As I was growing up I had the understanding that mission and being a missionary was something that people did in faraway countries. At school the Presentation Sisters would often talk to us about the missions, and their work in Papua New Guinea. I remember taking empty egg cartons to Sr Scholastica who gleefully received them and thanked me for helping with the missions. I never really knew how those empty egg cartons translated into aid for the missions, but we often dropped them off at the convent. I guess Sr Scholastic found a way of turning them into some small fundraising activity for the missions.
Religious sisters and brothers have made an incredible contribution to the support and development of hundreds of communities across the globe by their assistance with teaching, health promotion and community development over many years. In this week’s newsletter Sr Mary McInerney RNDM (Sisters of Our Lady of the Missions) shares some of her story, reflecting on thirty-five years in Kenya. Sr Mary, who now lives in Surrey Hills, is one of so many religious living in our parish who have spent decades of their lives living with and working among communities across the globe who struggle to ensure that basic needs such as food, health and education are accessible to all.
Many of our parishioners assist the works of the various mission agencies of the Church and religious orders through volunteering their time or donating to their causes. In that sense many more can join in the mission.
On World Mission Day Pope Francis has also sent a message to all the faithful. Pope Francis reminds us that this year in particular, with the global pandemic continuing to spread across the globe, we can be tempted to introversion and close ourselves away from the world. However, it is at this very time that the missionary nature of our Christian faith appeals to us. Mission is built on our relationship to Christ. It is built on our fundamental trust and belief that we are not abandoned by or unimportant in the eyes of the God of love who created us and breathed life into the world. This basic experience of trust and faith in God can help us to lift our eyes beyond our own backyards and take us onto the streets in our own neighbourhoods, with a missionary heart. A missionary heart carries hope, sees goodness, believes in the possibility of a second chance, of a new beginning. A missionary heart believes that things don’t have to be the same as they have always been. A missionary heart believes that love can conquer hatred, that division can give way to harmony and that poverty can be transformed by justice and mercy. And a missionary heart does not have to take us to the ends of the earth. It can lead us the person next door or the neighbour across the road, or to the family member in need right now.
So today I invite you to listen and read about the great stories of mission and missionaries. But I also invite you to consider how a missionary heart might be forming in you and how you might be able to live it out in your own way. It may be as simple as collecting egg cartons.