Missionaries’ generous ‘yes’ to God

| Archbishop Bernard Hebda | July 30, 2020 | 0 Comments

In the nineteenth chapter of St. Matthew’s Gospel, Jesus reminds us that those who have “given up houses or brothers or sisters or father or mother or children or lands for the sake of my name will receive a hundred times more, and will inherit eternal life.” Recently I had the privilege of gathering for Mass with the Franciscan Clarist Sisters and a small representation of their collaborators and supporters to give thanks to God for their 50 years of ministry in this archdiocese. (See the story)

Fifty years ago, Sister Tresa Margret and Sister Jancy left their homes, families and community in Kerala, India, to give witness to the Gospel to the children, families and faculty at St. Therese School in Deephaven. Their sacrifice was great — but a half-century later we can see that the Lord has indeed brought great blessings from their “yes” to his call. The sisters have since been joined by 13 other Franciscan Clarists who similarly offer a joyful witness in a variety of apostolic works in the archdiocese. They have found the Lord present in the midst of the challenges of our day, whether providing hospice care at Our Lady of Peace in St. Paul, or teaching grade school children, or providing pastoral care in the midst of a dynamic suburban parish.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

Archbishop Bernard Hebda

I am blessed to see that same kind of generosity and mission spirit each day whenever I am with the Hermanas Guadalupanas de La Salle, who originally came from Mexico to assist the Christian Brothers in the Twin Cities and who have taken care of the archbishops here for decades. As I listen each day at Mass to the intentions that they offer for loved ones back in Mexico, I am increasingly aware of the magnitude of the sacrifice that they so generously make to serve the Gospel in this local Church.

I realize that the same could be said about the Missionary Sisters of St. Peter Claver, or the Missionaries of Charity, or the Peruvian priests and sisters of Pro Ecclesia Sancta, or the Italian members of the Priestly Fraternity of the Missionaries of St. Charles Borromeo serving at St. Peter in North St. Paul, or the Immaculate Heart of Mary Sisters from Nigeria, or the Dominican Sisters from the Philippines serving at St. John the Baptist in New Brighton, or the priests from the Indian province of the Congregation of the Sons of the Immaculate Conception, or the many international priests who have incardinated here in this archdiocese and international sisters who have brought their gifts to local religious communities. We are truly blessed by their generous witness.

While the sacrifices of missionaries have always been great, the global pandemic seems to have introduced a new level of challenge as international travel has become virtually impossible. That reality was made particularly concrete at this year’s priesthood ordination, when the families of Father Yamato and Father Cesar were unable to be present for the celebration. I was thrilled that so many local Catholics stepped up to support those new priests at the time of their ordination.

The sacrifices made by the families of missionaries are inspirational as well and surely bring spiritual fruit into our challenging world. I don’t doubt for a moment that the separation is often as difficult for families as it is for the missionaries themselves. That was made very real to me recently as we gathered with the Schaffer family for the funeral of their father, Pat. I had always enjoyed running into Mr. and Mrs. Schaffer and asking about their son, Father Greg Schaffer, who has been serving in our archdiocesan mission in Venezuela for the past 23 years. It was obvious that they were a couple with deep faith who were proud of Father Greg and all of their children.

Due to both the pandemic and the challenges of the political situation in Venezuela, Father Greg has been unable to travel home to the United States for quite some time. I know that his family would have been greatly consoled by his physical presence at the funeral of his father, but the circumstances made that impossible. His written words of reflection brought the extraordinary balm of Christ’s love to a difficult family moment, but I can only imagine how hard the separation must have been for Father Greg and his family. Based on Jesus’ promise in Matthew 19, I am confident that the Lord will bring fruit from that sacrifice.

While not all of us are called to be overseas missionaries, or even to be members of missionary families, we are all charged with the Christian responsibility of responding to the Lord’s call to serve “for the sake of his name,” whatever that might entail. In the midst of this pandemic, let us offer up our small sacrifices so that the Lord might renew our sense of vocation and give us the strength we need to bear joyfully whatever challenges he might be asking of us. Please join me in praying as well for the many missionaries who serve so generously in our archdiocese, for the women and men from our archdiocese who have embraced the Lord’s call to spread the Gospel to the ends of the earth, and for the families that support them with their prayers and sacrifices.

El “sí” genuroso de los misioneros a Dios

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Category: Only Jesus