by Father Mark Goldasich
“In your compassion, O merciful Father, gather to yourself all your children scattered throughout the world.”
You’ve probably heard those words many times over the years. They come from Eucharistic Prayer 3 in the Mass. Until September 1977, they were mostly that — words.
The autumn of 1977, however, gave me one of the greatest blessings of my life: the opportunity to study theology in Rome for four years. Although I lived with fellow Americans at the North American College there, classes were held at the Jesuit-run Gregorian University, only a block or so away from the famous Trevi Fountain.
Because my Gregorian classmates hailed from all over the world, our courses were taught in a “common” language: Italian! (That was an adjustment for English speakers as we somewhat arrogantly expected the whole world to accommodate us in the language that was comfortable for us.)
During breaks between classes, the hallways were abuzz with conversations in a vast array of tongues. It was my first practical lesson that this Catholic Church is a whole lot bigger than I imagined.
My mind continued to be stretched as I traveled throughout Europe my first summer and attended Mass in Germany, Austria, France, Denmark, Norway and Sweden. While the languages were unfamiliar, the ritual of the Mass was not.
By my third summer in Rome, I’d just been ordained a deacon and was headed to serve for three months in the Diocese of Nyeri in Kenya. Seeing the vibrancy of the church in East Africa amazed me. The Mass took as long as it took — no worries about clearing out the parking lot before the next Mass — and was filled with dancing, full-throated and lovely singing, and enthusiastic responses. And the welcome and generosity of the people were like nothing I’d ever witnessed before.
All these memories flood my mind as we celebrate World Mission Sunday this coming weekend. Pope Francis has set this year’s theme as: “Hearts on fire, feet on the move,” referencing the Gospel story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus (Lk 24: 13-35). Like those early disciples, we’re called not just to know Jesus, but to share our faith experience with others.
World Mission Sunday gives us an easy opportunity to be missionary disciples, simply by contributing financially to support the church’s work in some of the remotest and poorest areas of our world. Our contributions assist some 844,000 catechists sharing the faith; 258,540 Sisters working with families and children; 38,140 seminarians; education for 26 million kids; medical assistance in 12,000 clinics; and comfort in 8,750 homes for orphans and the elderly.
World Mission Sunday challenges us, particularly in this country, to confront our narrow-mindedness and prejudice. This little story gives us a great example to follow:
A first grader left for her first day at a newly integrated school. Her anxious mother met her at the door afterwards and asked, “How did everything go, honey?”
“Oh, Mother! You know what? A little Black girl sat next to me!” said the girl.
“And what happened?” asked the mom worriedly.
“We were both so scared that we held hands all day!” she said. (Found in “Illustrations Unlimited,” edited by James S. Hewett.)
Our Catholic faith is something that transcends all the boundaries of nationality and race. This was celebrated beautifully a few weeks ago at a Mass with Archbishop Naumann at Prince of Peace in Olathe where migrants and refugees from Burma, Korea, Kenya, Brazil and elsewhere gave us a glimpse of the world right here in the archdiocese.
May we never tire of making these words of Jesus a reality: “That all of them may be one.”