MISSION Magazine Winter 2024

This issue of MISSION Magazine reviews the situation of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia and the challenges of being a missionary where Christians are a minority, including Mongolia, the Nordic Countries, and Cambodia.

This issue of MISSION Magazine reviews the situation of the Catholic Church in Ethiopia and the challenges of being a missionary where Christians are a minority, including Mongolia, the Nordic Countries, and Cambodia.


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THE PONTIFICAL <strong>MISSION</strong><br />


WINTER 2023<br />

BEING<br />



One day in 1843, Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson talked with Pauline Jaricot, foundress of the<br />

Society for the Propagation of the Faith about his long-time dream of working with the poorest<br />

of the world’s children in the Missions. She suggested that he appeal to the children of France<br />

to help children around the world. And so, the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA) was<br />

born. Today, MCA continues to follow the vision of Bishop Forbin-Janson – “children helping<br />

children” – as children pray and sacrifice for their brothers and sisters in need around the world.<br />

In the United States MCA has many initiatives, including the Mite Boxes: an initiative that aims<br />

at helping children offer small gifts during the Advent season in favor of millions of children in<br />

mission territories, where the Church is too young, too poor, or actively persecuted, and cannot<br />

sustain itself.<br />

follow us at @TPMS_USA

A letter from Monsignor Harrington,<br />

2<br />

our National Director<br />

6<br />

Society of St. Peter:<br />

From petrifying fear to embracing a vocation<br />

10<br />

Propagation of the Faith:<br />

A Beacon of Hope amidst Ethiopia’s Violence<br />

13<br />

society of St. Peter:<br />

A Seminary as a Witness to the Universality<br />

of the Church<br />

16<br />

The Missionary Union of Priests and Religious:<br />

A Missionary’s Habit: Evangelizing at the<br />

Heart of the Nordic Church<br />

18<br />

Propagation of the Faith:<br />

Restoring a person’s freedom,<br />

one wheelchair at a time<br />

22<br />

The Missionary Union of Priests and Religious:<br />

A peace chaplain<br />

25<br />

Propagation of the Faith:<br />

A tiny Church with a big heart welcomes<br />

Pope Francis<br />

29<br />

From the Dioceses:<br />

Aqua est vita<br />

32<br />

From the Dioceses:<br />

It All Started with Mission Friendships<br />

35<br />

The Fulton Sheen Legacy Society<br />

39<br />

Editor’s Note: Being beacons of hope<br />

The Pontifical Mission<br />

Societies USA<br />







THE PONTIFICAL <strong>MISSION</strong><br />









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A letter from our<br />

National Director<br />

Many believe that Adam, upon his expulsion from the Garden of Eden, found<br />

himself in what is now Ethiopia. All humanity traces our common lineage<br />

to this sub-Saharan eastern region of Africa. In days gone by, the Ethiopian<br />

emperors traced their lineage to the Queen of Sheba. To this day, an Orthodox<br />

Christian priest assigned to St. Mary of Tsion keeps a watchful eye over the Ark<br />

of the Lord’s covenant.<br />

I spent time this October in this country, a land of contradictions. The<br />

Ethiopian Orthodox Church dates to the 4th century, yet the presence of the<br />

Catholic Church is less than a hundred years old. Addis Ababa, the capital city,<br />

is modern, but the tall and shiny buildings mask the way that seminarians in<br />

the city live without running water. The countryside is green and lush, yet the<br />

country is amid a drought. The people are gentle and friendly, yet they have<br />

just concluded a bloody civil war, and to this day, marauders roam the country.<br />

The Apostolic Vicariate of Hosanna is about a seven-hour drive south of<br />

Addis Ababa. Donkeys, women, and children are the nation’s beasts of burden;<br />

water is transported on the backs of beasts and women. Wooden twigs are<br />

balanced on the heads and backs of children. Mud huts litter the landscape yet<br />

beside them spring up modern buildings. In the shallow streams that crisscross<br />

the countryside, people, animals, and tuk-tuks (three-wheel motorbikes) bathe,<br />

wash clothes, and draw water for drinking. There are very few paved roads<br />

and even fewer bathroom facilities.<br />

My host and driver was Bishop Seyoum Franso Noel. A slender man, he<br />

is 53 years old and has served as a bishop for seven years. We arrived at his<br />

home – parishes in the missions are typically compounds. Walls are essential<br />

for security but also to demark property.<br />

Slavery and indentured servitude are still very real in this part of Africa.<br />

Many men “walk” to South Africa and attempt to sell small goods on the<br />

streets or find work as day laborers. The women often find themselves in the<br />

Middle East as domestic help or worse. On the compound was a home for<br />

girls. Run by the sisters, this home serves girls who are vulnerable and at risk.

Not far in the city is a kindergarten (K-5) run by the Presentation sisters. The<br />

school was orderly; the children had desks and books, and their eyes were<br />

bright. Boys and girls were in school side by side, and they were anxious to<br />

show off to their new American friend.<br />

Parish life in Hosanna is challenging. My heart broke for the priests. The living<br />

conditions were primitive. Like the people, the homes more often resembled<br />

stables: often without running water. In some cases, the rats would feast on the<br />

priest’s flesh. Typically, they may see over 5,000 people on a Sunday coming<br />

for Holy Mass, and during the week, they would attend by motorcycle to more<br />

than 20 outstations.<br />

The greatest challenge that priests face, however, is the overwhelming needs<br />

of the people – a sense of their inadequacy and isolation.<br />

At one such parish, we visited a school for over a thousand children with<br />

tattered clothes and no books or desks. Many of their fathers were killed in the<br />

Civil War. The leadership of the school was doing their best, but with inadequate<br />

resources. Just a few yards away was an orphanage for babies. Formerly, it was

a home for the developmentally disabled. On the outside, the structure was<br />

solid if a bit run down. Nothing could prepare me for the desperation inside.<br />

Sister Miriam and three women care for dozens of babies and infants. They<br />

lack everything that we deem fundamental. Yet, they had an overabundance<br />

of love, which was evident in the tenderness and patience with which they<br />

cared for these babies. As we were about to leave, Sister Miriam’s face changed<br />

and as she clung to my arm, desperately pleaded with me: “Monsignor, I need<br />

milk. These children will die. I have no milk!”<br />

My final night was in the Major Seminary in Addis Ababa. It was modest<br />

but clean. The Seminarians greeted us at the door singing and filled with joy,<br />

despite having waited many hours for our arrival. We immediately sat down<br />

for dinner, and in the Ethiopian style, we all ate with our hands from the<br />

same plate. Interestingly, it is not uncommon for them to feed one another: A<br />

significant gesture in a country that is no stranger to famine.<br />

Bishop Seyoum showed me to the bishop’s suite where I was to stay. A tiny<br />

room, decorated with some small religious articles, a small desk, and a single<br />

bed. He handed me a bottle of water and apologized: “Monsignor you will not<br />

be able to take a shower tomorrow; our well is dry, and we have no water. I<br />

am sorry.”

