"Much more needs to be done."
That's how Matthew Thekkedathu sees the work of making Jesus known in his native India. And he and his fellow seminarians are prepared to do the job.
Every baptized Catholic is called to follow Jesus -- and to bring the "good news" of his love and peace to others. Since he was a boy, Matthew has known that his calling was to follow Jesus as a priest.
Finishing up his seminary studies this year, Matthew and his fellow seminarians visit villages where the people are mainly Hindu. There they offer children a basic education and teach them job skills.
The seminarians also invite adults in the village to visit the seminary for educational seminars and recreational activities.
Apostles of Good News
On another continent, there are others who are also recalling the love of Jesus to the poor -- serving our Lord as Sisters. "We are known among the people here in Tanzania as 'the Apostles of the Good News,'" says Sister Pulcherina, superior general of the Franciscan Sisters of St. Bernadette, a local religious community.
These Sisters live among the people they serve, enduring the same hardships and poverty. They are teachers, nurses in hospitals and clinics, and caregivers for orphan children.
The Franciscan Sisters also bring the love of Jesus -- and a message of hope -- to the thousands of refugees from neighboring Burundi. "It is so sad to see the refugees living in the camps without any expectations for the future," says Sister Pulcherina.
"We share with them the words and love of Jesus Christ. Our message fills their hearts with hope and enables them to live each day with the belief that they are worthwhile in the eyes of God. They may have nothing else, but knowing Jesus is a treasure that is without price and one that can never be taken away from them."
Serving God as priests
Today, throughout the missions, increasing numbers of young men are hearing the Lord call them to serve him as priests. Right now in mission seminaries, more than 30,000 young men are preparing for a lifetime of service as priests.
There are the also 10,000 religious novices, young men and women answering the call to serve the poor as religious brothers and sisters. Coming in the name of Christ, these priests and religious over a lifetime will invite countless people to Jesus and the church.
Matthew and his classmates and the Franciscan Sisters of St. Bernadette offer just two examples of the life-giving, hope-filled difference that mission priests and religious are making for the poorest in our human family.
Missionaries need help
But these mission seminarians and religious novices cannot make that difference without your support -- without your prayers and without your financial help through the Propagation of the Faith/St. Peter Apostle.
Each mission seminarian receives typical annual help of $700; help for a sister or brother novice's education is $300 a year.
Whatever help you can offer would be a real blessing. While you would not know by name the young person whose vocation you help to support, you would be sure of many prayers offered for you, even as you pray for mission seminarians and novices.
Through your generosity you will make a world of difference to a future priest . . . to a future Sister or Brother . . . to the worldwide mission of Jesus.
Msgr. Delbert Schmelzer is director of the Propagation of the Faith for the Diocese of Madison. Contributions to the Propagation of the Faith may be sent to: P.O. Box 44983, Madison, WI 53744-4983.
Denver and Toronto:
Ten years ago, they said it couldn't be done: "they" being the U.S. Catholic establishment, "it" being the celebration of World Youth Day in Denver.
Pilgrimage just wasn't an American habit; World Youth Day (WYD) had never been held in a city that wasn't a traditional pilgrimage site; Denver, proud of its cutting-edge, high-tech secularity, wasn't a historically Catholic city like previous WYD venues (Buenos Aires, Santiago de Compostela, Czestochowa).
Bishops and Church bureaucrats had convinced themselves that North American kids just weren't interested in what Catholicism offered. "They" thought it was going to be a disaster.
"They" were spectacularly wrong. Skeptics predicted that 60,000 young people, at most, would show up. Ninety thousand shoe-horned themselves into Mile High Stadium for just one ceremony, welcoming John Paul on Aug. 12, 1993.
The helicopter pilot flying the Pope into the site said later the turbulence caused by chants of "John Paul II, we love you!" was greater than anything he'd experienced since being under fire in Vietnam. Before the Pope said a word, Denver had crossed the threshold of cynicism, ecclesiastical and secular, and was on the road to a remarkable transformation.
The Pope has frequently described WYD-1993 as one of the high points of his pontificate. It was John Paul who had insisted on holding such an event in North America and he chose Denver over more traditionally Catholic sites.
The Pope's confidence in the ability of the Holy Spirit and the word of truth to rally youthful enthusiasm was shared by Denver's archbishop, J. Francis Stafford (now a cardinal and president of the Pontifical Council for the Laity). Stafford courageously stuck to his conviction that World Youth Day could be a kairos, a moment of conversion, for his archdiocese and for the Church across America.
He was right. WYD-1993 was precisely that, and Denver is arguably the most vibrant local Church in the country today.
Something similar happened in Toronto last year. Toronto is another self-consciously secular city, priding itself on a "tolerance" and "diversity" that often seem to have room for everything except culturally assertive Christian conviction.
Yet on the night of July 26, 2002, Toronto saw something its secularist establishment hadn't imagined possible: half a million young people making their way up University Ave. from the business district to the provincial parliament building, devoutly praying the Way of the Cross.
The Canadian Broadcasting Corporation estimated that as many as one billion people around the world shared that extraordinary moment, thanks to real-time television hook-ups to 160 countries.
