“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 Roberto Bacalski, Program Coordinator at the Diocese of Arlington Office of Mission. Roberto Bacalski attended the USCMA Annual Conference on October 24 – 26, 2014 which was held this year in the Diocese of Arlington.
Called to Mission
As a young actor in Los Angeles, Roberto Bacalski was living the life he had always wanted.
Then a “seemingly random chain of events” began which led him to a new lifestyle, one in which he would dedicate his life to mission.
He married and moved across the country from Los Angeles to Arlington, Virginia, where he took a job as a restaurant manager. But he soon found himself restless, even miserable in this new job. Something didn’t fit. He went back to waiting tables, praying, and discerning about his life.
At that time, his wife was employed as the Communications Assistant for St. James Catholic Church, working for Fr. Patrick L. Posey, Pastor of St. James and Diocesan Director of the Mission Office. (She has since been named Director of Evangelization for St. James). When an opening became available for the position of Program Assistant in the Mission Office, he applied and got the job, excited for the opportunity to use his skills in outreach and public speaking for a greater purpose. Roberto is currently the Program Coordinator for the Mission Office. He sees that “random chain of events” which began in Los Angeles as the path God used for calling him to mission in this part of the country. Even the patron saint he had chosen when he was confirmed seems to have been a sign of what was to come – he chose the name Francis Xavier, patron saint of mission. “God finally coaxed me over,” Bacalski says.
The Mission Office of the Diocese of Arlington
The Mission Office of the diocese of Arlington is part of a worldwide Catholic network of offices which comprise the Pontifical Mission Societies. They exist in over 120 countries, and are dedicated to providing material and spiritual support to missionaries throughout the world. They all trace their origin to the efforts of a young French woman, Pauline Jaricot, who wanted to help her brother who was a missionary. Her dedicated missionary spirit inspired others to help missionaries as well and, from those humble beginnings in 1822, her movement grew into the Pontifical Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Other Pontifical Societies, such as the Missionary Childhood Association, share the same spirit and zeal. While working for the benefit of the worldwide Catholic mission effort, the diocesan Mission Office in Arlington reaches out with spiritual and financial aid in a special way to a sister diocese in Banica, Dominican Republic.
The Impact of Mission
When he visited a mission in Banica, Roberto was able to see firsthand the impact of aid from the Mission Office. Twenty years ago, there was a 10% literacy rate. There was no electricity or running water. There was no Catholic priest. Now there is a priest and a permanent deacon as well as three seminarians who grew up in the Banica mission. There is a thriving parish community with catechists and youth groups. There are paved roads and electricity. Roberto says that he witnessed tremendous “spiritual and material growth, which go hand in hand.” Furthermore, there are students going to college due to scholarships provided by the diocese of Arlington. One scholarship provided the means for a doctor to complete an externship in the Diocese of Arlington, after which he will return to the Dominican Republic and serve in the field of oncology. It is “a miracle that only the Holy Spirit can achieve,” Roberto says.
Mission: As Vital Now as in the Apostles’ Time
Roberto adds that we cannot simply be content with these success stories, which are still few in number. There is still much to be done. Missionaries are needed to bring the Gospel message of God’s love, healing, and compassion. Especially today, we need the Gospel message of peace. When asked about the importance of mission in today’s world, Roberto’s response is passionate and clear: “Mission work is every bit as vital now as when the apostles were first sent out.” He points to the Diocese of Arlington’s Banica mission as both an example of the success of mission and as an illustration of why the Church must continue to support the work of mission. “We must form the next generation,” Roberto says, so that we can build “little by little, generations who do things differently, who do things as Christ wanted.”
Looking forward, Roberto continues to see a number of goals for mission in the Diocese of Arlington. He wants to raise awareness of the importance of mission, beginning with re-introducing mission education in Catholic schools. Lately, he was a key player behind the Global Children’s Eucharistic Holy Hour held at the National Shrine of the Basilica of the Immaculate Conception in Washington, DC. The event, a joint effort between the Arlington Diocese, the Missionary Childhood Association National Office, and the Archdiocese of Washington which was broadcast on EWTN on October 3, 2014, gathered children to pray for all of the children of the world with the World Mission Rosary. Bringing to every parish an increased awareness of World Mission Sunday, celebrated on the third Sunday of October each year, remains an on-going project. He hopes these events will raise awareness of the importance of mission and missionaries, whose role is “more than anything else, to bear witness” to the Gospel.
The 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 http://www.uscatholicmission.org. Follow us on Facebook (www.facebook.com/uscatholicmission) and Twitter (@USCMA_DC).