5<br />

As I laid in bed that night, I couldn’t help but think that when Jesus comes<br />

again, he will come to Ethiopia. From here Adam walked out of the muck<br />

and was man. My hosts, at great personal cost, gave me everything they had<br />

to make me feel welcome and comfortable. I couldn’t help but think Ethiopia<br />

was a sort of purgatory. There is great suffering amid the indescribable beauty,<br />

and it inspires our hope.<br />

Monsignor Kieran Harrington

Society of St. Peter:<br />

From petrifying fear to<br />

embracing a vocation<br />

By Deribe Belay*<br />

I come from Ethiopia,<br />

specifically from The<br />

Apostolic Vicariate of Harar<br />

which was erected on May<br />

4th, 1846, by Pope Gregory<br />

XVI. It covers three regional<br />

states of Ethiopia, namely<br />

Oromia, Harari, and Somali.<br />

Most of the inhabitants of this<br />

area are Muslims, but they<br />

have different ties or relations<br />

with Christians. For example,<br />

where I was born and bred,<br />

Ethiopia<br />

With about 123 million people, Ethiopia is the<br />

second most populous nation in Africa after<br />

Nigeria. It is also one of the poorest, with a per<br />

capita gross national income of $1,020.<br />

Ethiopia declared the Catholic faith an official<br />

religion in the fourth century. However, Catholics<br />

are less than 1% of the total population.<br />

Despite their small numbers, Catholics run as<br />

much as 90% of the nation’s social programs.<br />

we have Muslim neighbors who are very respectful towards Christians, and<br />

even when we celebrate a feast related to our faith, they come to celebrate with<br />

us and bring gifts. And we do the same in return when they have a feast.<br />

In contrast, there are some Muslims in other parts of the country who want<br />

to destroy Christians and Christianity, who want to kill others just because they<br />

are Christian. And please know I am not narrating these things from hearsay,<br />

but as an eyewitness.<br />

* The author is a seminarian in Rome’s Urban VIII Seminary, where 166 men from Africa, Asia, Oceania,<br />

and Latin America, are currently preparing for the priesthood thanks to scholarships provided to them by<br />

the Society of St. Peter the Apostle. Following this article is an interview with his bishop, an Italian Capuchin<br />

who was saying Mass at the church where Deribe was held captive.

7<br />

I have seen with my own eyes Christians being killed just for the crime of<br />

being Christians.<br />

I have witnessed Christians being thrown out of their homes.<br />

I have seen Christian families torn apart after the violent murder of their<br />

children.<br />

I have witnessed Christians being stoned to death as they were held captive<br />

by a violent mob. I was, in fact, a Christian stoned- though not to death- simply<br />

because I was at the wrong place, at the wrong time. I was at Mass.<br />

How did my vocation come about?<br />

I was born in a parish that had many outstations, one of which was mine. The<br />

faithful of that parish were numerous, but they did not have the opportunity<br />

to attend Mass every Sunday. If you were lucky, the priest would come once a<br />

month. Most of us only saw a priest every other month.<br />

Despite there not being a priest, I grew up going to church every Sunday.<br />

Most of the time, with my mother. But even when she couldn’t go, I went.<br />

Often, the church was closed, if it was not our Sunday. But back then, when<br />

many didn’t have phones, we only knew the priest was coming when we saw<br />

him arrive.<br />

Seeing the church closed on Sundays was what first led me to want to become<br />

a priest: I knew nothing of what it meant to be a priest. Yet I knew of the power<br />

of an open parish, as well as the feeling<br />

of joy I experienced whenever we did<br />

have Mass.<br />

Over time, I continued my studies<br />

and abandoned the idea of becoming<br />

a priest. When I was in primary school,<br />

the Capuchins (Franciscans) came to<br />

my parish, and living there, they built<br />

a good relationship with the people.<br />

Attracted by their witness, I began<br />

seeing them as role models. When I<br />

finished secondary school, they asked<br />

me if I wanted to “come and see” what<br />

it meant to be a priest.

8<br />

I went and was inspired. I joined the major seminary in Addis Ababa, where<br />

I studied philosophy for three years.<br />

The novelty of the pastoral year<br />

After finishing philosophy, I returned to the diocese, and our bishop,<br />

Anthony Pagano OFM Cap, told me that I would do a year of pastoral work in<br />

the parishes. Never having done this before, I saw it as a waste of time: some<br />

of my high school friends had finished university and were working, while I<br />

was being told to stop my studies for a year. Angered, I decided to leave the<br />

seminary and find a job.<br />

But my bishop didn’t give up on my vocation: he called me one day and<br />

asked that I join him early the next morning on a pastoral visit to a new parish<br />

that was being dedicated in the Somalia region of our diocese.<br />

This was the day it all changed for me.<br />

Hundreds were attending the dedication of the parish. It is customary in<br />

Ethiopia for people to come from far and wide for an event like this. In the<br />

assembly were women, children, and elderly men as well, who had come<br />

for the feast from various parts of the country; the church wasn’t big enough<br />

to fit everyone, so some of us followed the celebration from outside. As the<br />

celebration proceeded with songs and praises to God for the gift of the new<br />

church, roughly 50 young Muslim men came up to the parish armed with<br />

guns, sticks, and stones, ready to kill us.<br />

They first entered a neighboring Orthodox church: killing the priest and<br />

burning the Church to the ground. They then came after us, killing some and<br />

severely injuring others. I had never witnessed such cruelty: some were burned<br />

alive, others had their eyes ripped out, and others still had their backs broken<br />

and left paralyzed in the middle of the road.<br />

Imagine the agitation, the pain, the crying that reigned over us at that<br />

moment.<br />

Seeing that many people lose their lives that day, simply because they were<br />

attending Mass, made me realize that God had a plan for me. I swallowed my<br />

pride, accepted my bishop’s call to spend a year working in the diocese, and<br />

went back to my studies. I am in my last year, studying not in Addis Ababa but<br />

in Rome, where thanks to the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, I have a<br />

scholarship to study at the Pontifical Urban University.

The road here has not been easy, and I know it won’t be easy once I am back<br />

home. However, I know I am not doing this on my own: As the letter to the<br />

Philippians says, “I can do all things in him who gives me strength.”<br />


10<br />

Propagation of the Faith:<br />

A Beacon of Hope amidst<br />

Ethiopia’s Violence<br />

By Ines San Martin<br />

Italian Bishop Anthony Pagano<br />

OFM Cap, Apostolic Vicar of Harar,<br />

in Ethiopia, never had the chance<br />

to be a “young, green priest.” Days<br />

after his ordination in 1988, he was<br />

sent to Cameroon, where in a year, he<br />

became the parish priest of the largest<br />

Capuchin mission. Two years later,<br />

he became the Superior of the order<br />

in this country, and seven years after<br />

that, he was sent to the Capuchin’s<br />

mission in Ethiopia, a country marred<br />

by ethnic conflicts and political unrest.<br />

In 2016, Pope Francis appointed<br />

him Apostolic Vicar of Harar.<br />

Ethiopia, a nation with a storied<br />

Christian heritage, has been gripped<br />

by violence in recent years. The<br />

northern Tigray region has seen a<br />

cessation of large-scale conflict but<br />

remains scarred by sporadic skirmishes that threaten the fragile peace. “The<br />

situation in Ethiopia these days is not very pretty,” Bishop Anthony lamented,<br />

reflecting on the ethnic strife that continues to disrupt lives.

