Missionary Childhood Association
The Missionary Childhood Association (MCA) serves those who are providing a Catholic education children in the Church, primarily by helping these educators foster a missionary spirit among young members of the Church. Today, MCA serves 110 countries, helping to make Jesus known to children all over the world. Under its banner “children helping children,” funds raised through schools are directed towards self-help programs involving the building of schools; the provision of health and nutrition programs and medications; school tuition and fees; and teaching and learning resources.
Mission in Action
St. Joseph’s School in Beltsville, MD
The theme of St. Joseph’s 2019 Vacation Bible School was “Cathletics: Training to be Champions for Christ.” This Olympic/sports-themed program inspired children to set goals and to aim for commitment in their Catholic faith. About 50 children attended the event. Sr. Annai, Missionary Childhood Coordinator, was invited to speak with the children about her vocation and how one can be a “Champion for Christ.”
World Mission Day
Our Holy Father Pope Francis has declared the month of October Extraordinary Missionary Month. He has asked that the whole Church revive her missionary awareness and commitment. In response to the Holy Father’s request, the Office of Missions organized its first Archdiocesan event, called Mission Day, held on October 1 at the John Paul II Shrine in Washington, DC. Seventh and eighth grade students from schools across the Archdiocese participated. The event included workshops, missionary speakers and ended with Mass celebrated by Cardinal Wilton Gregory. During the Mass, children were consecrated to Our Blessed Mother. The students also presented the archbishop with a spiritual bouquet of prayers that the schools in the archdiocese offered for his intentions. Our hope is that the students will be Missionary Ambassadors returning to their schools and inspire their peers to be missionary from what they have learned.
Fr. Luis Montes, missionary to Iraq
Luis Montes, IVE, was born in a little town in the province of Buenos Aires, Argentina, the sixth of seven brothers. Three are priests in the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE).
“My brother Jose is a priest in Ukraine. My brother Enrique is in Egypt. I am in Iraq.”
Within months after his 1996 ordination as a priest in the IVE’s contemplative branch, Fr. Luis was sent to a town outside of Bethlehem to help found a monastery there.
“It is thought that this was the place where King Solomon wrote the Song of Songs,” he says. “It was a beautiful valley full of water, full of beautiful trees,” – a providential place to fall in love with the people of the Middle East.
Through the years, Father Luis has also served in Jordan and Egypt, but the people of Iraq hold a special place in his heart. After the 2003 invasion and war in Iraq, the number of Iraqi Christians went from 1.5 million to about 200,000.
“The country was suffering more or less 20 terrorist attacks every day in Baghdad,” he says. “We’re speaking about thousands of martyrs, hundreds of thousands of refugees. It was not uncommon that terrorists would enter into Christian houses during the night and kill everyone in the family, from the elders to the babies.”
While many Christians died or fled, those who remain in Baghdad today continue to risk everything for Christ.
“In our parish, we don’t have the freedom to do whatever we want so we do everything inside, no processions outside and not a lot of things. The parishioners have to be very careful. Also, the main day for activities is Friday, not Sunday. Because Sunday is a day of work.”
Yet even in the midst of their own struggles, Fr. Luis and his parishioners are helping 70 Syrian Catholic and Orthodox families who have come to Baghdad seeking refuge after losing everything in ISIS attacks up north.
“This makes a special relationship between these families and our church. We are visiting them in the refugee camp. We are consoling them, listening to their problems, trying to find help for them.”
Father says this experience in Baghdad is a great one. “I see more joy in these refugee camps sometimes than in the cities of the West,” he says. “We see the devil’s work trying to destroy the Church, but at the same time, we see how God gives strength to the weakest. These Christians, they are giving us a great lesson about how it’s worth it to serve Jesus Christ. How it is worth it to die because of him, how life is short. And we have to use the little time we have to be saints.”