Three events will mark the days of the Extraordinary Missionary Month October 2019. On Tuesday, October 1st at 6:00 p.m. in St. Peter’s Papal Basilica in the Vatican, the Holy Father Francis will preside the celebration of Vespers which will be introduced by the Missionary Vigil and witnesses’ testimonies beginning at 5:15 p.m. The following on October 7th at 3:00 p.m., an international rosary will be held at the Basilica of Saint Mary Major led by H.E. Card. Fernando Filoni. The Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples and the Pontifical Mission Societies have invited Radio Maria to organize this event, which will have worldwide coverage, since it will be broadcast live on radio and video by almost 80 Radio Maria stations scattered throughout five continents. Volunteers and Radio Maria staff have been working for months to ensure the success of the event, which will be a source of many graces for each of us, for our families and for the whole world. On Sunday, October 20th on World Mission Day at 10:30 a.m., Pope Francis will preside over the Eucharistic celebration in St. Peter’s Square.
Children also become protagonists of the Extraordinary Missionary Month.
With BUILD A WORLDWIDE BRIDGE (COSTRUISCI UN PONTE MONDIALE) initiative, a formation program that helps little ones to discover the meaning of their own Baptism and to commit themselves to the mission that results from it.
For the Extraordinary Missionary Month, the Italian secretariat of the Pontifical Missionary Society of Childhood (Missio Ragazzi) has created an ad hoc section on the website www.pontemondiale.missioitalia.it.
From this page, after registering for free and clicking on “October – Extraordinary Missionary Month” you can access the recommendations for activities, dynamics, games, designed both for individual children (with the online registration of a parent), and for an entire group (catechism, school, scouts, etc.).
The formation program that is designed for children, and supported by the presence of an educator, is developed for the month of October, ideally divided into four weeks. For each week, an aspect of Baptism to be rediscovered is presented and a commitment that characterizes being a missionary is suggested, that is, prayer, sharing, proclamation, and fellowship. Each proposal is presented in the form of a game, which educators can offer to the children (parents to their children) or adapt according to the context in which they work.
At the end of the Extraordinary Missionary Month, each child will receive a certificate inviting them to continue their commitment to the mission in their daily lives.
The formation program BUILDING A WORLDWIDE BRIDGE (COSTRUISCI UN PONTE MONDIALE) continues even after the extraordinary October. In fact, those who wish can continue the journey for the rest of the year (November – June) by clicking on the four sections (prayer, proclamation, sharing, fellowship) and carrying out the suggested activities with the children, so that they themselves can be helped to live the four indispensable commitments of being a missionary in their day-to-day life by having fun.
As all this becomes concrete, it will be possible to build a bridge with four steps, each one corresponding to a commitment – a way to make the path visible to children’s eyes as they walk through the pastoral year.
Tuesday, October 1st marks the liturgical memory of St. Therese of the Child Jesus, universal patroness of missions along with St. Francis Xavier. Pope Francis will preside over the celebration of Vespers in St. Peter’s Basilica, introduced by the Missionary Vigil with missionary testimonies from around the world. This opens the Extraordinary Missionary Month October 2019, desired by the Pope “in order to awaken more awareness of the missio ad gentes” (Angelus, October 22, 2017).
Live streaming will be on the Vatican News YouTube channel
VATICAN— In the October calendar of Vatican events, Pope Francis’ “Extraordinary Missionary Month” may be overshadowed by the Synod of Bishops for the Amazon and its related events.
But in the lead up to the monthlong focus on missionary outreach, Pope Francis spoke frequently and in detail about the Christian obligation to share the Gospel through personal witness and welcome.
And while the synod preparations led to news headlines about climate change and a possible debate about ordaining some married men for ministry in their indigenous communities, the working document that will guide the assembly frames the whole discussion as a discernment of “the new paths whereby the church in the Amazon will announce the Gospel of Jesus Christ in the coming years.”
On World Mission Sunday 2017, Pope Francis announced his intention to dedicate the entire month of October 2019 — not just World Mission Sunday — to “the church’s evangelizing activity ‘ad gentes,’” a phrase meaning “to the nations” and used to describe missionary activity focused on people who still have not heard the Gospel.
The pope is scheduled to launch the month with a prayer vigil in St. Peter’s Basilica the evening of Oct. 1, the feast of St. Therese of Lisieux, co-patron of the missions and one of Pope Francis’ personal favorites.
Although St. Therese had dreamed of being a missionary, she never left the convent. Still, marking her feast day in 2013, Pope Francis said, “The church was wise to make this saint — humble, small, trusting in God, meek — patron of the missions” because “the strength of the Gospel is precisely there” in the humility that “allows itself to be guided by the love and tenderness of the Father.”
The pope’s talk of humility, respect for others and sharing the love and mercy of God does not mean he thinks the church should be passive.
