By Father Bob Kantor – Special to the Florida Catholic
This World Mission Sunday comes amid a pandemic affecting the whole world and so much else happening in our nation. Each year, parishes take up a collection that provides for more than a thousand mission dioceses in territories that cover more than half of the globe. This year will be no different. The World Mission Sunday collection is the weekend of Oct. 17-18, 2020. Unfortunately, with fewer people in the pews it is likely to translate to lighter support of the priests, religious and lay pastoral leaders who proclaim the Gospel, build the Church and serve the poor and most vulnerable. Their work is both a witness to Christ and a practical help. If you are able, please be generous.
Some mission experiences for the people of our Diocese have been understandably curtailed during the pandemic. The Mission Impossible: Immokalee summer experience for teens was cancelled in June. Tentative plans for an international mission experience for young people in the Caribbean remain on the drawing board. Missionaries who were supposed to travel to half of the Parishes in the Diocese in November as part of the Diocese of Venice Mission Cooperative Plan were cancelled. Second collections will be taken up in those Parishes, who host a missionary every other year as part of the plan.
Despite all these challenges, we are still called to mission! Pope Francis has challenged each of us to live our lives of faith as missionary disciples, spreading the good news of Jesus Christ in creative ways, pushing ourselves beyond our comfort zones to share the Faith. In his message for World Mission Day 2020, the Holy Father notes that this year is marked by the suffering and challenge posed by Covid-19. “Like the disciples in the Gospel were caught off guard by an unexpected, turbulent storm. We have realized that we are on the same boat, all of us fragile and disoriented, but at the same time important and needed, all of us called to row together, each of us in need of comforting the other,” the Holy Father said.
Pope Francis calls us to an awareness of others, not thinking only of ourselves. Regarding our call to mission, he added “the invitation to step out of ourselves for love of God and neighbor presents itself as an opportunity for sharing, service and intercessory prayer. The mission that God entrusts to each one of us leads us from fear and introspection to a renewed realization that we find ourselves precisely when we give ourselves to others.”
How can we make a difference today and tend the oars of the boat we all feel being tossed about these days? Your generosity on World Mission Sunday is one concrete means of offering help that is greatly needed around the world. Christ also offers a very personal call to each of us. To the extent we can, in the ways we can in these times of less personal contact, bringing Jesus to the world is even more critical. Where there are suffering hearts and anxious spirits, we can be the ones to reflect the peace of Christ and the soothing of the Spirit to an ailing world.
A global pandemic, contentious elections and social unrest have many people seeking answers and trying to effect solutions that they hope will improve present conditions. Without God, is this possible? Without justice, peace and love undergirding any initiative, can it really work? Perhaps this year more than ever, our own nation can be thought of as mission territory, where you and I can bring Christ to bear where he has been ignored or forgotten. Perhaps these challenging times will lead to a more profound World Mission Sunday than ever, one where we not only make our greatly needed sacrificial offering, but also contribute something profound from our very lives for God and neighbor.
By Father Bob Kantor is the Diocesan of Venice Director for the Propagation of the Faith (Mission Office) and Pastor of St. Agnes Parish in Naples. To learn more about the Diocese Mission Office, please call 239-592-1949 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.