It is easy to look at our world, with all of its violence, poverty, disease, and lack of respect for human dignity and wonder, Where is God in all of this? We so easily forget that Christ established the Church so that we, as His body, could go out into the world to be ambassadors of his love in the midst of sin and suffering. St. Teresa of Avila famously wrote that,
“Christ has no body now but yours. No hands, no feet on earth but yours. Yours are the eyes through which he looks compassion on this world. Yours are the feet with which he walks to do good. Yours are the hands through which he blesses all the world. Yours are the hands, yours are the feet, yours are the eyes, you are his body. Christ has no body now on earth but yours.”
As Catholics, whether we are missionary priests or lay people, we can claim to be authentic followers of Christ only if we are being his hands and feet in concrete ways. Missionhurst priests throughout the world are committed to taking seriously Jesus’ words in Matthew 25:40, “Amen, I say to you, whatever you did for one of these least brothers of mine, you did for me.”
Through our relief work, whether it is advocating for better healthcare, housing homeless youth, providing psychological and spiritual care for the abused, living in solidarity with the poor, or simply offering a listening ear, we aim to love Christ not simply through our words, but “in action and in truth” (cf. 1 John 3:18).
How Missionhurst Priests are Bringing Christ to the World
A halfway home for boys, established by Missionhurst priest Fr. Gerardo Costa, serves the male street children who are vulnerable to crime and abuse. The home provides basic physical needs as well as psychological and emotional support for the boys, who may be orphans or victims of abuse perpetrated by family members or predators on the streets. Continued support from Missionhurst donors and community members in the Philippines has enabled the halfway house to be a long term resource for the boys and their families as they reintegrate into society.
Solidarity with the poor, a foundational principle in Catholic Social Teaching, is on full display in Senegal’s Missionhurst community. Torrential rains flooded the entire village, including the rectory. The villagers watched priests remove water from their home with buckets, just as they have to do, to make the parish an accessible place again, since many villagers get their water from the parish well. Such acts of solidarity build trust between the missionaries and the families they serve, which is essential for the work of evangelization.
Although the world has forgotten the event, thousands of Japanese continue to suffer effects from the 2011 earthquake and tsunami. Fr. Honore Kabundi, a Missionhurst priest, describes the depth of the victims’ pain: “These people had lost their homes and family members; they were in turmoil, questioning their future and what meaning to give to their broken lives. Emptiness, sorrow, loneliness and frustration were common, and the most acute pain was in dealing with the fact that nothing will bring back their lost ones.”
Since it is impossible to preach the Resurrection to the bereaved without showing them the love of the Resurrected One, Missionhurst priests in Japan begin with compassionate listening. “Looking at how the people expressed their sorrow and deepest feelings, I came to understand that indeed what they needed most was the healing touch of attention: someone willing to listen to them,” recalls Fr. Kabundi. Even though the missionaries also provide material assistance to victims of the earthquake, it is this “spiritual accompaniment” that is most helpful to them.
Another suffering nation long forgotten by the West is Haiti. Many don’t realize that, in the aftermath of the devastating 2010 earthquake, thousands of Haitians fled across the border to the Dominican Republic.
Today, over 300,000 undocumented Haitians living in the DR — many of whom were actually born there — find themselves without legal recourse as a new immigration law forces them to face deportation to Haiti. These families face the trauma of deportation on top of the stress of entering into a nation already over-taxed by its current residents, 80% of whom are living below the poverty line (54% in abject poverty). The Missionhurst priests help these men, women, and children get the proper documents (if possible) and try to provide legal counsel and moral support as they struggle to keep their families alive.
Evangelization in Guatemala, one of the world’s poorest countries, takes the form of walking. Missionaries must walk from village to village, usually preceded by indigenous Q’eqchi-Mayan women who prepare the villagers for confession and Mass by catechesis. Fr. Charitable Derisseu says that he is reminded each day of the need to be fully committed to the mission of Christ to love the poorest of the poor, especially when he sees that the villagers, “lack access to health clinics, schools, electricity and even water.” Our priests in Guatemala have the multi-faceted challenge of trying to meet the vast material needs as well as the spiritual needs of their people. They are aided by the generosity not only of Missionhurst donors but also of the villagers themselves who give their time and talent to help.
In the United States, we often complain about health insurance costs, incompetent medical professionals, and the expense of prescription drugs. Yet we can gain perspective by looking at what “health care reform” means in developing nations like the Congo. Currently, Missionhurst priests are raising money to help their sister congregation, the Sisters of the Immaculate Heart of Mary, train auxiliary nurses.This helsp alleviate the many crises that affect the Congolese due to lack of access to basic healthcare — such as bandages, antiseptic for wounds, over-the-counter drugs, etc. It only takes $5 — as much as some of us pay for morning coffee — to save the lives of our brothers and sisters on the other side of the world.
How Can You Help?
The Church’s Lenten practice of prayer, fasting, and almsgiving serves as a good model for anyone who desires to accompany Missionhurst missionaries as they work to bring Christ’s love to the poorest of the poor. Consider choosing one (or all) of these ways to actively contribute to the work of evangelization all over the world.
Prayer is both the least and the most that we can do to help our brothers and sisters in Christ. When we pray, we enter into the “great cloud of witnesses” spoken of in Hebrews 12. Here are some ideas for ways to pray for Missonhurst priests and the people we serve:
- Spend five minutes before the Blessed Sacrament, asking for strength, energy, and supernatural stamina for the priests in Guatemala.
- Offer your reception of Holy Communion for the hungry families and communities that Missionhurst serves throughout the world.
- Pray a rosary for the victims of the earthquakes in Japan and Haiti who are still suffering today.
- Meditate on Matthew 25:31-46 and ask the Lord to give you a more generous heart toward the “least of his brethren.”
- Skip a meal once a week and spend your meal time in prayer for the hungry.
- Give up your favorite treat (coffee, dessert, etc) for a week, and donate the money you didn’t spend to one of the Missionhurst relief efforts.
- Eat a simple meal of rice and beans once a week in solidarity with those who do not have a choice about what they eat each day.
- Explore the Missionhurst website and find a mission that speaks to your heart; commit to donating once a month. Even $5.00 can go a long way.
- Find a friend and challenge each other to live more simply this month —by eating out less or buying off brands, etc. — so that you can give more freely.
We are so thankful for your coninutal love, support, and advocacy — we truly could not do the work we do without a community like you.
If you are able, would you be willing to support our relief and health care work by becoming a monthly sponsor for $5 a month?