The Acts of the Apostles details an assembly in the first century called the "meeting of the apostles and elders." That apostolic council led by St. Peter warmly welcomed gentile converts touched by the Holy Spirit and counseled that no distinction be made "between us and them." (Acts 15: 6-12)
That same missionary spirit burned especially brightly under Boston's Archbishop Richard Cushing who welcomed many missionary communities to the archdiocese. However, when Pope Paul VI issued the Ad Gentes decree urging bishops to lend themselves to missionary activity beyond their diocesan borders, Archbishop Cushing eagerly responded by establishing the unique St. James Missionary Society in 1958.
Comprised of diocesan priests who volunteered five years of their priestly lives to missionary work in Peru, Bolivia, and Ecuador where there was a severe shortage of priests, Boston's diocesan missionaries established parish communities and built churches, hospitals, schools, and social agencies in cooperation with local bishops. Then once a mission parish was stabilized, they moved on to still another area.
The missionary endeavors of the St. James Society were closely shepherded by Cardinal Cushing. He even called the Marist Missionary Sisters and Boston's Sisters of St. Joseph to staff a school and set up a food kitchen for poor families living in Lima's worst slum area over heaps of rubbish. San Ricardo Parish was deliberately built in that same slum to show the poor that the Church was with them.
Cardinal Cushing's work lives on today. The now independent St. James Society continues its work. Moreover, some 300 diocesan priests now have missionary experiences which they still use. This cadre of St. James "alumni" priests, fluent in Spanish and familiar with Latino culture, labor on even now to facilitate the assimilation process for our growing Catholic Hispanic community in Boston and throughout the United States.
Frank Mazzaglia is associated with the Missionary Alliance, which is comprised of religious missionary congregations of priests, sisters, brothers, and lay people in the Archdiocese of Boston whose members toil in the vineyards for Christ all over the world.