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Sunday, 22 May 2011 10:06

Summer program matches missionaries with parishes

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From May through August, members of the Springfield diocese can expect a visit from a missionary at Masses one weekend. “In accord with a plan established by Bishop William A. O’Connor in 1959, missionaries have been assigned to speak at all parishes in the diocese this summer,” says Vicki Compton, director of the Office for Missions.

Compton, who coordinates the Missionary Plan of Cooperation in her role as local director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, says the Office for the Missions receives about 200 requests annually from dioceses and communities who desire to participate in the program. “We were able to place 48 missionaries this year,” she says.

Compton begins working on the visiting schedules months in advance. She makes sure that missionaries are not at a parish on a weekend that already has a second collection scheduled. “This is a one-time contact between a particular missionary and a parish,” Compton says. “They (the parishes) get a different person from a different country every year.

“I also try to choose missionaries who are geographically close so as to minimize transportation costs and maximize the money that they earn,” she says. “If they happen to have a representative who lives in this country, then that cuts down on their costs.” Generally a missionary priest will stay at the parish rectory but religious sisters or lay people stay somewhere else.

“I always try to invite mission-sending sisters or orders that have members working in our diocese,” Compton says. “I make the assignment and they have to make contact with the parish — and the parish is in charge of making an announcement and putting it in the bulletin.”

Compton suggests that parishes who are welcoming a missionary have a small hospitality team in place to greet and entertain the visitor. “These missionaries are coming from very poor places, so they don’t expect much. However, our missionaries are so grateful for a special reception and I am, too.”

Parishioners should also do their best to greet the missionaries and make sure they feel welcomed. “Of course, sometimes our visitors speak with an accent that makes them difficult to understand,” Compton says. “When that happens, try to listen with your heart instead of your ears and you will clearly hear their love of God and their love for their people.

“Visiting missionaries share stories of the joys and struggles of promoting the faith in mission lands where they serve,” Compton says. “The faithful of our diocese are asked to offer prayers and financial support to assist themissionaries in their work. My goal is to get us out of those parish and diocesan boundaries to see the larger church.”

Last year, over $200,000 was collected in the Missionary Plan of Cooperation. “The people of our diocese are extremely generous to the visiting missionaries,” Compton says. “I am so grateful when these visitors share stories of the warm hospitality they have received in our parishes.”

Some mission territories that will be aided this year are Tanzania, Peru, Vietnam, India, Mexico, Kenya, the Philippines, Ghana, Uganda, Colombia, Belize, Nigeria, Nepal, Japan, Bolivia, Rwanda and in the United States, Appalachia, and Native American Pueblo Reservations.