Q: Archbishop J, what is Mission Month?
Mission Month celebrates the missionary thrust of the Church and reminds us that we are all missionaries. This year the celebration is very special for three reasons.
First, we celebrate 200 years of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith by a young French woman, Pauline Jaricot. Second, earlier this year, on May 22, Pauline was beatified in Lyons, France. Third, this year marks 400 years since the founding of the Congregation de Propaganda Fide, now the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples. We in the Caribbean come under the regulation of this Congregation.
This year also commemorates 100 years since the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, the Society of the Holy Childhood and the Society of Saint Peter the Apostle were granted the title ‘Pontifical’. All this is reason for great joy. These societies and congregations serve the Caribbean, giving constant support and guidance to the mission of the Church.
It is important that we reflect on the impact that a lay woman in France, 200 years ago, has had on the Church in the Caribbean today. By following God’s promptings, she did extraordinary things that gave the Church a missionary impulse.
She helped lay people recognise they are integral to the missionary thrust of the Church. The whole Church is missionary. This is what we celebrate.
You shall be my witnesses
In his address for Mission Month, on the theme: You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1:8), Pope Francis reminds all Christians of their call to be missionary. He says: “This is the central point, the heart of Jesus’ teaching to the disciples, in view of their being sent forth into the world. The disciples are to be witnesses of Jesus, thanks to the grace of the Holy Spirit that they will receive. Wherever they go and in whatever place they find themselves” (Message of His Holiness Pope Francis for World Mission Day 2022, 1).
“You shall be my witnesses”. The Holy Father points out that the sentence emphasises: “the communitarian and ecclesial nature of the disciples’ missionary vocation. Each baptised person is called to mission, in the Church, and by the mandate of the Church: consequently, mission is carried out together, not individually, in communion with the ecclesial community, and not on one’s own initiative” (1).
This month is an annual reminder that mission is at the heart and soul of the disciple and as such of the Church. We are a missionary people, called to mission by virtue of our baptism when we were anointed with holy chrism, signifying our incorporation into Christ, who is prophet, priest, and king.
Pontifical Mission Society
in Trinidad and Tobago
The Pontifical Mission Society (PMS) in T&T has been under the care of Sister Deborah de Rosia since the 1990s. The Society has been active in schools, hospitals, and the Church in general.
Schools: Since 2003, the PMS has operated in Government primary and secondary schools under the title, Catholic Children on Fire for Christ, with a staff of over 400 persons and coordinators in each vicariate. During Covid, the activities have been online. More recently face-to-face encounters have resumed.
In our Catholic schools, the Pontifical Society of the Holy Childhood operate at both the primary and secondary level. The Society is in 26 schools and involves about 500 children. These come together to pray for children by continent, especially if there are specific challenges in a continent.
They also collect money for children in challenging situations. They have collected over US $3000 for children in Guyana to buy shoes and other necessities for small children to enter school. The group’s activity is focused on prayer and sacrifice. Some schools collect money, in support of the annual collection for the universal Church and its mission to children.
Another highlight of the month of October is the gathering of Catholic children in the vicariates of the Archdiocese. We moved from the North to Tobago, then to South/Central, and finally to Suburban. This activity gathers hundreds of children for a time of prayer, mission, and celebration.
Hospitals: Every public hospital has hospital visitation ministers who visit each ward, each day. This is staffed by a team of volunteers from the parishes of our archdiocese.
This mission involves over 500 persons who participate in bringing good news to the sick. They pray, read scriptures, and give handouts. Masses are offered for those who are seriously ill. They also arrange for the Anointing of the Sick.
Every other month, Msgr Esau Joseph celebrates Mass for the hospital ministers, meetings and training sessions are held, and a meal is shared.
Communities: The PMS conducts ongoing evangelisation in several communities, including La Horquetta, Bagatelle, Enterprise, Beetham and Sea Lots. At Sea Lots, children’s ministry takes place on three Sundays each month. An active men’s group comprising over 30 men from Sea Lots meet monthly.
Recently, the Anthony Pantin Play Park for the children of the residents of Sea Lots 3 was opened. In the area a women’s group of 20 members also meet every month.
During Covid, food was distributed to approximately 1500 households in these communities every month as part of the missionary outreach. Today, food distribution continues in these communities.
In 2023, a special school—a centre of development for children, youth, and families—will be opened in the Sea Lots community.
International Support: Each year from the international collection of dioceses of the world, we receive funding for four special projects. Last year these went to the seminary, two Catholic schools and Sea Lots, for their children’s camp.
Regional Initiative: This year the Pontifical Mission directors of the region participated in a mission study in October with over 200 participants from the region. They focused on synodality, the family, the parish, and the basic approaches to evangelisation.
A new work
This year, the PMS Director Deborah de Rosia will assume responsibility for the Evangelization Commission of the Archdiocese of Port of Spain. By doing this the already excellent missionary activities will come together under the evangelisation mandate of the Archdiocese to unleash the missionary potential of the Church in Trinidad and Tobago.
The church is missionary, and we are all called to be witnesses of Christ in all spheres of our life.
If you are not involved in a ministry already, consider joining one of the Pontifical Mission activities. For more information call 645-0525; 360-4850 or for hospital ministry 471-2002.