11<br />

The Ethiopian Orthodox Church, one of the oldest Christian institutions in<br />

the world, finds itself in a delicate dance with the Muslim population, where<br />

mutual disrespect has often escalated into violence. “There are those who<br />

burn churches, and others who burn mosques, leading to a tragic loss of life,”<br />

the prelate said, painting a picture of a country divided by faith yet united in<br />

suffering.<br />

Despite representing less than 1% of the population, the Catholic Church<br />

plays a pivotal role in Ethiopia’s social fabric. “We are almost insignificant in<br />

number, but we are one of the main charitable institutions in the country,”<br />

Bishop Anthony asserts. His vicariate, home to 8 million people, is a beacon of<br />

charity, with a Catholic community of just 10,000. Yet, their impact is profound,<br />

running schools, orphanages, and hospitals that serve the wider community.<br />

The bishop shares a harrowing tale from October 2018, when violence<br />

erupted as he was blessing a chapel during its inaugural Mass. “A group of<br />

about 50 men attacked the neighboring Orthodox church, killed the priest and<br />

others, and then turned their violence toward us,” he recalled.<br />

After six hours being held hostage, the congregation was released, only to<br />

face another assault that night.<br />

Bishop Anthony currently has two seminarians studying in Rome’s<br />

Pontifical Urban College, which stands in the Janiculum Hill overlooking St.<br />

Peter’s Basilica. They are there with the help of a scholarship from the Society<br />

of St. Peter. This opportunity, he said, “is fundamental. Training in Rome offers<br />

a global perspective that is invaluable for Ethiopian seminarians, who navigate<br />

the complexities of a country with both Oriental and Latin rites. Ethiopia has<br />

always been a proud, somewhat closed country. Opening horizons by knowing<br />

other realities can be a positive experience.”<br />

The tiny presence of the Church in Ethiopia, Africa’s second most populous<br />

country with 120 million people, might seem inconsequential, but Bishop<br />

Pagano draws a parallel to the Gospel: “Jesus chose twelve apostles and<br />

called them to be salt and light of the earth.” The Catholic Church’s witness in<br />

Ethiopia, though numerically modest, leaves an indelible mark. “When I walk<br />

the streets in my habit, people stop me to share how they were educated by<br />

religious sisters or priests. Something remains, even if conversion is not always<br />


12<br />

In a country where religious identity can be a source of conflict, Bishop<br />

Anthony finds strength in visibility. “No, on the contrary,” he responds when<br />

asked about the dangers of wearing his habit. “The beard is my passport, and<br />

the religious habit the same.” This visible identity is a shield and a bridge in<br />

Ethiopia’s diverse religious landscape.<br />

As Ethiopia navigates the complexities of modernity and tradition, the<br />

Catholic Church, through its mission of education and charity, serves as a<br />

beacon of hope. Bishop Anthony’s vision for the Church is one of testimony—a<br />

living example of the Gospel’s transformative power in one of the world’s<br />

oldest Christian lands.

13<br />

Society of St. Peter:<br />

A Seminary as a Witness<br />

to the Universality of<br />

the Church<br />

By Ines San Martin<br />

Atop Rome’s Janiculum Hill, within the embrace of the Eternal City, the<br />

Pontifical Urban College stands as a beacon of the Church’s mission, its gaze<br />

set upon the dome of St. Peter’s Basilica. This seminary, a historic cradle of the<br />

priesthood since 1627, is not just a witness to the universality of the Catholic<br />

Church but an active participant in shaping its future.<br />

Father Armando Nugnes, the rector, describes it as a door to the global Church,<br />

“a strategic and fundamental work for the Dicastery for Evangelization,” that<br />

oversees the four Pontifical Mission Societies.<br />

Father Armando explains, “this seminary was one of the first significant<br />

works of Propaganda Fidei, focusing on formation from the start.” Unlike<br />

other institutions, the Urban College was established to educate missionaries<br />

from the mission territories themselves. “We help young churches grow by<br />

forming those who will, in turn, educate future priests and laypeople, aiding<br />

the local church to mature and become self-sufficient.”

14<br />

Currently, the seminary houses 166 seminarians from mission territories -<br />

60 percent are from Africa, 40 percent from Asia, with a small representation<br />

from Oceania and Latin America - undertaking their first cycle of theology or<br />

licentiate degrees.<br />

These seminarians are handpicked by their bishops for their scholarly<br />

aptitude and missionary zeal. They are the future formators of local seminaries<br />

and potential diocesan leaders.<br />

The Urban College has given rise to other institutions, including the colleges<br />

of St. Peter and St. Paul, which accommodate priests pursuing studies in Rome.<br />

Bishops can request scholarships for seminarians up to the diaconate or for<br />

already ordained priests. There is also the Mater Ecclesia College for religious<br />

sisters, emphasizing the Dicastery’s priority to promote a female presence in<br />

formation houses.<br />

“The University emerged from the Urban College, and both are sustained<br />

by the support of the Pontifical Mission Societies,” Father Armando states. The<br />

scholarships cover university tuition, residence expenses, meals, and health<br />

care, which can be significant due to the challenging hygienic conditions in<br />

the seminarians’ home countries. “Each student represents an investment of<br />

$13,000 a year,” he reveals. The dioceses are responsible for travel expenses and<br />

pocket money for personal needs.<br />

“We are careful not to foster an elite mentality but to offer a concrete experience<br />

of the Church’s universality,” he emphasizes. The seminary’s multicultural<br />

community speaks multiple languages and practices five different rites. “This

15<br />

year’s 166 seminarians come from 120 dioceses across 35 nations, creating a<br />

unique community that embodies the miracle of the Urban College.”<br />

Seminarians from culturally diverse backgrounds, even from warring<br />

nations, live as brothers in Rome. “Our formative program is multicultural,<br />

and we educate future priests to be men of dialogue, a skill learned through<br />

experience, not books,” Father Armando asserts. This experiential learning in<br />

dialogue is crucial for their future peacemaking roles in their dioceses.<br />

The sense of responsibility during World Mission Sunday (marked yearly<br />

around the world on the second-to-last Sunday of October) in the seminarians’<br />

dioceses is profound. “Christians in these territories don’t see World Mission<br />

Sunday as a day to live off others but as a call to think of others,” Father<br />

Armando reflects. This is especially true during the Missionary Childhood<br />

Association Day, where children in each parish work to help others. “From<br />

their youth, they are taught to share what little they have, embodying the spirit<br />

of giving.”<br />

Perched above the Vatican, the Pontifical Urban College not only overlooks<br />

the physical heart of the Catholic Church but also represents a spiritual and<br />

educational summit from which the future leaders of the Church in mission<br />

territories are formed, ready to descend into the valleys of the world’s diverse<br />

cultures, carrying with them the light of faith, education, and dialogue.

The Missionary Union of Priests<br />

and Religious<br />

A Missionary’s Habit:<br />

Evangelizing at the Heart<br />

of the Nordic Church<br />

Iceland<br />

In the affluent yet spiritually seeking<br />

Nordic countries, Sister Anna Mirijam Norway<br />

Kaschner, CPS, serves as a testament<br />

to the vibrant mission field that thrives<br />

beyond traditional borders. Born in<br />

Finland<br />

Germany to a Protestant family, Sister Denmark<br />

Anna’s journey to the Catholic faith and<br />

Sweden<br />

religious life is a narrative of divine call<br />

and unexpected paths.<br />

“I was certain I wanted a family, to travel the world,” Sister Anna recalls.<br />

“But the idea of religious life kept returning, especially when I encountered<br />

nuns.” Her resolve to dismiss this calling led her to Zimbabwe with a program<br />

aimed at providing missionary experience. “I thought it would rid me of these<br />

thoughts,” she admits. Instead, it confirmed her vocation.<br />

In Zimbabwe, Sister Anna realized that God’s presence was not a European<br />

import but an enduring truth. “We were simply following his footprints,” she<br />

says. Her search for an active congregation led her to the Missionary Sisters<br />

of the Precious Blood, marking the beginning of her 22-year commitment to<br />

God’s work.<br />

Her mission took an unexpected turn when she was sent to Denmark, a<br />

country rich in resources but a “mission country” in spiritual terms. “Some<br />

70 percent are baptized in the Lutheran Church, with a 4 percent attendance.<br />

Catholics are less than 1 percent, but we have a 20 percent Church attendance,”