Pope Francis wanted the monthlong focus on mission because he saw a need to give “fresh evangelical impulse to her work of preaching and bringing to the world the salvation of Jesus Christ.”
The central focus of mission is that “God wills that all people be saved by coming to know the truth and experiencing his mercy through the ministry of the church, the universal sacrament of salvation,” Pope Francis wrote in his message for the month.
Catholics must not think that missionary outreach belongs to the church’s past. Today, as in Jesus’ age, it means hitting the road or, at least, supporting those who do.
“The church,” the pope wrote, “needs men and women who, by virtue of their baptism, respond generously to the call to leave behind home, family, country, language and local church, and to be sent forth to the nations, to a world not yet transformed by the sacraments of Jesus Christ and his holy church.”
Of course, there are people in every neighborhood in every nation who need to hear of God’s love and mercy and be helped to follow Jesus. But the church distinguishes between “new evangelization” — basically, a new effort to reach out to people who already have heard the Christian message — and the initial proclamation involved in going out “ad gentes.”
Oblate Father Andrew Small, national director of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, said there is a “huge difference” between introducing people to Jesus for the first time and trying to reach out to those who would say, “Been there, done that, didn’t buy the T-shirt.”
But the church “is not selling T-shirts,” he said. “It’s offering a lifelong relationship with a man called Jesus to people who are experienced collectors,” and that is a challenge to which all Christians must respond.
As part of its celebration of the Extraordinary Missionary Month, Father Small’s office is launching missio.org/course, which is a free, online introduction to mission theology. The course, he said, “takes learners through the history, theology and spirited relationships that make us who and what we are as a church — missionary by nature.”
Father Small also noted that in a June 2018 meeting with the Pontifical Mission Societies, which raise awareness about the missions and raise funds to support them, Pope Francis spoke of the ties between the Amazon synod and the Extraordinary Missionary Month.
“We pray,” the pope had said, “that the Synod for the Amazon can help provide a more evangelical approach to missionary work in this area of the world that is so troubled, so unjustly exploited and so much in need of the salvation of Jesus Christ.”
VATICAN— Being a priest is not a job or fulfilling an employment contract but is a gift from God that should be contemplated and treasured as such, Pope Francis said.
Those who turn ordained ministry into an occupation “lose the heart of the ministry, lose the gaze of Jesus who looked upon all of us and told us, ‘Follow me,’” he said Sept. 19 during morning Mass at the Domus Sanctae Marthae.
The pope focused his homily on the day’s first reading in which St. Paul writes to Timothy (1 Tim 4:12-16), “Do not neglect the gift you have.”
Ordination is a freely given gift from the Lord, the pope said; it is not “a job” or “an employment contract” in which one “must do” something.
“Doing is secondary,” he said. First and foremost, “I must receive this gift and safeguard it as a gift and from that — in the contemplation of the gift — everything else springs.”
When ordained ministry is not seen and treasured as a gift, he said, “deviations” emerge, starting with “the worst ones, which are terrible, to the more everyday ones that makes us base our ministry on ourselves and not on the gratitude of gift and love for he who gave us this gift, the gift of ministry.”
Effort, intelligence and “also a bit of shrewdness” are needed to safeguard this gift properly, he added.
The pope also briefly commented on the day’s Gospel reading, Luke 7:36-50, in which Jesus corrects his host who has forgotten to perform the customary rituals associated with welcoming a guest. Jesus instead praises the “sinful woman” who showed Jesus “great love,” including by using her tears and hair to bathe and dry Jesus’ feet.
The pope said the Pharisee hosting Jesus was a good man, “but he had forgotten the gift of kindness, the gift of coexistence, which is also a gift. These gifts are always forgotten when there are some underlying motives, when I want to do” or achieve something.
It is true that priests have things they must do, “and the first task is proclaiming the Gospel,” Pope Francis said, “but it is necessary to take care of the core, the source from which this mission springs, the gift we have freely received from the Lord.”
The pope concluded by praying priests see their ministry first as a gift then as a service and that they not become “businessmen ministers, fixers” or adopt other attitudes that make them stray from the Lord.
Blasphemous attacks against the Church and the resulting support and even indifference of some Catholics can be blamed to the collapse or abandonment of catechetical instruction and the failure of Catholic education in the past decades.
“Clearly,” said Dr. Raul Nidoy, a Catholic theologian. “The post-Vatican crisis of the 60s and 70s with its doctrinal confusion and moral permissivism led to poorly catechized and poorly evangelized Catholics.”
Diocese of Cubao Catechetical Minister Fr. Michell Joe Zerrudo pointed to Modernism as “responsible for all the watering down of the teaching of the Christian doctrine.”
