As SVDs we are fully committed to God’s Mission to the world, but we do this in many different forms. Since June I’ve been the new director of the San Diego Office for the Missions. My job is to promote support for the missions within the diocese, but I see this work as perfectly aligned with our own SVD missionary charism. My mission has three faces—World Mission Sunday, which is celebrated on the last Sunday of October, the Missionary Cooperation Plan (MCP), and the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA). These threefold ministries are unified in the Society for the Propagation of the Faith. The Missions Office works as a liaison for these and other missionary activities of the Diocese.
I grew up in India on the receiving end of Mission, but now I am at the sending end. I’ve seen both sides, but whether receiving or sending—it is all God’s Mission. It is all about relationships—with God and one another. This is activated by our Baptismal call and it reminds us that we are all one big family of God’s children. More than any celebration in the Church, this is brought out most perfectly in World Mission Sunday. Whether it is through our prayers, spiritual sacrifices or monetary offerings, this feast alerts us to the fact that we are all called to reach out to those in need, even as Jesus did. We organize the funds collected on Mission Sunday in conjunction with the Society for the Propagation of the Faith in New York, and they are sent to the Pontifical Mission Society in Rome for the mission activities of the Church throughout the world. This year, because of Covid and church closures, we mailed out brochures and envelopes to all the Catholics of the diocese, and this has made all the difference. Now the results are coming in, and in spite of all the difficulties, we are astonished at the generous and loving response.
Another major pursuit that is helping to build mission awareness and support is the Missionary Cooperation Plan (MCP). We invite representatives of missionary dioceses (in USA and abroad), religious congregations, and lay organizations to visit diocesan parishes during the summer months. They share their mission work and needs so that the people in the pews get a firsthand look at the mission life of the church and have a chance to participate spiritually and financially. Due to the pandemic, even though this year’s presenters had already been invited, the MCP could not take place. But with the coming vaccine we hope that the path will be open for the appeal next summer.
Our other major activity is the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA). It is one of four Pontifical Mission Society activities in over 100 countries. The idea is to animate a missionary spirit among the youth and build an awareness of God’s loving care. The MCA joins our children here with kids in Africa, Asia, the Pacific and the most remote regions of Latin America. MCA programs and presentations help our young missionaries to understand the universal nature of the Catholic Church and to recognize that through baptism we are God’s missionaries in every prayer and sacrifice that we make for others. Because our normal activities like visiting schools and meeting with parish youth groups have been blocked by the pandemic, this year we have tried to work through teachers to do virtual meetings and presentations using Zoom and other social media.
The Mission Office also works as a liaison for other mission activities of the Diocese like Catholic Charities. Our team includes Srs Eva and Doreen , Ms Joy and myself. We try to bring the missionary work of the Church and its needs to the fore by every means possible including appeals for special donations, Mass intentions, education and immersion programs, and articles in the diocesan newspaper. We also offer online Masses, novenas and other spiritual activities. These are for much more than simply comfort or solace. We strive to bring the spirit of our founder, Arnold, to bear on all our activities. God’s Mission is more complex than appeals for help. It involves organization and involvement to be sure. But it is also preaching, prayer and hearing the voice of the Holy Spirit. It is being united with Jesus and acting compassionately in all we do or say! It is our life’s bread!
This year has been very hard for the Missions Office, even as it has been for every other church organization, parish or diocese. But despite the setbacks, our commitment to creating an awareness of and promoting the support of God’s mission remains strong. Pray for us.
-Fr Soney Sebastian SVD, Director – Office for the Missions | The Diocese of San Diego