USCMA’s July Mission Monthly

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Dear friends,
 
We hope that you have had a chance to enjoy the last few weeks, whether they have provided you with an opportunity to take a vacation or spend time with family and friends. As summer begins each year, Fr. Jack initially takes time for an annual retreat, followed by weekends “on the road” preaching mission appeals. At the time of his priestly ordination 50 years ago, Fr. Jack took as his motto, “Christ sent me to preach the Gospel”. Preaching mission appeals is an enriching way of fulfilling that dream and bringing Christians to a greater awareness of what it means to be “missionary disciples”. Participating in various conferences, such as that of the American Society of Missiology, he was able to nourish that challenging dream. Meanwhile Stephen completed facilitating a seven-week faith sharing group at the Cathedral of St. Matthew the Apostle in Washington, DC on Pope Francis’ Apostolic Exhortation Evangelii Gaudium and shared with the participants some of his personal experiences while on mission, as well as some experiences from USCMA’s members. Click here to read this month’s edition of USCMA’s Mission Monthly!
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USCMA’s Mission Monthly for June 2014

monthly header - june 2014

Check out the June edition of the Mission Monthly!

The June of the Mission Monthly is now online. To read this month’s edition, just click here. If you would like to receive your copy of the Mission Monthly by email, just let us know. All of here in the USCMA office would like to wish you a happy and peace filled Summer!

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Video Faces of Mission: Seeing with the Eyes of Your Heart

Faces of Mission is a bi-weekly blog series produced by the United States Catholic Mission Association highlighting our membership and all their work in and for mission. This week we delve into the archives to bring you a video from USCMA’s initial Faces of Mission series in 2011 with Rev. Arturo Aguilar, SSC. A Columban Father, Rev. Aguilar tells us: “Mission work has a lot to do with relationship. When you have a relationship, you have to listen to others. And the call of God is to listen with an open heart — in other words, to see with the eyes of your heart.”

Together with Ms. Amy Woolam-Echeverria (Columban International JPIC Coordinator), Rev. Aguilar will present a workshop/dialogue session at the 2014 USCMA Mission Conference called Imagining Jesus’ Justice: Exploring Mission as a Prophetic Response. The Gospel reminds us that we continue Jesus’ mission. This session will look at how we understand justice and respond as Catholic in today’s world.

The 2014 USCMA Conference, Gospel Justice: A Living Challenge for the Church in Mission, will focus on how, as Pope Francis describes it, mission and justice are mutually constitutive. It will be held in Alexandria, Virginia on October 24 – 26, 2014. For more information and to register, please visit the Conference website at Gospel Justice: A Living Challenge for the Church in Mission. We hope you will all be able to join us in October.

 

USCMA smallThe United States Catholic Mission Association (USCMA) is the only association of US Catholic mission-sending and mission-minded organizations and individuals. Dedicated to supporting and promoting the domestic and international mission efforts of the Church in the US, USCMA provides a forum in which people with a variety of experiences in mission can find a welcome, celebrate their faith, reflect on the signs of the times, foster leadership within mission organizations, explore emerging trends in mission, stimulate creative mission practices, and challenge one another to live lives more deeply rooted in mission spirituality.
USCMA is a membership-based organization. Our members are involved in establishing the direction of the association and supporting its life. To learn more about the United States Catholic Mission Association and to become a member, please visit us at our website www.uscatholicmission.org. Follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/uscatholicmission) and Twitter (@USCMA_DC).
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Mission as a Way of Life

“Faces of Mission” is a bi-weekly blog series produced by the United States Catholic Mission Association highlighting our membership and all their work in and for mission. This week we feature Luisa Ortega, SFO. A laywoman and member of the Secular Franciscan Order, Luisa works with the missionary group Misión Manos Hermanas to help the people of Villa El Salvador in Peru.

 

Mission as a Way of Life

Luisa with one of the children Misión Manos Hermanas helps in Peru. Photo courtesy of Luisa Ortega, SFO.

Luisa with one of the children Misión Manos Hermanas helps in Peru.
Photo courtesy of Luisa Ortega, SFO.

Awakened to the Need for Mission
In 1989, Luisa Ortega, SFO was awakened to the need for mission. She was 26 at the time and on a trip to Guatemala. The trip had nothing to do with mission, Luisa says, but rather it was just a vacation. It was also her first time experiencing the world outside of the United States and she remembers it was “totally different from the world that I knew.” What Luisa encountered in Guatemala would have an impact on the rest of her life.

