Headline: Catholics, the Missions and Evangelization

Posted on: 2016-09-30

The Celebration
The World Mission Sunday (WMS), celebrated in the Catholic Church on the penultimate Sunday in October every year, is a major occasion for increasing the interest and participation of all Catholics in the project of evangelization. As Henry Martyn once said: “The Spirit of Christ is the spirit of missions, and the nearer we get to Him the more intensely missionary we must become”. Many Catholics are already intensely missionary in all they do but many more need to better understand the purpose of Mission Sunday as an event meant to favor the work of evangelization. The project of evangelization entails the activation of all the necessary elements for Christians to make heaven: faith, hope and love. When Jesus said "Go ye into the world and make disciples of all nations", he meant that message for all Christians. WMS is therefore the day on which the Church's interest, purpose, participation and investment converge in pastoral expression and liturgical worship. The Church is missionary by nature therefore every one of us has the duty and obligation to "proclaim Christ to all peoples" (Redemptoris Missio, Mission of the Redeemer 3-5)
The theory
WMS was established by Pope Pius XI in 1926. All the Popes since then have asked all Catholics to support evangelization through prayer and material offerings on that day. This is possible because of the saying that some people go to the missions by giving while others give to the missions by going. Pope Pius XI spoke of the WMS celebration as a way to "foster understanding of the greatness of the missionary task, encourage zeal among the clergy and the people, and offer an opportunity to make the Society for the Propagation of the Faith ever more widely known and encourage offerings for the missions". Can anyone then claim not to understand the Holy Father's clear request for solidarity among Catholics and their recommitment to the Church's missionary activity? I think not! Pope John Paul II said that it is "an important day in the life of the Church because it teaches how to give: as an offering made to God, in the Eucharistic celebration and for all the missions of the world" (RM 81). He also said: "The offerings that are collected are destined for a common fund of solidarity distributed, in the Pope's name, by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, among the missions and missionaries of the entire world".
The practice
Effectively, Catholics, by their prayers and material offering through the Pontifical Mission Societies (PMS) of the Propagation of the Faith, support more than 1,120 dioceses all around the world, where the gospel and the love of Jesus is proclaimed to the poorest of our human family They thereby become missionaries and disciples of the good news of Christ even when they do not travel elsewhere. The collection for World Mission Sunday should really therefore be made, not only in Churches but also in all Catholic Institutions, e.g Schools, hospitals, Pastoral Centres etc. and given in its totality for the support of Churches in the developing world. Every year, the needs of the Missions grow as new dioceses are formed. More serious still is the growing number of people needing to hear the message of Christ in our progressively secularized and violent world. That is why greater involvement and commitment of all Catholics around the world is so critical. Pope John Paul II left us with those wonderful words: "No one is too poor that he cannot give and nobody is too rich that he cannot receive".
The Missionary Society of St. Paul
It is a very wise saying that the vitality of a Church can be judged by its interest in the evangelization of the world. Going by this truth, one can affirm that the Catholic Church in Nigeria has earned its respect. A number of years ago the Catholic Bishops Conference of Nigeria (CBCN) took an extraordinary missionary step. They established on 23 October 1977, the Missionary Society of Saint Paul, (MSP). It was the first indigenous Missionary Society in Africa. The Society was founded by Dominic Cardinal Ekandem and established by the CBCN with the main aim of providing priests for the mission of the Church in the needy diocese of the World. Members of the Missionary Society of Paul of Nigeria are currently working in Nigeria, Cameroun, Chad, The Gambia, South Africa, Malawi, Kenya, United Kingdom, The United States of America, Italy, Sweden, Ireland, Grenada, and the Bahamas. Happily, many African countries have taken interest in following the footsteps of Nigeria to establish similar African Missionary bodies.

The Job left to all
Looking around our country today one might get the impression that there is little or nothing left to do as regards evangelizing around us. With the ever increasing number of Churches and ministries all around, the mission could seem accomplished. The contrary is really the case. We must never forget the declaration of Jesus Christ to the people of his time. He said, Not all those who call me Lord, Lord will enter the kingdom of heaven” There are indeed many around today who seem Christian but yet need to be evangelized in the truth, the love and true life of Christ So, the job is nothing near done and there is a need to roll up our sleeves and get truly mission compliant, even right there where we stand.