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Turn to Jesus (Article)

The Missionary Mandate Comes to Life
Highlights from Holy Week Missions 2008 in the United States and Canada

Each visit had one basic message: Christ cares for you personally.
Each visit had one basic message: Christ cares for you personally.

March 31, 2008. Holy Week 2008 was an intense missionary experience for about 50,000 people who gave their time and talents to be witnesses and messengers of the Gospel. As the days of Christ’s passion and death approached, they were going door to door in rural and urban areas, inviting people to come back to church, catechizing children, visiting the sick, and sharing unforgettable moments of solidarity and prayer with people they would never ordinarily have met.

Over 2 million people in more than 3,000 communities worldwide were touched in some way by their efforts.

From a Single Mustard Seed…

This is the current scope of an apostolate known in Mexico as Juventud y Familia Misionera (MissionYouth in the States). The first missions were held in 1986 with about 100 young missionaries in Cotija, Mexico who wanted to protect the people’s Catholic faith from an influx of sectarian religious
groups that were about to descend on the town. From these spontaneous beginnings, the apostolate grew until it was formally constituted in 1993.
Since then, the mustard seed has branched out to 30 other countries in North America, Europe, and Asia. In addition to Mexico, the list includes the United States and Canada; New Zealand and Australia; El Salvador, Venezuela, Columbia, Cuba, Belize, and the Bahamas; Brazil, Chile, and Argentina; Italy, France, Spain, Germany, Austria, and Belgium; Ireland and England; Poland, Romania, Lithuania, and Hungary; Lebanon; and the first outpost in Asia: the Philippines.

This year, as always, Mexico had the largest number of Holy Week missionaries, with over 22,000 participants, including a group of 200 American youth and families who spent the week evangelizing and building houses for needy families. Doctors and nurses set out on medical missions to poverty-stricken rural areas, offering free consultations, surgeries, and medical treatments to those most in need. Girls in Challenge Mission Arrow and boys in Challenge Mission FIRE evangelized with contagious enthusiasm. Legionary of Christ priests sat in the confessionals for up to 15 hours a day, supporting parish priests in the work of healing souls and forgiving sins. The work of the Juventud y Familia Missionaries was multiplied even further by the collaboration of missionaries from another Movement apostolate: the Full-time Lay Evangelizers (Evangelizadores de Tiempo Completo), who rallied 20,000 missionaries in Mexico alone.

In the United States and Canada, as well as in Europe and Asia, the missions were an apostolate of witness. The approximately 1,350 American and Canadian youth and family members who slept on church basement floors and walked door to door were serving
Setting out to preach the Gospel in Atlanta.
Setting out to preach the Gospel in Atlanta.
parish priests by inviting parishioners to participate in the Holy Week liturgies and activities. At the same time, they were a visible reminder to the rest of the world that Christ is alive and that young people and entire families believe in him enough to give up a week of their life in his service.

First Fruits: Personal Conversions

For many of the missionaries going door to door in Calgary, Atlanta, Miami, Chicago, Sacramento, Denver, and Phoenix, the first conversion they saw was their own.

One young woman said, “I was raised Roman Catholic and went to private
A moment of prayer to refuel and remember who sent them to preach in his name.
A moment of prayer to refuel and remember who sent them to preach in his name.
Catholic schools all my life. I have always known Christ, but after this experience, I now understand my faith. It became evident to me after the Last Supper Mass. I realized that Jesus was really going to die for me. How can I be so selfish and forget that? We forget so easily that he gave up his life for our salvation and understanding this gave me so much peace... peace that I have been yearning for for so long!”

Another young woman hesitated to come on missions, but soon came to realize that God had plans with her – plans to give her peace and forgiveness. “I was hesitant because I had so much guilt inside of me.  I had lost the state of grace a while back, and ever since I haven’t been able to have a good relationship with Jesus. But as soon as I arrived, I loved it. […] I realized Jesus was still protecting me and wanting me to come back to Him.  I let go and made the decision to stop trusting just in myself because I know that hasn’t done me any good.  All night adoration was unbelievable. It was a healing, a redeeming, forgiving, and loving experience.”

A young man discovered that
Priest and young missionaries in Sacramento: a winning team.
Priest and young missionaries in Sacramento: a winning team.
going on missions gave him a sense of happiness he had not felt in a long time: “I felt happier than I have felt in a long time just spending a week with a bunch of my peers in an environment of prayer and joy. Being on missions with these guys left me wanting for more and helped me decide to give next year to Christ as a co-worker.”

Instruments of Grace

While going door to door or catechizing in trailer parks, the missionaries had the privilege of witnessing moments of grace in other souls.

Christine Center, who participated
Jóvenes misioneros visitando casas en los Estados Unidos e invitando a las familias a participar en las ceremonias de Semana Santa.
Visiting people from all walks of life with the Good News.
in the Chicago missions, said, “We visited a retirement home and I began a conversation with a woman. We found out that she was Catholic and that she hadn´t been to confession in 13 years. We called a priest and the lady received confession. She later told a group of us that she felt like Christ brought us to her that day and that he was smiling down at her.”

In Atlanta, the presence of a Legionary priest opened the sacraments to people who had been away for a long time – and inspired interest in the priestly vocation. “The most important part of missions was having the Legionary available for confessions at the mission site itself. There was a man who after 35 years was able to confess just because the priest came to his neighborhood. Also there are a lot of young boys who at the sight of the priest were inspired to ask him about his vocation. Many of the children we encountered had not made their first communion but were hungry for more knowledge of Christ,” said Lily DeLeon.

