Fr. Carmelo Jimenez, pastor of St. Michael Parish in Sebree and who originally came to the Diocese of Owensboro as a missionary priest from Mexico, speaks to a woman during the Jan. 30, 2016 Encuentro Familiar event held at Sts. Peter and Paul Parish in Hopkinsville. FILE PHOTO
When you see one of our missionaries, say thanks!
BY DCN. CHRIS GUTIÉRREZ, SPECIAL TO THE WESTERN KENTUCKY CATHOLIC
Every year during the month of October, the universal Church calls for every Catholic to observe and to celebrate World Mission Sunday. In this special way, the Church tries to honor and remember men and women missionaries who have answered the call of bringing the Church, the love of Jesus Christ and the Gospel to every corner of the world. This year World Mission Sunday will be observed on Oct. 24, 2021.
After intensive years of training and formation, every year dozens, if not hundreds, of Catholic missionary priests, religious, lay men and women from different religious orders, dioceses and institutions around the world leave their families – leave their own cultures – their own language and homeland – to answer God’s call to foreign missions. These also include those sent every year to more hostile areas of the world that sadly never make it back; those given the grace of the crown of martyrdom, having paid the ultimate sacrifice of their own lives for the sake of the Gospel.
Our own Diocese of Owensboro is one of those lucky regions of the world that has been hugely blessed and cared for by God especially in the receiving end. It would do us all good especially during October to be reminded that there are so many parts of the world with isolated and impoverished Catholic communities starving for God in the Eucharist which do not have the luxury of seeing a priest come around but maybe only once or twice a year. In other places, families must walk for miles and miles to be able to get to a place where they can find a Mass. Yes! We have been blessed abundantly. In our diocese we have sisters serving from Mexico, Vietnam, priests from India, different African nations, Asia and Latin-America. Yes! We have been blessed abundantly.
These are the great men and women, God’s missionaries, (“Ad-Gentes”; Latin for those who go “to all peoples/nations”), those who through often great pains gave their “yes!” And remember, while many of their faces and presence might seem at this point commonplace and familiar to many of us in our parishes and diocese, let us not take them for granted but keep in mind the sacrifices they’ve made and appreciate the gift of their presence among us. These are the sisters and priests that do not get to go home on their day off. They also do not often get to hug their parents or siblings for birthdays. Often many of them not only have to worry about perfecting administration skills or their English by reducing their “foreign accent” for demanding audiences, but their hearts also ache and worry for love ones struggling in war zones or poverty back home.
Pope Francis in this year’s letter for World Mission Sunday says: “Today too Jesus needs hearts capable of experiencing vocation as a true love story that urges them to go forth to the peripheries of our world as messengers and agents of compassion. He addresses this call to everyone, and in different ways. We can think of the peripheries all around us, in the heart of our cities or our own families.”
May God call more missionaries from amongst our families and also bless, protect all those giving their lives in our midst.
Dcn. Chris Gutiérrez is the Director of Hispanic/Latino Ministry for the Diocese of Owensboro. For more information visit owensborodiocese.org/ministerio-hispano, email firstname.lastname@example.org or call (270) 880-8018.
Originally printed in the October 2021 issue of The Western Kentucky Catholic.