17<br />

she notes, highlighting the fertile<br />

ground for evangelization.<br />

Sister Anna’s ministry extends<br />

beyond the church walls, engaging<br />

with a population largely unfamiliar<br />

with religious life. “People in<br />

Denmark know little about faith,”<br />

she shares. “They’re curious, often<br />

asking if I’m married or have<br />

children.” Her habit often sparks<br />

conversations, opening doors to<br />

discuss faith and life’s deeper questions.<br />

The Catholic Church was the only Christian<br />

church in the Nordic countries before the<br />

Reformation in the 16th century. Since then,<br />

Scandinavia has been mostly Lutheran<br />

The Catholic population of the Nordic<br />

countries has seen some growth in recent years,<br />

particularly in Norway, due to immigration<br />

The Nordic Bishops’ Conference brings together<br />

the 8 bishops of Sweden, Norway, Finland,<br />

Denmark, and Iceland<br />

Living in a small community with sisters from Austria and Zimbabwe,<br />

Sister Anna serves as the Secretary General of the Nordic Bishops Conference.<br />

Their lives are a blend of prayer and work, embodying St. Benedict’s ethos of<br />

balance. “Our daily activities are a mission,” she says. “Grocery shopping or<br />

simply being present in public can lead to profound exchanges about life and<br />

faith.”<br />

Sister Anna firmly believes in the visibility of her vocation. “Wearing the<br />

habit is essential. It’s a sign that invites people to approach, to inquire, and<br />

often, to seek help,” she asserts. Her presence in the community<br />

is a beacon of service and a bridge to understanding the Catholic<br />

faith.<br />

The missionary work in the Nordic countries is as<br />

crucial as it is unique. “Consider coming to the Nordic<br />

countries,” Sister Anna urges. “In Finland, Catholics<br />

make up 0.2 percent of the population. The mission field is<br />

vast, and the need for the Gospel is palpable.”<br />

Through Sister Anna Mirijam Kaschner’s narrative, we see<br />

the diverse faces of missionary work and the profound impact<br />

of living one’s faith aloud. The Nordic countries, with their<br />

small Catholic populations and vast spiritual hunger, remind<br />

us that mission territories are not just geographical but are<br />

found wherever hearts are seeking meaning.

18<br />

Propagation of the Faith:<br />

Restoring a person’s freedom,<br />

one wheelchair at a time<br />

By Ines San Martin<br />

In the lush landscapes of<br />

Cambodia, punctuated by<br />

ancient temples and rice<br />

fields, there exists a poignant<br />

narrative of resilience, faith,<br />

and transformation. At the<br />

heart of this tale stands Jesuit<br />

Enrique “Quique” Figaredo,<br />

affectionately dubbed the<br />

“Bishop of the Wheelchairs.”<br />

Cambodia<br />

There are only 75,000 Catholics in Cambodia<br />

The Church operates various social and<br />

educational programs<br />

Catholicism faces challenges due to historical<br />

upheavals, but focuses on reconciliation and<br />

rebuilding efforts

19<br />

His story is not just an account of missionary zeal, but a testament to the<br />

profound difference that can be made when faith meets action, particularly<br />

when that action is backed by benevolent organizations and the charitable<br />

hearts of people worldwide.<br />

Cambodia’s history is marked by<br />

both enchantment and pain. The Khmer<br />

Rouge era, spanning from 1975 to 1979,<br />

saw Pol Pot’s brutal regime devastate<br />

a rich cultural tapestry. Left in its wake<br />

were emotional scars and the perilous<br />

remnants of war: landmines that have<br />

maimed countless unsuspecting souls.<br />

It was against this backdrop that<br />

Bishop Enrique began his missionary<br />

odyssey.<br />

“In 1985, I was assigned to work with<br />

the Cambodian refugees on the border<br />

with Thailand,” he shared, recalling<br />

the vivid memories of his time helping<br />

personal-mine victims. “I became deeply<br />

involved in the lives of the people... and<br />

so many things made me fall in love<br />

with them.”<br />

Moved by the spirit of service and an undeniable connection with the<br />

people, Bishop Enrique was propelled deeper into Cambodia’s heart after<br />

finalizing his theological studies in Spain between 1988 and 1992, when he was<br />

ordained a priest. This deeper dive was not a solitary endeavor: on the year of<br />

his ordination – the Jesuits opened a mission in Cambodia, and efforts to bring<br />

wheelchairs to those living in the heart of the country garnered the support of<br />

the American Friends Service Committee Organizations.<br />

Speaking of his transformative work, Bishop Enrique highlighted the<br />

wheelchair project. “We have workshops run by people with disabilities,” he<br />

stated, recounting how collaboration with Motivation International in 1994<br />

gave birth to a wooden wheelchair that became a beacon of hope for many.

20<br />

“This wheelchair took me to many parts of the country. It transforms the<br />

lives of people who move from a dim life, locked in their homes, to being able<br />

to study, leave their homes, have a social life,” he said. “But it also transforms<br />

the life of the giver.”<br />

“One person once told me that the wheelchair we give is a sacrament,<br />

because it transforms people’s lives,” he said. “It is a visible sign of a visible<br />

relationship.”<br />

In 1998, when the ongoing remnants of the violence ended, the Vatican’s<br />

Dicastery for Evangelization, known for centuries as Propaganda Fidei, which<br />

oversees The Pontifical Mission Societies, “was looking for a bishop for the<br />

area where I was, and appointed me as Apostolic Prefect. For me it was a huge<br />

change, because I was very involved in social work, the integration of the<br />

disabled into civil society, and doing outreach … as we so often say now, I was<br />

used to a Church that goes out to meet people where they are.”<br />

But the prelate was quick to adapt, and under his leadership, and with<br />

constant support from the universal Church, since that in Cambodia is too poor<br />

to be self-reliant, the faith has grown exponentially. When he was appointed<br />

Apostolic Prefect, his territory had 15 communities, and now there are 31, with<br />

30 new churches built in three decades due to the support of the Society for the<br />

Propagation of the Faith, one of four pontifical societies. The growth, he said,<br />

is an example of what can be achieved when missionaries are equipped with<br />

the right resources and the relentless prayers of the global Catholic community.<br />

Today, he still oversees the wheelchair project with a workshop on the side<br />

of his church. It employs 18 people, all of whom are amputees from personal<br />

landmines, and together, they build an average of 100 chairs a day. During the<br />

past three decades, they have given some 30,000 chairs away.<br />

The workshop is primarily self-sustainable thanks to Red Cross International<br />

and Handicapped International, which buy 30 percent of the production so<br />

Bishop Enrique can give the others for free since the beneficiaries cannot cover<br />

the production costs, estimated at $150. “We would like to continue growing<br />

because there is a great need still, in Cambodia and so many other places<br />

marred by violence, war, and tragedy, but to do that, we would need more<br />


21<br />

Bishop Enrique’s philosophy is straightforward and profound: Convey<br />

Christ’s message through charity. “Accompanying them, being seen as close<br />

and caring, attracts,” he asserts. And it’s evident that his approach has borne<br />

fruit, with many drawn towards the faith.<br />

Integral to Bishop Enrique’s persona is his unique pectoral cross, handcrafted<br />

in silver by one of the welders in the wheelchairs workshop. It symbolizes his<br />

mission and the enduring spirit of the Cambodian people.<br />

“My cross is a mutilated Christ. It represents that Jesus suffers in solidarity<br />

with disabled people, but it also tells us that disabled people also suffer with<br />

the Lord, completing the salvation of the world,” he said. “And it also speaks<br />

to us of the mystical body of Christ, incomplete due to lack of understanding,<br />

wars, and not having known the love of the Lord. Our mission is to complete<br />

it, with love, understanding, solidarity.”