One day during her trip when Luisa was stopping to buy bread and cheese, she saw a little boy sitting on a corner covered in flies. It reminded her of images she had seen World Vision use of poor children, but she says “I never thought in my life that I would see it with my own eyes”. On her way back in her car after her shopping trip, Luisa saw many other poor children along the road and she was moved to stop and try to give them some of the bread and cheese she had just bought. It was encountering those children on that vacation in Guatemala, Luisa says, that “awoke in me the need to do mission; that opened my eyes to the reality of other people.”

Misión Manos Hermanas
Now, years after her initial awakening to mission, Luisa Ortega is a Secular Franciscan and works with the missionary group Misión Manos Hermanas to help the people of Villa El Salvador, Peru. The group was formed several years ago by Fr. Pedro Corces, a diocesan priest. One day, Fr. Pedro had received a phone call from an old teacher of his from seminary who was on mission in Peru. The missionary had not had any time off in several years and asked Fr. Pedro to come to Peru and take over for him for a couple weeks to which Fr. Pedro enthusiastically agreed.

Those two weeks in Peru profoundly affected Fr. Pedro and left a question in his heart: What am I going to do in response to what I have seen? Fr. Pedro, Luisa explains, believes that “God doesn’t bring you to a place or to someone to be there and then walk away. He brings you into people’s lives for a purpose.” And out of that initial visit, Misión Manos Hermanas was born.

Villa El Salvador, Peru. Photo courtesy of Luisa Ortega, SFO.

Villa El Salvador, Peru.
Photo courtesy of Luisa Ortega, SFO.

The group works with three parishes in Villa El Salvador, a poor community on the outskirts of Lima, promoting different environmental and medical campaigns to help educate the people “how to take care of themselves and actually to be owners of their own destiny.” Misión Manos Hermanas sends a short-term mission trip to the community for two weeks every year and spends its time in the United States fundraising and working to help the people of Villa El Salvador.

Through fundraising in the United States, Misión Manos Hermanas sponsors a clinic for the community, which previously did not have a place to get needed medical services. “There are so many people without medical service,” Luisa says, “that you see people die because they don’t have medical attention, because they can’t afford it, because there is no place to go.” Within a year, they built up and expanded the small, insufficient clinic that the area did have into a place “where it would dignify the people that would go.”

Journeying Together
Luisa believes that “mission is a response to the gift that God has given me, to be born in the Catholic faith and to be baptized”. Mission is still so important in today’s world, she says, “because I think there are so many people that long to have someone journey with them,” adding “I feel the most rewarding thing for me in mission has been journeying with the people.”

Spending time with the community in Villa El Salvador, Peru. Photo courtesy of Luisa Ortega, SFO.

Spending time with the community in Villa El Salvador, Peru.
Photo courtesy of Luisa Ortega, SFO.

In her mission work with Misión Manos Hermanas, she strives to go on that journey with the people of Villa El Salvador, focusing on creating connections and bonds over time. A missioner cannot just go to a place once and then leave, Luisa argues. For her, it is important to keep going back to the same place, to keep in touch with the people, and to let them know how privileged you are to be invited into their lives. In this way, she is truly able to journey with the people through mission and to be with some who do not have anyone to journey with them.

Mission is Mission Every Day
While planning to continue her efforts with Misión Manos Hermanas, Luisa does not see her work in Peru as the entirety of her mission work: “I think mission is mission every day. Not just going to Peru once a year, but mission to me is encountering that person every single day whoever that may be. It could be in my work, it could be in my home, it could be out in the street, anywhere where I can bring Christ to others. Mission to me is a way of life. It’s not just that I’m going to prepare a few months before and go abroad – that’s a big part of it – but it’s also having that right before me every single day.”

 

USCMA smallThe United States Catholic Mission Association (USCMA) is the only association of US Catholic mission-sending and mission-minded organizations and individuals. Dedicated to supporting and promoting the domestic and international mission efforts of the Church in the US, USCMA provides a forum in which people with a variety of experiences in mission can find a welcome, celebrate their faith, reflect on the signs of the times, foster leadership within mission organizations, explore emerging trends in mission, stimulate creative mission practices, and challenge one another to live lives more deeply rooted in mission spirituality.
USCMA is a membership-based organization. Our members are involved in establishing the direction of the association and supporting its life. To learn more about the United States Catholic Mission Association and to become a member, please visit us at our website www.uscatholicmission.org. Follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/uscatholicmission) and Twitter (@USCMA_DC).
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Mission Moving From the Mind to the Heart

“Faces of Mission” is a bi-weekly blog series produced by the United States Catholic Mission Association highlighting our membership and all their work in and for mission. This week we have a special post from USCMA Associate Director Stephen Scott, sharing his recent experience on a short-term mission trip to Bolivia. 