While missioning with his wife and child in Miami,
In Atlanta: a moment of conversation en route.
In Atlanta: a moment of conversation en route.
Dick Getchell saw God’s grace at work in a man’s heart:  “Tom answered the door while restraining two large Labrador retrievers and was very politely disinterested, or so he said. But Tom wanted to talk. He just didn’t know it. It seems that Tom believes in God and faith and Christ, but has a problem with organized religion. He seemed to believe that organized religions have become too much about the organization and not enough about the people who make up the organization. But we talked to Tom about the Church, about Christ and even about the Regnum Christi Movement. Without realizing he was even doing it, Tom locked the dogs inside and stepped out onto the rainy porch with us. By the time we left, Tom’s “no” had turned into a definite maybe and he made very sure that he knew what evening Father Jordi, St. Raymond’s Pastor, holds his weekly talks for people with questions about their faith and the Church. Tom is a baptized Catholic and we think Tom will come home eventually. When he does, he’ll make a great missionary.”

In Atlanta, Tracey Stringer saw how their prayer and presence was a living sign of God’s love
Another expression of charity: humanitarian missions.
for the suffering souls they met. “There were several people who were suffering through some big crosses in their lives. They were touched to have someone knock on their door and offer to pray for them. Several were moved to tears through the spontaneous prayers that were offered because they felt God´s love come to them.”

Families on the March

One of the most inspiring aspects of Holy Week missions is the number of families who pack
Teamwork and family spirit made the mission fruitful for kids of all ages.
Teamwork and family spirit made the mission fruitful for kids of all ages.
up the kids and hit the streets. Family missions first began in 1994 when 36 families decided to take up the challenge of preaching the Gospel together.

This year, Tom Otten was not planning to go on the mission in Miami, but it seemed that God had other plans. His experience of blessing is echoed by many other family missions participants: “My wife, Irene, and I were asked to chaperone the mission at the last minute. My first reaction was, “No.” I was fairly certain that I would not be able to get time off from work to attend, but to my surprise, when I arrived at work a new schedule had been printed and I had all the days off I needed. Irene and I figured God was definitely calling us to do this, and having only one
Mini-missionaries get ready for another busy day.
Mini-missionaries get ready for another busy day.
child, we figured it would be a great way to celebrate Holy Week and Easter as a family. As always, God was not outdone in generosity. Not only did I see the girls receive great graces but Irene and I were extremely blessed. It brought us closer together as a couple, and also closer to our daughter, who was on her first mission trip.”

Dick Getchell also got to see his own children rise to the challenge, especially his 7-year old daughter. “Once the missions got under way, Jordan soon began to lead the charge at each door, ringing the bell and greeting the people inside with, ‘Hello, we’re Catholic missionaries from St. Raymond’s Parish. We’d like to invite you over for Easter Vigil Mass!’ Somehow, a shy, reticent little girl was evangelizing complete strangers. That is the power of the missions,” he said.

Leslie Willis saw an unusual dynamic of charity and positive spirit among the children themselves during her family mission in Atlanta. “I have a
A missionary girl discovers a new friend.
A missionary girl discovers a new friend.
4 year old that was with my 10 yr old son and myself. We were with a group with a wide range of ages but a good number of younger children. I was so impressed with the older children´s formation of the younger children. I found the older kids very encouraging of the younger ones. They were pumping them up and building them up, really giving them courage to go on to the next house with a great zeal. We had a 16 year old young man with us that had all the kids in his group very structured and orderly but in a very loving way. Instead of bucking the structure, they fought to be in his group. It was a wonderful witness for the parents, too!” she said.

An Experience of Living Charity

In Miami, a Legionary’s
Rain, wind, or shine: visiting and sharing the good news.
Rain, wind, or shine: visiting and sharing the good news.
witness of love for souls left a mark on the people, including the missionaries. “I was very touched by the charity of a Legionary priest, who decided to go and hear confessions in a trailer park in the rain. I saw this as a beautiful sign of charity towards Christ and His Kingdom, a sign that impacted my life and the life of many missionaries,” said Sisan Walker.

Michiganders (and veterans of many a mission) sharing faith and friendship during the Chicago missions.
Michiganders (and veterans of many a mission) sharing faith and friendship during the Chicago missions.
Calgary, Amanda Achtman said that the missionaries’ team spirit and friendship was a powerful experience for her.  “Within the group of missionaries, I discovered that we all witnessed to each other as we journeyed throughout Holy Week with a common mission and shared enthusiasm for the faith, and we grew in friendship. I found that to be one of the most impactful aspects for me,” she said.

Blessed by Benedict

The missionaries who hit the streets in 2008 were accompanied by another special grace: a blessing bestowed on them by Pope Benedict XVI. In the closing Mass of the Holy Week missions in Mexico on March 23, Father Alvaro
Father Alvaro Corcuera, LC greets a missionary after the closing Mass on March 23rd.
Father Alvaro Corcuera, LC greets a missionary after the closing Mass on March 23rd.
Corcuera mentioned in his homily how this blessing was imparted when he visited the Pope for a private audience shortly before the missions.

“When I spoke to the Pope about the missions, we agreed that this is living in a miracle. And the miracle is all of you. […] And he told me to pass on in a particular way his affectionate greetings, his blessing, and his closeness to you,” he said.

As the missionaries returned home, exhausted, dirty, and elated, they went with the satisfaction of knowing that they did something to bring Christ to a few more people, and to spread a bit of light and consolation to people who saw a sign of hope—and even a miracle—in their enthusiastic witness. The parable of the mustard seed continues in them and in the lives they touched.

For more highlights, pictures, and testimonies from this year’s Holy Week missions, and for information on this summer’s upcoming missions in Australia prior to World Youth Day, visit the MissionYouth web site at



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