22<br />

The Missionary Union of Priests<br />

and Religious:<br />

A peace chaplain<br />

By Ines San Martin<br />

It’s striking how often<br />

monumental life decisions<br />

arise from seemingly chance<br />

events. For Father Olivier<br />

Poquillion, his journey into the<br />

Dominican order began with a<br />

teenage rebellious streak that<br />

landed him summer camp, old<br />

sailboats, and an encounter with<br />

a Dominican priest who taught<br />

him about teamwork, resilience,<br />

and spreading the Gospel by<br />

attraction, not proselytism.<br />

Iraq<br />

The first Catholic missionaries arrived in Iraq<br />

in the 17th century<br />

Pope Francis made the first ever papal visit to<br />

Iraq in 2021<br />

The Catholic Church in Iraq has been<br />

facing persecution and violence since the<br />

US-led invasion in 2003, which has led to a<br />

significant decline in the Christian population<br />

During his priestly life, he has been a chaplain of the military, the police, the<br />

Scouts, the elderly, the sick, to the poor, and to those who are serving the poor:<br />

“Always preaching the Gospel, but always in different ways, engaging others<br />

not as a master but as a friend who talks to his friend.”<br />

The Dominicans first set foot in Mesopotamia in 1750 when Mongol<br />

Buddhism was the dominant religion. The friars and sisters—integral to the<br />

order—established a church, schools, and a hospital. Recognizing a lack of faith<br />

materials in the local language, they set up the region’s first printing house.<br />

“They weren’t importing the truth but revealing it from within,” Father Olivier<br />

remarked during a month-long visit to Rome. “Mission is not about bringing<br />

truth from outside. We are called to recognize something of God in the local<br />

culture and highlight that as a bridge.”

Having once served in the French military and briefly pursued a law career,<br />

Father Olivier found material wealth but little fulfillment. Reflecting on life’s<br />

impermanence, he mused, “We will all face our mortality, and the pressing<br />

question will be, ‘What have you done for and with your brother?’” This<br />

profound introspection steered him towards missionary work.<br />

Although he hails from a family of diplomats and judges and anticipated<br />

a life locked in a monastery upon joining the Dominican Order, God had<br />

other plans. He spent years as the General Secretary of the Commission of<br />

the Bishops’ Conferences of the EU (COMECE), living at airports, shuttling<br />

between meetings, and swapping suitcases during layovers.<br />

In Iraq, Father Olivier’s tenure extended beyond mere religious instruction.<br />

He initially resided there from 2003-2005, shortly after the U.S. invasion.<br />

Despite facing threats, Christian communities remained integral to the bustling<br />

life in Mosul. By 2019, when he was again sent to Mosul following the rise and<br />

fall of the Islamic States (ISIS), the Christian demographic and the landscape<br />

drastically shifted, leading to extensive displacement.<br />

Father Olivier played a pivotal role in restoring the Dominican convent of<br />

Notre-Dame de l’Heure, which ISIS heavily damaged, as part of UNESCO’s<br />

“Reviving the Spirit of Mosul” program.<br />

In March of 2021, Pope Francis made history by becoming the first Pope to<br />

visit the land of Abraham, as a sign of solidarity to those who remained. The<br />

four-day trip included stops in five cities: Baghdad, Najaf, Mosul, Qaraqosh<br />

and Erbil.<br />

“Fraternity is more durable than fratricide, hope is more powerful than<br />

hate, peace more powerful than war,” the Pontiff said surrounded by both<br />


24<br />

civil and religious leaders in<br />

Mosul, the administrative capital<br />

of Nineveh. For the past 2,500<br />

years, the city has represented<br />

the pluralistic identity of Iraq.<br />

The rise of ISIS, and the war that<br />

followed, caused vast damage to<br />

the city’s skyline, destroying landmarks such as the Al-Hadba minaret of the<br />

Al-Nouri Mosque and the clock tower of the Notre-Dame de l’Heure convent,<br />

the first of its kind in the Middle East.<br />

During his visit, Pope Francis defined the damaged structures as reminders<br />

of the “perennial human desire for closeness” to God. The clock, he added,<br />

“for more than a century has reminded passersby that life is short, and time is<br />

precious.”<br />

Amidst the remnants of a city devastated by conflict, Pope Francis’s<br />

interactions were emblematic of the broader mission’s ethos. When he stopped<br />

to bless a local family, their subsequent conversation with Father Olivier<br />

revealed the universality of spiritual connections. Though they couldn’t<br />

identify the Pontiff nor that he is the Successor of Peter, they intuitively felt he<br />

was “a man of God who came and visited us.”<br />

This encapsulates the essence of missionary work. It’s not about the<br />

projection of one’s beliefs onto others but the connections forged in shared<br />

humanity and faith. Father Olivier’s insight for budding missionaries mirrors<br />

this sentiment: “Go, but bring a light suitcase, and begin by watching what is<br />

there: what matters, is not what you bring but what you discover because if<br />

you pay attention, you will see the face of God.”<br />

Father Olivier’s journey, set against the backdrop of the papal visit,<br />

exemplifies faith’s transformative power in adversity. His commitment,<br />

mirrored by countless global missionaries, emphasizes the Gospel’s<br />

significance, prompting us to question, “Am I my brother’s keeper?”<br />

Father Olivier affirms that we are called to be. “We’re all aboard the same<br />

boat, as members of Holy People of God. My mission began as a Scout and<br />

evolved into serving as a Scout chaplain. We’re entrusted with the dual duty<br />

of loving God, which is straightforward, and our neighbors—a far more<br />

challenging endeavor.”

25<br />

Propagation of the Faith:<br />

A tiny Church with<br />

a big heart welcomes<br />

Pope Francis<br />

By Ines San Martin<br />

In the heart of Asia, where<br />

the vast steppes meet the sky,<br />

the Catholic Church has found<br />

a humble abode in Mongolia, a<br />

land known for its rich history<br />

and nomadic culture. The young<br />

Cardinal Giorgio Marengo, the<br />

Apostolic Prefect of Ulaanbaatar,<br />

has been nurturing the seeds<br />

of faith in this distant land,<br />

becoming a bridge between the<br />

Vatican and Asia.<br />

Mongolia<br />

The first Catholic missionaries arrived in<br />

Mongolia in 1992<br />

There are 1,500 Catholics in Mongolia,<br />

representing 0.04% of the country’s<br />

population<br />

Pope Francis made the first papal visit to<br />

Mongolia in 2023<br />

In a candid conversation, Cardinal Giorgio shares his journey of faith and the<br />

burgeoning Catholic community in Mongolia.

Photo credit: Nancy Wiechec/CNS<br />

26<br />

Upon inquiring about his choice of missionary priesthood over diocesan,<br />

Cardinal Giorgio reflected, “During the discernment of my vocation, the<br />

consecration of religious life played a particular role. From the moment I felt<br />

the Lord called me to work for Him, I felt a call to religious vocation, which led<br />

me to the Institute of the Consolata Missionaries.”<br />

When asked if a particular country was on his mind, the cardinal reminisced,<br />

“Initially, no, just a desire to answer this call of giving my life to the Lord.<br />

Gradually, my heart was calling me toward Asia. However, having a vow<br />

of obedience, it wasn’t up to me. But my ordination almost paralleled our<br />

institute’s decision to go to Mongolia for the first time. We were two priests<br />

and three religious sisters.”<br />

Language, an essential tool for evangelization, posed a challenge in Mongolia.<br />

“Yes, even for us Latinos it requires a lot of effort, it’s a challenge to learn<br />

Mongolian, which has roots or similarities with Korean, Japanese, Turkish,<br />

Hungarian,” Cardinal Giorgio noted. On evangelizing without mastering the<br />

language initially, he said, “One learns firsthand that the mission, more than<br />

doing, is being there, in a certain place at a certain time, and the Lord utilizes<br />


