|Missionaries in Miami with Cecile Martin, a consecrated woman.|
April 21, 2009. Each year, the Holy Week missions draw
youth and families out of their comfort zone and onto
the streets to personally invite souls back to the Church
and to Christ. This year, a total of 1,289 missionaries—both
youth and families— carried out their work of evangelization in
Calgary, Miami, New York, Chicago, Denver, Phoenix, Atlanta, and San
Jose with Mission Youth.
Their work consisted in going door-to-door
to invite people to the liturgical celebrations at the local
parishes, engaging people in conversation about faith, and serving as
a visible reminder of God on the streets. They also
organized games and faith-formation activities for children and visited the
homebound and the elderly.
Glimpses of grace
Along the way, the
missionaries witnessed moments of grace in the people they served.
Chicago, one of the people the missionaries met on their
door-to-door mission told them that he had abandoned Christianity in
favor of environmentalism. “I don’t believe in God,” he said.
“I believe in the earth.” As the missionaries engaged him
in conversation, they could see that he had a good
heart and that he was not entirely closed in his
opinions. After a long discussion, he agreed to try praying,
and gave his word to say a little prayer to
God every day for two weeks.
|Missionaries in the trailer park in Gainesville, GA with Father Emilio Díaz Torre, LC.|
In Atlanta, a missionary
family spent some time talking to a 17-year-old girl who
is not Catholic. In conversation, the girl shared that she
had been thinking about coming into the Church, but that
her mother was opposed. As they talked, she asked question
after question about the Catholic faith, about Mary, the sacrament
of confession, and more. In a gentle way, the missionaries
answered her question, and the conversation went so well that
they invited her to the Good Friday service that night.
The girl wanted to go but had no means of
transportation, so the family invited her to come along with
them, even though they had not been planning on attending
that service. The girl got permission from her mother to
come, so the family took her to St Brigid’s parish,
where she approached Deacon Leo Gahaffer and asked him if
she could go to confession to be cleansed of her
sins. He explained that he could not yet refer her
to a priest for confession since she was not yet
Catholic, but was able to speak to her more about
|Missionaries in Phoenix set out for their door-to-door visits.|
her interest in joining the Church.
At the trailer park in
Gainesville, Georgia, one missionary saw an old man crying tears
of joy after emerging from the confessional. It had been
years since he had been in the grace of God.
the door-to-door missions in San José, a woman slammed the
door on the missionaries, who then went on their way
in peace. The next day, she saw the missionaries again
and was disarmed by their non-threatening and welcoming attitude. She
approached them and apologized, and then prayed with them. It
turned out that this woman had recently discovered that she
might have cancer, and her encounter with the missionaries gave
her an opportunity to turn to God in her struggles.
The missions are also an opportunity to offer consolation and
a listening ear. In Chicago, the missionaries met a woman
who hadn’t been to church in two years. Her son
had died at the age of one month, because he
had been born very premature. As the woman told her
story, the young women missionaries felt a special bond with
her, and realized that the very act of listening is
a way of giving God.
“We talked to her and I
think we really changed her life in some way,” said
one of the young women. “I will never forget her.”
were also Jehovah’s Witnesses out on the street in Chicago,
doing their own form of door-to-door missions. The missionaries approached
them to share the Catholic faith and discovered that they
|Families and youth joined together in the missions.|
had many misconceptions about Catholicism. “I think seeing a group
of young girls who really knew, shared, and lived their
faith changed their perspective,” said one of the missionaries.
worked with all ages, from the little children who participated
in their K4J activities to the elderly in nursing homes.
spending time at a nursing home in Chicago, one of
the missionaries said, “They had such simple and deep faith
that it was an inspiration to me. They could barely
remember what they had been doing five minutes ago, but
they knew that they loved Christ. They knew the miracle
of the Eucharist and were so grateful for the sacraments.”
Atlanta missionary had a similar experience. “At the nursing home,
I was able to really connect with the people I
met, even though they were suffering from dementia. They just
enjoyed my presence and holding my hand,” she said.
missionaries also learned from the fervor and faith of the
parishes they served. In Miami, the young men on missions
were deeply impressed by Father Omar, the parish priest at
St Robert Bellarmine. Not only did he preach the best
homilies they had ever heard, but he also gave an
outstanding witness of fervor and fortitude. He celebrated all of
the Holy Week and Easter liturgies, some of which were
3 hours long—he chanted the major parts of the Mass—and
then went in for cancer surgery on Tuesday morning after
Easter. The boys observed that he never once complained, and
|Giving witness on the streets of San Jose.|
they also noted that his homilies were rich in spiritual
depth, full of personal cases and imbued with a spirit
Letting Christ work
As the missionaries go on missions
year after year, they find themselves growing through the apostolate
and learning to let God work through them. Along the
way, there is also the experience of joy that follows
“This time I really felt that I finally allowed Christ
to work through me, and was able to spend more
time listening to the needs of others, especially of the
teenagers. I´m also GLAD that I had the opportunity to
meet such a WONDERFUL PEOPLE during this missions and every
time I think about this Holy Week missions it makes
my heart truly happy and joyful!!” said one missionary.
good it felt to give of myself leaves me trying
to help others and live selflessly more. It makes me
remember that JOY means putting Jesus and Others before Yourself.
Even when the feeling of ecstasy fades, the commitment of
the will and that deep love for Christ and the
Church remains,” said a missionary from Chicago.
To view photo galleries
and videos of the missions, and to get more information
about upcoming missions in the US and in Mexico, visit
the Mission Youth web site at www.missionyouthmissions.com.