 

Mission Moving From the Mind to the Heart

Stephen F. Scott
USCMA Associate Director
On the walk from El Alto to La Paz. Photo courtesy of Stephen Scott.

On the walk from El Alto to La Paz.

When I applied for the open Administrative Assistant position at USCMA several years ago, I was asked, “What does mission mean to you?” Little did I know that I would soon find out that being a Missionary Disciple meant far more than I originally imagined.

Over the years, I have read about what mission means and how all who are baptized are called to be missioners to the people they encounter. My own understanding of this culture of encounter has progressively deepened as I have connected with members and friends of USCMA, most of who have served in missions around the world. However, my understanding of mission was still incomplete.

Earlier this year an opportunity arose for me to go on a Short-term Mission and Global Awareness Trip with Franciscan Mission Service. This trip came at a period of the year where I could take the time away from the office and, in one of those moments of happenstance, was also a year after my Master’s Commencement ceremony. Thanks to the generosity of some friends and USCMA, I found myself on a plane heading toward Bolivia where I met my fellow short-term missioners.

Short-term Missioners with Don José, the last living founder of Carmen Pampa University, taken in the bell tower of the university chapel.  From left to right: Joyce Merritt, Natalie Helfrick, Stephen Eckart, Mariam Kaldas, Stephen F. Scott, Jennifer Peresie, Don José, and Laura Hansen-Rainey.  Photo courtesy of FMS.

Short-term Missioners with Don José, the last living founder of Carmen Pampa University, in the bell tower of the university chapel.
From left to right: Joyce Merritt, Natalie Helfrick, Stephen Eckart, Mariam Kaldas, Stephen F. Scott, Jennifer Peresie, Don José, and Laura Hansen-Rainey. Photo courtesy of Franciscan Mission Service.

On my way to Bolivia, my mind felt that the training webinars, readings, and my time at USCMA prepared me for my journey, but my heart was a different story. For the first time I landed in a new country, without my family or chaperones, and my heart’s reaction was that I was the stranger in a new land. The feeling I had of being a stranger while on mission would accompany me throughout the mission trip, though its potency would decrease as we journeyed to the various mission sites. Although I felt like a stranger, because I did not know the people or speak their languages, there was some solace in sharing this feeling with my fellow missioners. Soon after our journey began I was reminded of how Jesus sent his disciples in pairs and it struck a chord (that would sound again and again) on the importance of journeying together, a journey that I am now sharing with you.

Our mission trip began with an opening prayer and session in which I met my fellow missioners: Jennifer, Joyce, Laura, Mariam, Natalie, and Stephen. Though I knew Natalie and Mariam from Franciscan Mission Service, it was great to get to know everyone and learn a bit about each person. While we each came from different regions of the US, over the course of our mission we would build new friendships that we have brought back with us.

Andean Tubers- a counsin of the potato- at the La Paz Street Market

Fruits and tubers from the La Paz open aired market.

Fruits and tubers from the La Paz open-air market.

Our next activity was a walking tour of the town of El Alto down to the city of La Paz, followed by a flight from La Paz to mission sites in and around Cochabamba. After visiting these sights, we flew back to the airport of La Paz and then drove to Coroico and Carmen Pampa. Each day we experienced all the beauty and vibrancy of Bolivia’s natural landscape, from breathtaking mountains and valleys to the bright and multicolored fruits and vegetables. All of this beauty was the back drop to our mission and helped us to follow the mandate we were given upon our arrival.

The mandate of our mission trip was clear: we were to listen, to serve, and to share in the lives of the people we encountered. Each day our journey of encounter called us to follow the examples of the many missioners who have gone before us. We were blessed on our trip with the participation and leadership of the Franciscan Mission Service’s lay missioners who are active at the many missions in Bolivia. Our eyes were opened by the local organizers and the missioners as we learned more and more about the people of Bolivia and the struggles that they face today culturally, politically, and spiritually. As a group, we found there was so much to take in that our brains felt full from all of the information we were learning along the journey, but more importantly our hearts were opened by each person we met.

St. Francis de Sales wrote about the importance of speaking with the heart, because the heart communicates in a way that it allows one to listen and to open one’s self to God, resulting in one’s openness to be transformed by God’s love. Likewise, St. Francis of Assisi advocated for the importance of speaking with action and witness, while only using words when necessary. During our journey together, we shared many encounters that touched my heart deeply. However there was one encounter that was unique and it is one that I am still reflecting on. Let me share that encounter with you and follow it with one of our group encounters that was heavily influenced by the personal encounter.

