It's no secret that the pandemic has wreaked havoc with everyone's plans over the last few years. Included on that long list, for those of us in The Pontifical Mission Societies (TPMS) ministry, is our annual National Conference.
From Boston to Birmingham, San Francisco to St. Louis, Philadelphia to Fresno, and points in between, TPMS family members gathered in San Diego from June 15-17. Our One Family in Mission came together to learn best practices, share mission materials, and renew our mutual love for the missions -- and each other! Zoom has been great, but nothing compares to meeting with these wonderful people face to face.
Our first "Witness Talk" came from Father Pontian Kaweesa, National TPMS Director of Uganda. Named for one of the Ugandan Martyrs, Father spoke of the great impact that the martyrdom of the twenty-two young men made on the faith of Ugandans. He explained that after the martyrs were put to death for not renouncing their faith in Jesus Christ, all missionaries were expelled from the country. When allowed to reenter years later, missionaries found that what the early Christian teacher Tertullian said -- the blood of the martyrs is the seed of the Church -- had proven true. The returned missionaries found more Christians than when they had left! The faith had been passed on, in secret, by the laity.
Father Pontian spoke movingly about being a product of TPMS. His father, a catechist who was responsible for faith formation in his village, received his spiritual formation through a program funded by The Society for the Propagation of the Faith. When he was a child, Father Pontian was a member of the Missionary Childhood Association (MCA). Now, as then, Ugandan children are on the receiving end of help from other MCA members and are givers, too. They sacrifice from what little they have because they know that all children deserve to know how much God loves them!
When called to the priesthood, Father Pontian told us that without the yearly scholarship from The Society for Saint Peter Apostle, he and his diocese would not have been able to afford his years in the seminary.
Father reminded us that at baptism, we all put on our "Christian shoes" and are called to walk with God throughout our lives. He also reminded us that we are tasked with helping to fit others with their "shoes" as well. Father pointed out that TPMS helps Catholics make that offering to people all over the world.
Our family reunions are never short on inspiration. Father Pontian's was just the first morning!
Walk with us, in your "Christian shoes," as the insights continue.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.