringer of peace.

The young woman in the poster is Dewi Kartika Maharani Praswida, a 23-year-old student from Central Java, Indonesia. She is actively involved in interfaith dialogue and was one of the delegates from Indonesia who helped prepare the Synod on the Youth in Rome in 2018. This year, she received a scholarship grant from Nostra Aetate Foundation. The foundation grants scholarships to young people from other religions who wish to deepen their knowledge of Christianity at a Pontifical academic institution. During her time in Rome she met Pope Francis. A photographer beautifully captured that moment, which we use to convey the meeting of a Pope who encourages us to reach out, and a young person of another faith who welcomes. 

When Pope Francis went to Abu Dhabi in February 2019, he met with the Grand Imam of Al-Azhar, Ahmad Al-Tayyeb. It was an historical moment between the Catholic Church and Islam. Pope Francis and the Grand Imam signed the document entitled: Human Fraternity for World Peace. Dewi says, ‘The document has had a great impact. My friends have not read the text, but the photos of the signing ceremony alone and the affectionate greetings between the pontiff and the Imam have generated a very positive response. For many, they were proof these two great religions can engage in dialogue.

‘During my stay in Rome, I was able to interact and make friends with people who have different opinions from mine. There were lively debates but mutual esteem and affection always characterised our discussions. It is vital to create opportunities to meet people in other religious contexts. It is one way to eliminate the wrong perceptions. Reaching out to others blows away erroneous beliefs. Prejudice comes from misunderstanding: asking, listening, and learning breaks this circle.’

A Missionary Story

Fr Frank Bird sm with his school’s staff and a Burmese family. 
Photo: Supplied

It’s through acts of giving we share our faith locally and internationally. We are a Church with a proud tradition of providing charity, comfort and compassion to the vulnerable and those on society’s fringes. 

MissioNZ invited the Catholic Enquiry Centre to find and share a story about New Zealand volunteers living abroad. They discovered the story of Fr Frank Bird sm and Katie Fisher in Ranong, Thailand.

Ranong is a fishing town in southern Thailand on the border with Myanmar. Its population is split fairly evenly between Thai and Burmese residents. Burmese economic migrants provide the bulk of the workforce for tough local industries, for example fishing, canneries, charcoal factories and construction. Earning around NZ$12 a day this can be substantially more they can earn back home.

Fr Frank is the Director of the Marist Asia Foundation, which provides education to Burmese migrant children. Although Thai education is available to migrants, a lack of Thai language skills can make it prohibitive for Burmese children to progress their learning. 

Fr Frank’s school offers options from pre-school to University. They also offer a house for a secondary school. This is essential as a lot of migrant families succumb to economic pressures and when their children turn 12 they need them to find jobs rather than continue with their education.

The children at the Marist school mainly come from a Buddhist religious tradition, which the school respects. Fr Frank’s hope is that the students witness and benefit from the joyful loving presence of Catholic community.

The work Frank and Katie do is having a tremendous impact on the community. On a very modest campus, the school also runs a tertiary programme in conjunction with the Australian Catholic University. It’s not just education they are offering their students, it’s pride, dignity and better futures.

You can watch CEC’s videos on their Facebook page or Youtube channel through links on www.catholicdiscovery.nz