The encounter that broke my heart open took place not at a mission site, but at the La Paz airport. While we were in Cochabamba, I picked up an unwelcomed infection. I had a running fever, chills, and some other unpleasant ailments that made my day more than miserable and were a cause for concern for my fellow missioners. However, the next day was our travel day from Cochabamba to Coroico via a flight to La Paz and a bus ride on the narrow and curvy mountain roads. I was still in some considerable pain and feeling rather lousy, but I survived our trip from Cochabamba to La Paz. After landing in La Paz, I needed to sit for a while, but then I got up and began to walk over to where our bus was parked with the help of one my fellow missioners.

The road from La Paz to Coroico.  Photo courtesy of Laura Hansen-Rainey.

The road from La Paz to Coroico.
Photo courtesy of Laura Hansen-Rainey.

As I walked a woman saw me, left her family and friends, came over, and began to speak with me. It was clear from the faces of her family that her action interrupted the conversation they were having and they watched on as she came over to me. She was a slender grandmother who appeared to come from a successful family. Though I did not understand what she was saying at first, I could see that she concerned about my illness. Without hesitation, she opened her purse handed me some coca tea, and told me to drink the tea to feel better. Then she embraced my hand tightly before returning to her waiting family and smiled gently as I thanked her. This was truly a moment when I felt my heart burn, as told in the story of Emmaus, but even more so it was a moment when her heart and mine were speaking to each other.

As I turned and headed toward the bus, all I wanted to do was cry because here I was a complete stranger who was visibly sick and in pain, and she came up to me, comforted me, and did what she could do to heal me. Here I was a stranger, and she welcomed and comforted me in same action. Our interaction with each other and exchange of words and gifts opened my heart to the Gospel passage of Matthew 25: 31-46 in a way that my mind could not have anticipated. That story, recounting how we would be judged based on how we treat others, took on flesh and blood through this experience and challenged me to go beyond my personal comfort. This simple encounter taught me more than any homily or scripture course had about this particular Gospel passage. True missionary discipleship calls us out of ourselves and is lived out when we act with charity and care for others, especially people we do not know.

Photo of the bust of Sr. Damon Nolan on the South Campus of the University.

Photo of the bust of Sr. Damon Nolan on the South Campus of Carmen Pampa University.

We made it safely to Coroico and I was happy to get some more rest. The day after our trek, I was feeling a bit better (even if I was still moving pretty slow). It was also a special day for me personally as it was my 35th birthday, and my first birthday outside of the United States. On this day we would go to Carmen Pampa University, part of the Catholic University of Bolivia, and learn about life at the university and its impact on the region. Carmen Pampa University was founded by the communities in the surrounding area with the help of Sister Damon Nolan. While we traveled to Carmen Pampa University, my mind and heart were still reflecting on my encounter with the woman at the airport. My time with the woman helped me see how we are called to live in service for others, but I would soon learn from the students about importance of living together in community as the Early Church in Jerusalem had.

As we met some of the students at Carmen Pampa University, I saw how students and faculty thrived while working and living together in community. Unlike in the United States, where a university usually has a large number of staff to care for the various aspects of university life, the students did the cleaning, cooking, and maintenance on the campus as part of their collegiate service. Every aspect of campus life was integrated in such a way that each person’s needs were taken care of by the community and that service to the campus community and to the surrounding community was a way of life for the students. In our conversations with various students I was struck by how their work to help one another was joyful because they saw how their service to each other benefitted them and their community. At the end of the day, we were able to share in the community through our own service.

After a long day of hiking, we went to the cafeteria and joined the student leaders of the kitchen to learn about their experiences at the university and serve dinner to the university’s students. The meal we served was simple: tea, white rice, and a medley of meat and vegetables. The looks of surprise, amusement, and wariness on many of the students’ faces as they came up to the window and saw us serving them showed us how our witness to their needs by serving them was an action they had not expected. After everyone else came through the line, we joined the students at the tables for dinner and conversation.

For some people, their 35th birthday is a great celebration that would usually involve gifts, a large meal, and perhaps a party of some kind. However, my birthday was one where I was able to serve at the students table and join in their only meal option. Though it wasn’t a big celebration as we have at home, it was an amazing birthday. I was able to serve others, share in the joy of the students as they were being served by strangers, and become friends with them by swapping stories and laughter together.

