by Joe Bollig
For many struggling priests, religious and bishops in mission areas, the support they get from the Pontifical Mission Society is literally God-sent. Without it, they simply couldn’t carry on their ministries.
For nearly four decades, the annual collection for the mission society was publicized and administered by Father Norbert Lickteig, who died on Jan. 7.
Now, Father Ric Halvorson, pastor of Holy Trinity Parish in Paola, is tasked with filling some pretty big shoes as the new director of the archdiocesan branch of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. Since being appointed to the post by Archbishop Joseph F. Naumann last spring, he has worked hard to build on the archdiocese’s history of strong support for the missions.
The Leaven: You follow in the foot- steps of Father Norbert Lickteig, who worked tirelessly to promote support for the missions. What is it like to be his successor?
Father Halvorson: Father Norbert held that position for 37 years. He had a real love for the missions, and that was evident going through his papers in his desk. I found a sheet of paper that listed all the [archdiocesan] directors of the Pontifical Mission Society back to 1904. Father Lickteig was only the fourth director. He had himself marked down for 40 years — he saw himself in office for two more years, but the Lord had other plans.
The Leaven: What is the Pontifical Mission Society?
Father Halvorson: The Pontifical Mission Society is an umbrella organization under which there are four different societies. They are: the Propagation of the Faith; the Holy Childhood Association; the Society of St. Peter the Apostle; and the mission co-op, which most people are probably familiar with. The latter is for the visiting missionaries in the summer months to [inform] people about the missions and to raise money for the missions.
World Mission Sunday [Oct. 24] falls under the Propagation of the Faith. It is a collection taken up every October. The mission co-op raises money for individual missions, but the collection for the Propagation of the Faith . . . goes to mission dioceses throughout the world.
I get a plethora of mail [from the missions]. The stories from these mission dioceses — what they’re doing and who they reach, and the level of poverty and need — is very eye-opening. It makes me feel blessed with what I’ve got and that I ought to appreciate it and be a better steward. [The letters] help me to think of some of the excess in my life I can do without.
The Leaven: Is it difficult to raise awareness of and support for the missions?
Father Halvorson: I went to the annual Pontifical Mission Society meeting last April in Chicago. One of the things we talked about is that my generation is the last with a real idea or concept of the mission church. We have a couple of generations that don’t know what the missions are or do. One of our tasks is to raise awareness of the missions, the importance of the missions, and the importance of knowing what it means to be part of the larger church. . . . We’re a global church. When the archbishop asked me to become director, one of the things he wanted me to do is raise awareness of the missions.
The Leaven: Did you have an opportunity to visit the missions?
Father Halvorson: While attending Mundelein Seminary [near Chicago],
I had an opportunity to go to India in 2001 with Catholic Relief Services. I took part in the program called Global Fellows. CRS takes seminarians to developing countries where they’re working so [the seminarians] can see what they’re doing, and — God willing — as a priest be able to witness to the work of CRS. …I went to an orphanage in Calcutta, a home for the destitute and dying, and in New Delhi we went to a leper colony founded by Mother Teresa, but now run by the Christian Brothers. [My group] visited several other leper colonies, orphanages and schools.
The Leaven: What are yours hopes for the annual collection?
Father Halvorson: The people of the archdiocese have been very generous [in the past]. It’s very much a part of the tradition of our church to reach out to all who are poor, be they in our backyard or throughout the world. We are to be to them the presence of Christ.