Condemned by Pope St. Pius X in his 1908 encyclical “Pascendi Dominici Gregis” (Of feeding the Lord’s flock), he called Modernism as the “synthesis of all errors”.
“I think the reason why many are indifferent to the “stupid” God comment [of Pres. Duterte] is that they no longer see the difference of the Catholic faith and the other faiths. To them, these are all the same,” Zerrudo said.
The priest underscored how Modernism teaches that all religions are equal thus “it does not matter what name your god has so long as you have a god.”
“It is sad because in courts of law, the truth cannot be equal to false statements. But with regards to modernism, all religions are equal…regardless of what is true and who are false,” he said.
Nidoy noted that the Second Plenary Council of the Philippines (PCP II) gave “the highest priority to catechesis” but this “seems not to have been much felt.”
Renewed interest in Catechism
However, there are parish priests who see the need to revive catechetical instructions. One of them is Fr. Mark Sese of the Diocese of Pasig.
“Ignorance of our brothers and sisters in faith on the authentic Catholic doctrine,” was the reason readily given by Sese when asked why he started the catechetical program in Our Lady of the Poor Parish, Western Bicutan, Taguig City where he is the parish priest.
He admitted that “an empirical study to survey the need of the faithful most especially the lay church servers/ministers” also formed the basis for the renewal of the program.
“On a personal level it is my sacerdotal motto: Seminatur Doctrinae Et Pietatis (Sower of Doctrine and Piety),” he said.
The survey had more than 500 respondents composed mainly of parish servers and member of different ministries, mandated organizations and associations. One of the pressing needs of parishioners that the survey discovered was the need for formation in the faith.
Started in 2015, the catechetical program is offered every first and third Saturday of the month at 7pm.
“I started with the Creed, then the Sacraments, the 10 Commandments,” he said. All in all, Sese has prepared 60 topics regarding the basic catechism in his parish.
Zerrudo, on the other hand, as Catechetical Minister for Cubao, sees the importance of sending more properly trained catechists to the public schools owing to the fact that they have more students than Catholic schools.
He sees the role of catechists as very crucial in the formation of young Catholics so catechists under his care are engaged in basic faith formation and catechetical formation for new catechists.
Cubao diocesan catechists are also subjected to monthly on-going formation programs.
“We make sure that our catechists are well founded in doctrine, moral and liturgical formation modules for teaching are created and constantly updated by the ministry. The content of these formations are highly doctrinal because they are based on the catechism of the Catholic Church,” he said.
Nidoy, in his personal capacity, designed a one-pager catechism covering various topics. Started when the controversial Reproductive Health Law was still being deliberated in Congress, the one-pager catechism about contraception became an instant viral success as it discusses science facts on the RH.
He said that the catechetical flyer was so successful that it was translated into several languages.
“They found it as a good summary of solid non-religious arguments especially since the media and the other side were reducing our side to merely religious zealots who were imposing their beliefs to a secular society,” said Nidoy.
He retitled the flyer to science facts on contraceptives and distributed it once in a diocese. “They loved it! They said they needed that info,” he said.
Every Catholics’ business: clergy and lay alike
Is the duty of informing the flock on the basics of the Catholic Faith all on the shoulders of its priests and bishops?
Nidoy understands that a parish priest can be overloaded with too many administrative and sacramental duties in his parish but he nevertheless encourages parents and adult Catholics their role of being well-formed in the Faith.
“I think that we have to keep on reminding all, including families where catechesis should start, that the spiritual matters such as Catholic education in faith and morals, are more important than material support, as the Catechism itself says,” he stressed.
Nidoy sees the need for more well-formed Catholics to fight the indifference towards the blasphemous statements and attacks against the Church. He noted how catechized Catholics went to the Church’s defense when the President went on his verbal tirade against God and the Church.
“It should be noted that a good number of Catholics also opposed him [Pres. Duterte], which shows that despite problems in this area, our pastors have succeeded in forming us to see blasphemy as bad,” according to him.
Admitting that as a layman, he is “not an expert in parishes”, but he, nevertheless, suggests that parishes may have “to be more creative and persevering in this work” like how his one-pager catechism was well-received by both the laity and clergy.
He called on parish priests to keep on announcing the “need for catechists, training programs for catechists, the benefits of catechesis in the family and parish catechesis.”
Sese agrees that we need to “encourage parishes and parish priests to offer doctrinal classes.” He hopes that the catechism classes will trickle and reflect in the lives of the laity.
“I believe that through it they may live as authentic Christian Catholic who are Christ-centered and values His teaching through the Magisterium,” he said.
On 30 June 2019 we will celebrate St. Peter the Apostle Sunday. Once again, we will join the Holy Father Pope Francis in praying, offering sacrifices and collecting financial assistance to support the formation of seminarians, priests and religious in mission territories.