“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 Rev. Vincent Alexius, SVD, a Divine Word Missionary ministering at St. Mary Catholic Church in Cleveland, Texas. Fr. Alexius works to understand and respond to the needs of the people, encouraging them to be missionaries themselves.
Guiding Others to find the Kingdom of God
Mission in the US
The Divine Word Missionaries make it their duty to do mission work and Rev. Vincent Alexius, SVD believes that “by the virtue of baptism, all of us are missionaries.” After being ordained ten years ago, Fr. Alexius was assigned to minister in the United States. “We work in the frontier of the mission,” he says. And in the United States that means the Divine Word Missionaries seek to help those in need, including poor and minority groups.
When first assigned to the US, Fr. Alexius worked in Louisiana with the African American population there. He recently became pastor of St. Mary Catholic Church in Cleveland, Texas in the Diocese of Beaumont. The needs are so different in this new cross-cultural placement in Texas where Fr. Alexius is focusing on the Latino and Anglo populations that make up his parish.
The Divine Word Missionaries
The Society of the Divine Word, commonly known as the Divine Word Missionaries, was founded in 1875 by St. Arnold Janssen. When he initially founded the Divine Word Missionaries, there were only a few members. But now, with 6000 members worldwide, it is one of the fastest growing religious orders.
After only seven years, St. Arnold Janssen sent his first two missionaries – Johann Baptist Anzer, SVD and Joseph Freinademetz, SVD – out to China. Ultimately, Johann Baptist Anzer was named a bishop and Joseph Freinademetz was declared a saint in 2006. By the time St. Arnold Janssen passed away in 1909, he had sent Divine Word Missionaries to fourteen countries on five continents.
Now Divine Word Missionaries work all over the world. Their primary mission, Fr. Alexius says, “is working in places where the Gospel has not been heard” or “not sufficiently heard.”
A Guide for Others
When Fr. Alexius first came to St. Mary’s in Texas, he wanted to be able to see and hear the needs of the people he would be ministering to. So Fr. Alexius made a point of visiting with families and also with the students in religious education classes. He heard many questions from the students, such as “Does God really love us? Are we going to heaven? Is it hard for God to forgive our sins? What happens after we die?” From the families, especially those dealing with disability or other issues, Fr. Alexius would often hear “Why me? Why?”
In these situations, Fr. Alexius would tell them “God loves you. God loves you and he’s there always for you. Just trust him.” He focuses on helping people in his parish see goodness and God’s gifts, working to “always bring hope to them, especially young people and encourage them to be missionaries themselves.” His experiences with people in different situations and with different needs have shown Fr. Alexius that the US needs mission.
In a world where people get conflicting messages between a loving, giving God and some realities that are not easy to understand, Fr. Alexius works constantly to guide those in his care to find their mission and purpose in life. “Because, like Jesus says, ‘The Kingdom of God is already in you.’ It’s already there.” Fr. Alexius sees it as his duty as a missionary to help people find it themselves.
Seeking Holiness Always
Thinking about the future, Fr. Alexius says, “I hope that I can be a good missionary. I hope I can seek holiness always. I hope I can better myself and be the best version of myself that God wants me to be.” He acknowledges, though, that it is a struggle and not easy. That is why Fr. Alexius believes it is important to maintain a prayer life and a relationship with God so he will be able to help others walk with him and help them to be holy. He continues to strive to help those entrusted to his care to walk on the right path and “that’s what I think mission is to me.”