World Mission Sunday is a global celebration within the Catholic Church, observed annually on the second to last Sunday of October. This great day is dedicated to the support of the missionary work of the Church through prayer and sacrifice. Established by Pope Pius XI in 1926, World Mission Sunday is an opportunity for every Church community worldwide to express solidarity with our brothers and sisters in the missions. The collection from that day supports over 1,100 mission territories in Asia, Africa, the Pacific Islands, and parts of Latin America and Europe.
This year's theme, set by Pope Francis, is: "Hearts on Fire, Feet on the Move." He chose it from the story of the disciples on the way to Emmaus who encounter, but do not recognize, Christ. In Jesus' explanation of Scripture and breaking of the bread, their eyes and hearts are opened, and they hurry to Jerusalem, proclaiming that the Lord is truly risen.
In his message for World Mission Sunday, the Holy Father tells us that, "In the Gospel account, we perceive this change in the disciples through a few revealing images: 'their hearts burned within them as they heard the Scriptures explained by Jesus, their eyes were opened' as they recognized him and, ultimately, 'their feet set out' on the way. By meditating on these three images, which reflect the journey of all missionary disciples, we can renew our zeal for evangelization in today's world."
Pope Francis goes on to remind us that, "The urgency of the Church's missionary activity naturally calls for an ever-closer missionary cooperation on the part of all her members and at every level."
So how can we each take part?
First, and most importantly, pray. Pray for the success of the Church's missionary efforts, for missionary priests, religious brothers and sisters, and lay people. Pray for the people whose faith is being enriched by the ministries of missionaries.
Secondly, give to The Society for the Propagation of the Faith -- as generously as you can. Your financial support helps fund missionaries worldwide. Your gift trains future priests, siters, and brothers; empowers catechist who teach faith; funds clinics for the sick and dying; provides homes for orphaned children; and works miracles for countless people in need.
As Christians, we're called to enkindle the fire of Christ's love in our hearts, letting it inspire us to serve others in our daily lives. It's our mission to move, serve, and spread the Good News, bringing God's love and peace to all His children.
Pope Francis encourages us to not only feel the faith but to act on it -- on World Mission Sunday, and every day!
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.
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