As had been the case with the U.S. Church bureaucracy and the Denver event, the Canadian Catholic establishment was never enthusiastic about hosting WYD in Toronto; much of its energy since the triumph of last July has been expended in complaining about a financial deficit.
There has been no systematic national pastoral planning to capitalize on the momentum created during that exceptional week last summer. Some Canadian bishops have made their diocesan World Youth Day pilgrims the core of a revitalized local youth ministry. But they seem to be the exception.
Canada's Catholic leadership is on the verge of losing a magnificent opportunity. But there is still time enough -- and enthusiasm and faith enough -- to seize the moment, the kairos, that was WYD-2002.
Bishops and pastors who make the effort to work with young men and women who lived the Toronto experience all testify to its enduring impact. That stunning procession up University Ave. should have challenged the Canadian Catholic establishment to stop following the secularists' script.
The challenge remains. It can still be accepted -- as it was accepted by the young Catholics who organized WYD-2002 and showed exhausted Catholics, cynical Catholics, and skeptical Catholics the excitement of authentic Catholic renewal.
George Weigel is a senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C.
|Jump to: Top of page
This morning I drove over to visit my friend, Mary, who is sick. Of course, I brought her a casserole, as any friend would do, but I had an ulterior motive for my visit as well.
I wanted to hear her dramatic story about her sickness overseas that had the entire parish praying for her these past two weeks.
I knew it would be an appropriate topic for my column, since senior citizens need to be concerned about traveling in foreign countries where they may need health care, but also because she was Mary Sykes, the reigning president of the Diocesan Council of Catholic Women.
Did I say material for a column? The story she poured out would fill a book.
Now, please understand that Mary is a modest woman, who would rather have talked about the exciting pilgrimage to Rome in the company of Archbishop Timothy Dolan.
She was there in the Vatican to see Pope John Paul II presenting him with the pallium, a stole that signifies his rank as Archbishop of the Milwaukee Archdiocese. More than 600 of the faithful from Milwaukee and St. Louis made up the tour, and enjoyed daily Mass celebrated by Archbishop Dolan as well as dinners and lunches. Mary was there as a companion to her brother, Nick, who lives in a nursing home in the archdiocese.
On the final lap of their 14-day visit, they took a side trip to Naples and Capri. There Mary began to feel sick and alarmed by rectal bleeding. The tour director was called and made arrangements for Mary to go to the local emergency room.
There she was treated with a shot of "something" which seemed to subdue the raging turmoil in her abdomen . . . temporarily. By the time they returned to Naples, it was apparent that Mary must be admitted to a hospital.
One can scarcely imagine how frightening it is to find oneself in a foreign country where communicating is next to impossible, and the culture is as foreign as the language.
I had a taste of it when my daughter, Kris, was in excruciating pain and required gall bladder surgery while we were on vacation in Puerto Rico. Everything from driving with a drunken cabbie who spoke no English to begging for a blanket and pillow as she lay on a gurney, was a nightmare.
Too late did we come to realize that patients there are expected to supply their own bedding, food, and drink. The families must care for them, not the nurses.
Mary said that she remembered my stories about Puerto Rico as she experienced the same thing in Italy. She lay on a gurney in the hallway for three days before they found a room for her.
She was denied food and drink because they were planning a colonoscopy. And she watched in dismay as families congregated and stayed with their loved ones. When she finally communicated with a nurse's aid that she wanted to wash and drink, someone brought her a plastic bag with bottled water, a cup, and toothbrush.
Meanwhile, Mary's 12 children back in the states were frantically trying to call her. The two phones on her floor were at the nurse's station clear down at the end of the long hall.
A nurse would yell at the top of her voice, "Mary, telephone!" until Mary was able to hobble down to the phone. When Archbishop Dolan called her, he asked what all the racket was about, and she tried to explain that this was how everyone communicated in that hospital. They yelled.
Mary's kids did not sit idly by. They contacted the American Embassy through their congressman, who sent a consulate to visit her. She brought Mary a couple of nightgowns and some underwear, because Mary had packed her suitcase for the return trip home and left it at the hotel in Rome before taking the side trip. She had nothing but the clothes on her back. They also put their heads together and selected a family member to fly to Italy and bring Mary home because the tour had left without her.
The idea was that son-in-law Steve, an R.N., would be there long enough to check her out of the hospital, arrange to have her bags brought by courier from Rome, change her airline tickets, and get her home . . . all in two days. It took a week.
On the day Mary was to leave, she had another episode worse than the first. Once again she fainted from the loss of blood.
The airlines would not accept her until her blood count was restored to normal, so she would need five units of blood. Steve, however, managed to have her transferred from this public hospital (for the indigent and uninsured) to a private hospital.
Despite the $5,000 up-front required, both Mary and Steve were thrilled to have her in a real room with towels, bedding, and the works.
We here in America take so much for granted, including our excellent health care system. With a diagnosis of diverticulitis, Mary will surely require more attention, but as she herself put it, "Now I know why people kiss the ground when they get back to America."
"Grandmom" likes hearing from other senior citizens who enjoy aging at P.O. Box 216, Fort Atkinson, WI 53538.
|Jump to: Top of page
|Front page Most recent issue Past issues|