“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 Elizabeth (Beth) Neville, the director of the Mission Office of the Diocese of St. Cloud, who is committed to connecting and building relationships around the world.
Relationships through Mission:
Linking the People of the World Together
Elizabeth (Beth) Neville is the director of the Mission Office of the Diocese of St. Cloud, Minnesota. Focused on building relationships and spreading the word of mission, Beth’s understanding of mission began at a young age and grew into a life-long pursuit.
Raised in a ‘House of Mission’
Beth describes her childhood home as a “house of mission”. When the family traveled, they didn’t stay at fancy resorts but instead lived among the people and the community they were in. As a child, Beth’s parents emphasized to her the understanding that all people are equal and it is the role of all of us to make sure all people are treated equally. Exposure to a wide variety of cultures and peoples truly formed her as a child. “[I]t wasn’t ever seeing a color,” Beth remembers, “it was just seeing the person and that person as Christ.” These childhood lessons deeply influenced Beth and formed the basis for her work in mission.
Relationship-Building at the St. Cloud Mission Office
Before coming to the St. Cloud Mission Office, Beth spent close to 10 years in youth ministry with a strong focus on mission. She worked to help young people realize they were all disciples, called to be evangelizers out in the world. Beth credits this work for leading her to the Mission Office.
The St. Cloud Mission Office began almost one hundred years ago, set up by women who were sensitive to the plight of the poor. The office initially worked to provide direct assistance to the people of the St. Cloud Diocese who were in need.
Over time, the Mission Office evolved from simply being a way to distribute funds. “It became about relationships,” Beth says. From there, the office’s partnerships with Homa Bay, Kenya and Maracay, Venezuela evolved, along with connections in about 30 different countries around the world. Beth describes all these partnerships and connections as a true joy.
Creating Links through Mission
Mission is more important than ever in the world today, Beth says, because it “links people”. She believes that when people think beyond themselves and their immediate surroundings, they develop a different appreciation for events in the broader world. Through her work at the Mission Office, where relationships and partnerships in mission are constantly developing, Beth has deepened her understanding of what others are dealing with. This helps make the situations of others more real for her, which, in turn, becomes a motivating factor in helping her change her own behavior at home.
Beth has always seen mission as an opportunity to use the gifts God blessed her with “to do His work here and to be His voice”. She understands that she is God’s disciple, and as such is asked to make sacrifices and spread His love in the world. She is accomplishing this through her work in the Mission Office.
Looking to the Future in St. Cloud
The work of the St. Cloud Mission Office continues to change, evolve, and grow. According to Beth, the Mission Office envisions working even more closely with their relationship-based partners. She believes those wonderful connections, which couldn’t have even been imagined when they first began, will continue to develop. Supporting mentoring programs for those going into mission experiences, along with extensive programs for mission education, provides a framework for the Mission Office’s future.
The support of the Diocese of St. Cloud is very important in the work Beth and the entire office do. They are “forever in communication with people” and out in the community, having conversations about mission. Beth believes there is excitement out there, not only for sister-diocese partnerships but also for sister-parish relationships. “I think personally it would be wonderful if you had all these parishes in some way connected in a personal situation with somebody, some parish, some diocese, somewhere.”