Faces of mission – Dan McNeil

| October 6, 2010 | 0 Comments

Dan McNeil served as a missionary from fall 1992 until fall 1995 in Novosibirsk, Siberia, Russia, with Franciscan Mission Service, out of Washington D.C. While growing up, he attended St. Thomas the Apostle in Corcoran.  He and his family now attend St. John the Baptist in New Brighton. He works part time for both Peace Maker Foundation, an organization that develops community support for school-based violence prevention programs, and as a fundraiser for Guild Incorporated, an organization founded by The Guild of Catholic Women that helps people with mental illness.

How did you become interested in missionary work?

Dan McNeil

After graduating from college with a Russian language minor, I was turned down for jobs with several Minnesota companies that were starting to do business in Russia. I tried catching on with Catholic Relief Services, but in their rejection letter they suggested I look into a directory of missionary groups to gain overseas experience. The Franciscan Mission Service was the only group in the directory saying that it would send people anywhere in the world where there were Franciscans. At nearly the same time that I contacted the Franciscan Mission Service, they were being visited by the minister general of the order of friar minor. The minister general said that he had been asked by the bishop in Novosibirsk to send friars to run Caritas — their version of Catholic Charities. So, there was a position waiting for me, as if it was meant to be.

How was your service connected to your faith? What did it teach you about faith?

I lived with the Franciscan priests in Novosibirsk. These friars were people of deep faith and strong examples of selfless service. I moved to Russia a year and a half after the Soviet Union collapsed. . . . Just being there was a statement of faith, that the light of Christ burns on.

Talk about one memorable story from your life as a missionary.

When I first arrived in Moscow, one of the workers at Caritas said I needed to buy a warmer coat. I was surprised, because I had just bought the coat before leaving Minnesota, thinking it would be warm enough. But, seeing I might have been a little taken aback, he tried to assure me and said, “Don’t worry. No one has ever starved in Siberia.” I thought, “If this is the best he can say about where I’m going, I might be in trouble.”

What was the most important lesson you learned from your experience?

I worked with sisters and priests who took great risks to keep the faith alive. By their example, they taught me that my faith is worth making sacrifices for. Mostly, I saw that God is with us in the hardships we take on to live in his Spirit. Even though I gave up a lot of things, I have never felt closer to God’s presence.

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Category: World Mission Sunday