27<br />

Cardinal Giorgio’s admiration for Mongolia is palpable. “Mongolia itself! It’s<br />

a country with a rich history, which three or four centuries ago closed in on<br />

itself. It’s a nation that expanded immensely, creating the largest continuous<br />

territorial empire in history. They conquered many without ever being<br />

conquered, instilling enormous national pride. They have maintained their<br />

identity despite being sandwiched between two great civilizations, the Russo-<br />

European and Chinese. This makes them unique, with a marked cultural and<br />

religious tradition rooted in Shamanism and Tibetan Buddhism. The nomadic<br />

way of life is also clearly visible as a deeply ingrained cultural category.”<br />

Following the fall of the Soviet Union, Mongolia transitioned away from its<br />

Soviet-allied communist government and religious freedom was enshrined<br />

in its constitution. This transition allowed the Catholic Church to establish a<br />

sanctioned presence in Mongolia starting in 1992. The early 1990s marked the<br />

arrival of the first Catholic missionaries in the country, setting the foundation<br />

for what would become one of the world’s smallest Catholic communities. As<br />

of now, there are around 1,300 to 1,500 Catholics in Mongolia, a testament to<br />

the enduring efforts of those early missionaries and the continuing work of<br />

individuals like Cardinal Giorgio​.<br />

In addition to the religious mission, the diplomatic relationship between<br />

the Holy See and Mongolia has been growing. The visit of Pope Francis to<br />

Mongolia is indicative of the Vatican’s interest in fostering not only religious<br />

but also diplomatic relations in the region, especially given Mongolia’s<br />

strategic location between Russia and China, with whom the Holy See has<br />

had historically complex relationships. This diplomatic endeavor is part<br />

of a broader effort to enhance the Vatican’s engagement in the geopolitical<br />

landscape of East Asia, amidst the challenges and opportunities presented by<br />

the region’s diverse religious and political contexts​.<br />

The Catholic Church in Mongolia, though small, is blooming under the<br />

nurturing care of the Apostolic Prefecture. “It’s a very small church, needing<br />

to root well, aiming to form individuals who make this choice of faith, and<br />

prepare them to live the reality as Christians. Our communities greatly value<br />

the Neocatechumenal Way, but also the introduction to Christian life,” shared<br />

Cardinal Giorgio.

28<br />

The growing Catholic community in Mongolia is distributed across eight<br />

parishes and a chapel, representing about 0.04% of the country’s population.<br />

This growth from no registered Catholics in 1992, showcases the Church’s<br />

burgeoning presence in Mongolia over 30 years. The ecclesiastical structure<br />

includes one bishop, 25 priests, and 35 catechists, dedicated to nurturing the<br />

faith among the Mongolian Catholics.<br />

Cardinal Giorgio believes the historic visit of Pope Francis to Mongolia was<br />

a cornerstone in affirming the Catholic presence: “It was fundamental. If I put<br />

myself in the place of a Mongol who has converted to Christianity, knowing<br />

I am an absolute minority, knowing that our religious leader came to visit us,<br />

spoke with our political leaders, and appreciated our cultural and historical<br />

roots, it helps immensely for the Catholic Church to be seen as a beautiful,<br />

noble, and worthy reality. For our local Catholics, it’s an enormous boost. The<br />

fact that he entered a ger (traditional Mongolian tent) is highly significant. We<br />

can always talk about this, reminding them that the Pope knows we exist. It also<br />

reinforced diplomatic relations between the Holy See and Mongolia that have<br />

existed for 30 years but still need to find concrete situations of collaboration.”<br />

As for those considering the missionary path, Cardinal Giorgio’s advice was<br />

heartfelt: “Firstly, witnessing faith joyfully where we live is very important, a<br />

great contribution to the mission of the church. And we are always happy to<br />

welcome whoever wants to come with their own gifts, sacrifices, and active<br />

participation!”<br />

Cardinal Giorgio’s journey, along with the small but vibrant Catholic<br />

community in Mongolia, exemplifies a living testament to the Gospel’s farreaching<br />

embrace, even in the far-flung steppes of Mongolia, under the<br />

watchful eyes of the youngest member of the College of Cardinals.

29<br />

From the Dioceses:<br />

Aqua est vita<br />

By Ines San Martin*<br />

Ghana<br />

Father Paul Kala was born<br />

in Ghana, but in 2010, he was<br />

ordained a priest in the Diocese<br />

of Springfield, IL. He went back<br />

to his country of birth to celebrate<br />

a thanksgiving Mass with his<br />

relatives and friends, when his<br />

life, and vocation, were forever<br />

changed.<br />

An estimated 10 percent of Ghana’s 33<br />

million citizens are Catholic<br />

Ghana has the second-largest economy in<br />

West Africa<br />

Despite strides in poverty reduction, stark<br />

inequalities persist, with many living on less<br />

than $1 a day<br />

“I encountered a lady who, I estimate, was in her late 80s, sitting for a little<br />

boy who had no shoes nor clothing beyond his underwear,” Father Paul said.<br />

“With only a handful of hairs on his head, tiny arms and legs, and a distorted<br />

stomach due to malnutrition, he was trying to quelch his hunger by sucking<br />

on the clay of a termite mound. Can you imagine, being so hungry as a young<br />

boy that you have to eat termites and clay?”<br />

Seeing this, Father Pat knew his life would never be the same.<br />

“I asked God to lead my path: How could I, as a Christian, as a priest, help<br />

change the world? Was there anything I could do to help solve the world’s<br />

perennial problem of hunger, both spiritual and physical? Thus, my missionary<br />

journey began,” Father Pat said.<br />

* Interview facilitated by Donna Moore, from the Mission Office of Springfield, IL, in preparation for<br />

the #iGiveCatholic campaign. Thirteen diocesan Mission Office took part in this year’s #GivingTuesday<br />

campaign, with thousands of generous Catholics in the United States donating to #PenniesForPauline,<br />

a sure way to help the legacy of Blessed Pauline Jaricot live on. Donations to this and other campaigns,<br />

such as the World Mission Sunday Collection or this publication, empower thousands of religious women<br />

and men, as well as priests, catechists, and mission animators who work tirelessly to bring Christ’s love to<br />

corners of the world where He’s been doubted or ignored.

30<br />

Ghana has some 33 million people, an estimated 10 percent of whom are<br />

Catholics. In 2018, Ghana was among the 10 fastest-growing economies in the<br />

world and is currently the second-largest economy in West Africa. But even<br />

though the country has made tremendous progress in reducing poverty in<br />

recent decades, its success has been uneven, and significant inequalities still<br />

exist. A majority of the population in the northern region lives on less than $1 a<br />

day - with the poverty line set back in 2011 at $1.90 a day.<br />

Hence, the need for missionary priests such as Father Pat, whom, with<br />

the permission of Springfield’s Bishop Thomas John Paprocki, has been<br />

ministering in Ghana after joining the Society of St. Therese of the Little<br />

Flower, also known as the Theresian<br />

Fathers, six years ago. Their charism<br />

is the evangelization and education<br />

of the marginalized in sub-Saharan<br />

Africa.<br />

“A typical day for me begins with<br />

the celebration of the Holy Mass,”<br />

said Father Pat. “After, depending<br />

on the season, I either visit families<br />

on their farms during the rainy<br />

months of May to October or engage<br />

with those at home during the dry<br />

spell from November to April.”<br />

He painted a vivid picture of his routine at the St. Therese Youth Development<br />

and Educational Center (STYDEC) in the village of Kaluri. “We welcome<br />

around 120 children daily, providing them with meals, clean water, and<br />

education. We also offer religious classes and end the day in prayer.”<br />

STYDEC, established on October 19, 2013, through funds from St. Paul<br />

Church in Highland, Illinois, has a dual mission. “We aim to feed both the<br />

body and the soul,” he explained. “Education is a way to teach children how to<br />

