|Sister leads her young missionaries into their mission territory: their neighborhood.|
The Missionary Servants of the Word Sisters burst into my life like a hurricane. Sister Maria Elena, Sister Vianney, Sister Reyna and Sister Francisca arrived in Columbus with a burning passion for the Word of God and a desire to share that passion with our parish. Since I was the Music Director in the parish, I took an early opportunity to go and meet the sisters. They were all so young and lovely in their habits. They didn't speak much English, and I spoke virtually no Spanish at all at that time, but that didn't stop them.
Sister Francisca was the boldest of them and the one with the most English. She spotted my family and I and came right over to sit down next to us. She asked all of our names and ages and then immediately turned to my daughter and said, "Celia! You! Are a miss-ee-on-ary!" Celia was taken aback and began to laugh nervously.
|L to R: Celia, Sr. Francisca and Faye|
From that moment on Sr. Francisca would grab Celia at every opportunity and get her involved in her newest plan. She would catch Celia after Mass and exclaim with her face aglow, "Celia! I have idea!" And Celia couldn't say no. None of us could.
The sisters instituted the rosary before every mass, but because their English wasn't very good, they enlisted some of the Anglo parishioners to help them. My husband was recruited to lead the rosary before the 10 AM mass. This is how it happened:
Sr. Francisca: Michael! You know how to say rosary?
Michael: Well, ummm... yes, Sister.
Sr. Francisca: Good! You will lead. (She knelt down, folded her hands and closed her eyes. Smiling.)
(Michael to me, later on: How could I say no?)
It's this firmness of purpose and this boldness that stays with me as the mission progresses. Their motto is "To evangelize the laity to evangelize the laity," meaning that they teach the laity about their faith and then commission the laity to go out and make disciples of all the nations. And it works. Now in its fifth year, the sisters have evangelized enough people to begin two more weekend masses (and pack them with people.) There are bible classes every night of the week (and many days of the week, too.) Since they arrived, we have had five vocations to the priesthood and religious life from our parish.
Celia joined the youth group (dragging her friend, Faye, with her) and worked with Sr. Francisca until Sister went to Kenya. They visited the sick and worked to build their own knowledge of the Faith. Now, while other girls her age are drifting away from the faith, Celia is actively evangelizing her friends and neighbors. She speaks truth when she is asked and studies the truths of the Faith. She is a missionary, but it's nothing like what you would expect.
I tried to help them evangelize when they first arrived, but I was too timid. I felt awkward sharing the Word of God door to door. It's so very difficult to open yourself up to the slammed door and the sharp words of people who do not want to know the joy of being with the Lord. But not everyone has the same charism. I soon discovered that evangelization takes many different forms. My gift is music.
I always felt like I was letting the mission down by not going out to evangelize with the team. But that's not the case. I teach and evangelize through music. And that's all right. God calls each of us to use our gifts to evangelize, but the call is not always as specific as those that the classic missionaries follow to leave their homes and preach the Gospel. Like St. Therese, who wanted desperately to be a foreign missionary, but never could, some of us are simply called to pray for the missions with all our might.
Without prayer and financial support for the missions, they could not do what they do. So, yes, we are all missionaries, no matter where we find ourselves. So, even if you are not called to go out and knock on your neighbors' doors or fly to Kenya to care for the poorest of the poor, this World Mission Sunday be sure to pray for and support those who are called to that life.