Our time at Carmen Pampa University showed me how the students’ lives were truly interconnected with each other, the region they live, and with the entire country because the community they form at the university doesn’t end when they leave, but it grows and embraces the people they encounter after they leave. The interconnectedness that I experienced, and the suffering I saw when that interconnectedness was broken, reminded me of the Communion of Love and the unending cycle of giving and receiving love that we describe when we discuss the Mystery of the Trinity. My experiences that day are a challenge for me to live in solidarity with and care for all people whether they are in my community, my country, or the world.

Natalie Helfrick of FMS bestows the Tau cross on Stephen.  Photo courtesy of Franciscan Mission Service.

Natalie Helfrick of FMS bestows the Tau cross on Stephen.
Photo courtesy of Franciscan Mission Service.

As I hope you can see, my encounters and experiences built on each other as gentle, though clear, reminders that (as St. John Baptist de La Salle taught) I am always in God’s holy presence and that my life is called to be a life of witness not only to God’s presence in our world, but of God’s loving action through Jesus and His mission. Before this mission trip, I followed my daily routine which lacked a true understanding of how I was called to be a Missionary Disciple. Yet, during this journey, I was plucked out of my old routine and found that I was part of a far greater communion with all people and the earth. As our journey together in Bolivia came to a close, the Franciscan Mission Service bestowed on each of us a Tau Cross, which St Francis used during his life and is worn by the Franciscans (religious and laity) to this day, and prayed that the Spirit of Mission that we encountered during our journey would continue to bring forth good works throughout our lives.

Since the beginning of his pontificate, Pope Francis has returned time and time again to the importance of our baptismal call to missionary discipleship. Before I went to Bolivia, I kept thinking that being a missionary disciple was a calling because of our baptism. However my time in Bolivia helped me to see that by our baptism we are missionary disciples, and the “call” that Pope Francis speaks of is to live and act as witnesses to Gospel. While in Bolivia, my heart learned that as missionary disciples we are called to use the gifts we have received to deepen our relationship with God, to help the people we meet, and be of service to society as a whole. We are called to step out of ourselves and to help our neighbor, to care for the sick and those in need, to work for true justice, and to bring forth the Kingdom of God in our world. When I reflect on my life I can see now how many times the encounters I had while I was on mission were crying for my notice here at home, but I did not recognize them for my daily routine blinded me to the Lord’s call.

A handmade cross depicting Mt. 25: 31-46 from the La Paz market

A handmade cross depicting Mt. 25: 31-46 from the La Paz market.

Like the disciples who left Jerusalem and headed toward Emmaus, my mission trip to Bolivia was an encounter with the Lord through the people and missioners I met. Their stories, examples, and actions revealed the living Jesus to my heart and, just like those disciples, I left Emmaus with a heart burning to share my experience of the living Christ with others. My first mission trip, though brief, opened my heart up to what was locked in my mind and I now find myself called to live a life of true justice as proclaimed in Matthew 25. This trip also reawakened the words of St. John Baptist de La Salle that I spoke every day in high school: “Live Jesus in our hearts, Forever.”

I hope that my story may help you reflect on what it means to be a missionary disciple whether you are at home or as a stranger in a foreign land. I also pray that one day we will be able to share our stories together and, just as Jesus sent his disciples out in pairs, we may work together for justice and in service to those we encounter.

 

USCMA smallThe United States Catholic Mission Association (USCMA) is the only association of US Catholic mission-sending and mission-minded organizations and individuals. Dedicated to supporting and promoting the domestic and international mission efforts of the Church in the US, USCMA provides a forum in which people with a variety of experiences in mission can find a welcome, celebrate their faith, reflect on the signs of the times, foster leadership within mission organizations, explore emerging trends in mission, stimulate creative mission practices, and challenge one another to live lives more deeply rooted in mission spirituality.
USCMA is a membership-based organization. Our members are involved in establishing the direction of the association and supporting its life. To learn more about the United States Catholic Mission Association and to become a member, please visit us at our website www.uscatholicmission.org. Follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/uscatholicmission) and Twitter (@USCMA_DC).
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Sr. Margaret Loftus, S.N.D.

Sr. Margaret Loftus, S.N.D.

It is with a heavy heart that we share with you that Sr. Margaret Loftus, a former Executive Director of USCMA, passed away last week. To learn more about Sr. Peggy, click on her photo.

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Check out USCMA’s Mission Monthly for May. Would you like to get the Mission Monthly sent to you each month? Just email us and let us know!

 

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