​Each year, the month of October is known as World Mission Month and Sunday 23 October, is World Mission Day.

For most readers of this message, I am sure you recall being aware of Catholic Missions while you were attending school. I recall being told stories of missionaries who went overseas to spread the Good News of Jesus, while assisting them at the local level. I also recall our being asked to consider becoming a missionary when we left school. Praying and raising money was also encouraged as a way of supporting the missionaries who gave generously of their lives, their time and their talents.

Now, each year, the month of October is known as World Mission Month and Sunday 23 October, is World Mission Day. Over time, we have become more attuned to all being called to be missionary disciples, by nature of our baptism. Some of us are called to be missionary disciples locally, while others are still called to mission in more distant places.

This year we are reminded by Pope Francis of the missionary nature of the Church and the importance of mission being “carried out together, not individually”. On this day, let us honour and reflect on the work of missionaries and support the life-giving work they do in service of children and communities around the world.

In his World Mission Day message, Pope Francis shares the words of Jesus before his ascension into heaven:

You shall receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you shall be my witnesses in Jerusalem and in all Judea and Samaria and to the ends of the Earth.

Maybe, while at Mass, some of you watched the video of the mission work being carried out in Meki, Ethiopia by lay missionary Maria Jose Morales. At the beginning of the video an African proverb is quoted:

If you want to go fast, go alone; if you want to go far, go together.

Education and training for women is essential in breaking the cycle of poverty, and through the Kidist Mariam Centre, many women like Saba (name altered to protect her identity) are given the opportunity to be educated, and to sustain an income through their skill. You can click here to learn more about the project.

Should you wish to give a faith-filled gift to support Church-run mission programs like the Kidist Mariam Centre please go to catholicmission.org.au/maria.

As I watched this video, it reminded me of the program that is presently being screened on SBS called “Lost for Words”. In this program, a diverse group of eight adults are learning to read, write and use numbers. Basically, they are illiterate, and this has left them feeling inadequate and unable to reach their full potential. Like the education and training provided by the Kidist Mariam Centre, the joy and satisfaction, of those involved in learning how to navigate the world through words and numbers is palpable.

Having been a teacher, I know that education and training is the way out of poverty and towards independence. I was surprised to hear, at the beginning of the Lost for Words program, that 7 million Australians struggle to read and write. I am grateful that my parents valued education, and ensured that each of their children had good primary, secondary and tertiary education. My life could have been so much more challenging without the gift of education and the desire to achieve.

This past week (October 16-22) has also been Anti-Poverty Week – 20 years acting on poverty. During this week we were being called to raise awareness and take action against poverty. This week corresponds to the United Nations Day for the Eradication of Poverty (17 October). Recent reports show that more than 3.24 million people, including, 761,000 children live below the poverty line and 500,000 households struggle to eat. This is everyone’s business.

Pope Francis’ message for the sixth World Day of the Poor (13 November) has been released. (Pope Francis message)

As members of civil society, let us continue to uphold the values of freedom, responsibility, fraternity and solidarity. And as Christians, let us always make charity, faith and hope the basis of our lives and our actions. (n. 5)

He finishes this message by saying:

May this 2022 World Day of the Poor be for us a moment of grace. May it enable us to make a personal and communal examination of conscience and to ask ourselves whether the poverty of Jesus Christ is our faithful companion in life.

Students in our Catholic schools are made aware of local, national, and global social issues and their need to act while giving generously. This awareness-raising occurs across a number of curriculum areas. Last week, while at church on the Gold Coast, one of our teenage grandsons listened attentively to the homily on Ethiopia and Catholic Missions, and when we were driving home, spoke of the homily and his thinking about working in foreign aid and development.

I finish this week’s message with the Prayer of St Ignatius which I learnt while at school as a member of the YCS (Young Christian Students) movement:

Lord, teach me to be generous, to serve you as you deserve to be served, to give without counting the cost, to fight without counting the wounds, to work without seeking rest, to spend my life without expecting any other in return than the knowledge that I do your holy will. Amen.

Image: Catholic Mission

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Teresa Brierley

Teresa Brierley is Director Pastoral Ministries of the Catholic Diocese of Maitland-Newcastle.