‘fish’ for themselves in Ghana, breaking the cycle of poverty.”<br />

Yet, Father Pat’s mission isn’t without challenges. “Clean drinking<br />

water remains elusive for many,” he laments, contrasting his experience in<br />

Springfield, Illinois, with his current reality. “Waterborne diseases like guinea

31<br />

worm, typhoid, and cholera are rampant. Thankfully, with support, we’ve<br />

drilled 11 wells in the past three years.”<br />

The cultural landscape presents its own set of trials. “In northern Ghana, girls<br />

are often married off young, usually to older men,” says Father Pat. “What’s<br />

harrowing is when victims see this practice as ‘normal.’ But there have been<br />

rays of hope, like our first female STYDEC graduate in 2021, now an English<br />

teacher and mentor.”<br />

Father Pat serves under the Missionaries of St. Therese, with two communities<br />

in northern Ghana’s Diocese of Wa. “Our Ave Maria Formation House chapel<br />

in Wa was built for 100, but we now see over 400 attendees,” he says, noting the<br />

remarkable growth in faith.<br />

Acknowledging the vital role of supporters, Father Pat expresses gratitude:<br />

“Our work would be impossible without many friends and benefactors,<br />

including Bishop Paprocki and the Diocese of Springfield. Our current priority<br />

is to provide clean water, costing $8,000 for a borehole. Additionally, turning<br />

STYDEC into a full-fledged Catholic school is on the horizon, with an estimated<br />

renovation cost of $150,000 for a 500-student capacity.”

32<br />

Dr. Mike Gable, Mission Office Director, Archdiocese of<br />

Cincinnati, with college students in the diocese of Goaso,<br />

Ghana… after a wonderful, joyful Mass where 6 young<br />

men and women were confirmed by Bishop Peter.<br />

From the Dioceses:<br />

It All Started with<br />

Mission Friendships<br />

By Dr. Mike Gable*<br />

When my wife Kathy, I, and our four boys returned to Cincinnati after our<br />

Maryknoll lay mission assignment in South America, we were blessed to meet<br />

Fr. Paul Reling. He had recently returned from Ghana, West Africa, as a spiritual<br />

counselor at a seminary there. Fr. Paul invited me and other parishioners to<br />

meet his friends in Ghana. It was a simple invitation that would lead to more<br />

trips and friendships with Ghanaians also living in Cincinnati.<br />

Sadly, Fr. Paul died of cancer, but we were determined to keep these<br />

relationships alive and so invited local African American Catholics to join us<br />

* Mission Office Director, Archdiocese of Cincinnati

33<br />

on our trips. I believe it was through<br />

Fr. Paul’s intercession these past<br />

dozen years that we have now made<br />

five more excursions to the diocese<br />

of Goaso. In the process, many more<br />

nurturing spirit-filled friendships<br />

have blossomed.<br />

During our most recent visit<br />

this September 2023, we were<br />

overwhelmed by the Holy Spirit’s joy:<br />

we danced at a Catholic girls’ high<br />

school celebration, participated in a<br />

huge outdoor ordination Mass, took<br />

part in a village leaders’ induction<br />

ceremony of our Deacon Royce<br />

Four Ordinations of new priests for the diocese of<br />

Goaso. Nearly 4,000 parishioners on hand! The<br />

young man to be ordained is flanked by his parents<br />

in their formal Ghanaian dress.<br />

<strong>Winter</strong>s, attended Mass with some amazing seminarians, attended a JOY-<br />

FILLED Confirmation service with college students, and much more. Our<br />

hearts and souls were on fire with enthusiasm, thanks to the Spirit alive in our<br />

Ghanaian fellow Catholics.<br />

Our Cincinnati Mission Office Administrative Assistant, Melonise Knight,<br />

who has been on three previous solidarity journeys to Ghana, shares this<br />

reflection about the impact TPMS has on this mission diocese of Goaso.<br />

“My reflection is about the constant financial challenges the people of<br />

Diocese of Goaso must face. Yet they are determined to bring good out of it.<br />

While traveling with Bishop Peter Atuahene, I learned more details about their<br />

church and community projects that have been started and still need to be<br />

completed. I also became aware that they receive smaller amounts of financial<br />

help, since World Mission Sunday collections are down everywhere. Their<br />

diocese is down from receiving in the mid $30k to the lower $20k annually.<br />

As I look at this photo below, I have<br />

heartfelt memories about where and<br />

when our friendships all began about<br />

a decade ago. Bishop Peter walked us<br />

through the grass and mud/dirt to see

34<br />

the place where a seminary would be built. All you could see was a large plot<br />

of red dirt that had been dug by hand for the foundation. I was looking around<br />

because I just had to have a rock from this location for memories. And yes, I<br />

found my rock and it sits on my shelf for reminders of the once empty field.<br />

But for me to see how far this building has come, is simply amazing, even<br />

if what seems like a small contribution from our Mission Office and TPMS<br />

support.”<br />

Thank you, Fr. Paul for your past promotion of TPMS and your mission<br />

spirit that continues in us today.<br />

Our Cincinnati Deacon,<br />

Royce <strong>Winter</strong>s, being<br />

inducted into a local village<br />

leadership council in the<br />

Goaso diocese.<br />

Bishop Peter Atuhene of Goaso, Ghana<br />

diocese, with two new sisters from India,<br />

who are about to open a new clinic, which is<br />

directly behind them. Thank you TPMS!

35<br />

The Fulton Sheen<br />

Legacy Society<br />

By Father Anthony Andreassi*<br />

While it has been more than fifty years since Archbishop Fulton J. Sheen<br />

was National Director of the Society of the Propagation of the Faith in the<br />

United States, his legacy still looms large as we continue to support the work<br />

of the Church in the missions so that Christ may truly become known to all<br />

the peoples of the earth. For the sixteen years (1950-1966) that Sheen held this<br />

role, he spoke and traveled tirelessly and extensively to promote the work, but<br />

amazingly he did not limit himself only to this cause but also continued to<br />

lecture widely on a wide variety of topics, as well as to function pastorally and<br />

sacramentally at a dizzying pace.<br />

To understand the apostolic zeal and indefatigable energy that propelled<br />

him as priest, bishop, writer, and advocate for the missions, it would be helpful<br />

to understand better Fulton Sheen the man. With this as our aim, let us first<br />

explore his childhood, family, and the early influences that came to shape him.<br />

Born on May 8, 1895, to Newton (Newt) Sheen and Delia Fulton in the<br />

apartment above their hardware store in the small town of El Paso, Illinois (40<br />

miles east of Peoria), the couple’s first of four sons was baptized Peter. Sadly,<br />

the Sheen hardware store and many other nearby businesses were all burned<br />

down by an accidental fire that spread quickly. After moving for a time to a<br />

farm Newt inherited from his father, when Peter was five and a half the family<br />

settled in Peoria so that Peter could attend St. Mary’s parochial school. It was<br />

at the time of his enrollment here that he began using Fulton (his mother’s<br />

maiden name) instead of Peter as his first name.<br />

Once settled into their new home, the Sheen family continued to expand with<br />

the last of Fulton’s brothers born in 1908. Newt and Delia raised their sons in<br />

* National Secretary of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith

36<br />

a devoutly Catholic home: sacred<br />

images decorated the walls, and<br />

the family prayed the rosary<br />

daily. Always greatly devoted to<br />

the Blessed Virgin Mary, Sheen<br />

credits much of this to his mother<br />

who after his baptism placed him<br />

on a Marian altar consecrating her<br />

infant son to the Mother of God.<br />

At the age of eight, Sheen<br />

began serving Mass at St. Mary’s<br />

Cathedral where his family<br />

worshipped each Sunday. Despite<br />

his tender age, the young Fulton<br />

was often assigned to assist<br />

Bishop John Lancaster Spalding,<br />

the founding bishop of the<br />

Diocese of Peoria, who was also one of the most significant prelates in late<br />

nineteenth and early twentieth- century American Catholicism. Spalding once<br />

shared two startling predictions with the small boy: first, the bishop said he<br />

would one day study at Louvain in Belgium as he himself did; and second,<br />

Sheen would also one day become a bishop. We now know he was right on<br />

both accounts.<br />

In 1909, after being confirmed as John at St. Mary’s, Fulton Sheen progressed<br />

to Spalding Institute, a high school run by the Brothers of Mary and named<br />

after the bishop’s brother. Known for his neat attire and academic prowess,<br />

Fulton stayed with an uncle during school terms after his family moved to a<br />

farm outside Peoria. There, the Sheens endured basic living without electricity<br />

or plumbing. Although Fulton was a compliant son, he later confessed his<br />

aversion to farm life, humorously noting that his seminary pursuit was partly<br />

to avoid such a future. Like Fulton, his brothers also eschewed farming, much<br />

to their father’s disappointment.<br />

Fulton Sheen graduated as valedictorian from a class of seven in 1913, with<br />

his commencement speech still remembered by a classmate four decades later.<br />

He pursued higher education at St. Viator’s College in Bourbonnais, Illinois,

a Viatorian Fathers-founded institution since 1868 that catered to boys from<br />

age 12 and included high school to seminary levels. Initially critiqued for poor<br />

public speaking, Sheen honed his oratory and debate skills with rigorous<br />

practice and priestly guidance, becoming a masterful speaker by his 1917<br />

graduation. He also engaged in drama and writing, contributing articles to the<br />

campus magazine. These activities laid the groundwork for his eventual rise<br />

to national prominence. Throughout college, he spent summers working on<br />

the family farm, but his path led elsewhere. In September 1917, at twenty-two,<br />

Sheen began his seminary studies for the Diocese of Peoria at St. Paul Seminary<br />

in Minnesota.<br />

In the next part of this series, we will look at Sheen’s seminary training, ordination,<br />

and graduate studies in Europe.<br />


38<br />

Like many of our donors today, Venerable Fulton Sheen’s<br />

commitment to the missions sprung from a sincere passion for helping<br />

the world’s poor.<br />

As National Director of the Pontifical Mission Societies from 1950<br />

to 1966, he raised more money for the poor than any other American<br />

Catholic. This effort includes the donation of more than $10 million of<br />

his personal earnings.<br />

Today, the Venerable Fulton Sheen Legacy Society is comprised of<br />

individuals who, like Fulton Sheen, share a passion for the missions,<br />

a love for our Catholic faith, and a commitment to ensuring that<br />

missionaries around the world are supported in their efforts to<br />

proclaim the Gospel and provide food, education, and medical care to<br />

vulnerable communities.<br />

By supporting The Pontifical Mission Societies through your estate,<br />

as a beneficiary of your retirement fund, or through a life income gift,<br />

you become a valued honoree of his Legacy Society.<br />

In today’s world, gifts like Fulton Sheen’s are indeed rare. But you,<br />

too, can create a legacy of faith and hope by joining this special family<br />

of supporters. Simply notify The Pontifical Mission Societies that you<br />

have included us in your estate planning.<br />

If you have already made a provision for The Pontifical Mission<br />

Societies or the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in your estate<br />

plan, we thank you! Please contact us and share your commitment so<br />

we may welcome you as a member and express our gratitude for your<br />


39<br />

Editor’s Note:<br />

Being beacons of hope<br />

Dear Reader,<br />

As we close the pages of this winter edition of <strong>MISSION</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong>, I want to<br />

begin by expressing our deepest gratitude for your generosity. Your steadfast<br />

support for the Pope’s Missions, and for this humble publication that shares<br />

the stories of modern-day heroes, extends a tangible embrace to the women<br />

and men dedicated to spreading the Gospel where Christ is yet to be known,<br />

has been forgotten, is shunned, or is actively persecuted.<br />

In planning this issue, we deliberated over which stories to tell. The news<br />

often leaves our hearts torn, or, worse, desensitized to the suffering that<br />

surrounds us: war, violence, famine, devastating hurricanes, and earthquakes<br />

around the globe.<br />

Pope Francis poignantly notes, “How many tears are shed every second in<br />

our world; each is different, but together they form, as it were, an ocean of<br />

desolation that cries out for mercy, compassion, and consolation.”<br />

So, as we reach your homes and parishes with the advent of the New Year,<br />

we choose not to dwell on the tragedies. Instead, we wanted to share stories<br />

brimming with mercy, compassion and consolation, exemplifying the Church’s<br />

impact with the support of those like you—who pray daily for the Missions and<br />

give generously. These accounts are mere glimpses of the good that missionary<br />

women and men accomplish worldwide, often at great personal risk, to help<br />

others encounter Christ.<br />

They are the ones rebuilding communities deafened by bombs.<br />

They are the ones nurturing children in orphanages, even when funds for<br />

necessities like milk run dry.<br />

They are the ones who, after being held hostage in a church by terrorists, find<br />

their vocation to the priesthood reaffirmed.<br />

They are the ones restoring monasteries, holding fast to the certainty that<br />

God’s presence in the tabernacle is a living reality, not merely a tradition.

40<br />

And you, dear reader, are the one who makes the miracle of the multiplication<br />

of the fishes and loaves possible anew.<br />

Ines San Martin<br />

PS: If you would like to subscribe your parish to <strong>MISSION</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong>, we<br />

ask for a small contribution of $2 per copy per issue. This means that, for 50<br />

copies of the four yearly issues, the suggested contribution from your parish<br />

would be $400. For more information or to subscribe, please reach out to<br />

contact@missio.org.<br />

PPS: I had the opportunity to hand the World Mission Sunday issue of<br />

<strong>MISSION</strong> <strong>Magazine</strong> to Pope Francis during October’s Assembly of the Synod<br />

of Bishops. He told me to “keep up the good work,” but using the plural<br />

subject in Spanish. I took it to mean he was speaking not to me, but to the entire<br />

Mission network, including YOU!

41<br />

In support of those spreading the Gospel…<br />

The money needed to support those serving in the Pope’s missions comes<br />

from loving Catholics like you.<br />

Won’t you send whatever contribution you can in the enclosed envelope<br />

today so that the priests, religious and lay pastoral leaders in the<br />

missions may not only survive, but thrive, in their ministry?<br />

Dear Monsignor Kieran,<br />

Enclosed is my gift of:<br />

Thank you for supporting our missionaries.<br />

Please be assured of my prayers for you and your family.<br />

Monsignor Kieran<br />

$250 $100 $75 $50 $25 Other $_____<br />

$700 (one year’s help, mission seminarian)<br />

$300 (one year’s help, Religious novice)<br />

$5,000 $2,500 $1,000 $500 Other $____<br />

I want to be a monthly donor to the Missions!<br />

I would like information on a Gift Annuity.<br />

Please contact me about remembering The Society for the Propagation<br />

of the Faith in my Will.<br />

Name<br />

email<br />

Address<br />

City State Zip<br />

Send your gift, in your <strong>MISSION</strong> envelope, to:<br />

Monsignor Kieran Harrington<br />

Society for the Propagation of the Faith<br />

70 West 36th Street, 8th Floor, New York, NY 10018<br />

Your diocese will be credited with your gift;<br />

your gift is tax deductible.

Listen now!

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