"… Whatever you did for one of the least of these brothers and sisters of mine, you did for me.” Matthew 25:40
In 1862, Father Theophile Verbist, a Belgian diocesan priest founded the Congregation of the Immaculate Heart of Mary (Missionhurst-CICM). The Congregation’s Charism is the announcement of the Good News of Jesus to all God’s people and the preferential service to the poor (orphaned and abandoned children, sick, immigrants, elderly, etc.) as the privileged recipients of the Kingdom of God.
CICM Founder Fr. Verbist Had a Heart for Children
Prior to the founding of CICM, Father Verbist worked for the Holy Childhood, an organization, which takes care of abandoned children in many parts of the world.
In 1860, Fr. Verbist became Director of the Holy Childhood in Belgium. He devoted himself wholeheartedly to this work. His dream remained to start an orphanage in China directed by CICM Belgian priests.
From the beginning, Fr. Verbist’s intention was to motivate the Christians of Belgium to make greater efforts to help hundreds of millions of suffering people. From the beginning of CICM, missionaries drew inspiration from their founder to pay closer attention to the plight of the orphans and abandoned children of the world.
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CICM Remains Devoted to Needy Children
Following the footsteps of the founder, CICM is still today devoted to helping needy children in different countries where its members are currently serving. In our different provinces, our missionaries are committed to sustaining Catholic education of children in the elementary and high schools associated with our poor and distressed mission parishes.
- In Kinshasa region of the Democratic Republic of Congo, missionaries sustain parochial schools to help with the education of children. Missionaries support initiatives that help reintegrate abandoned and street children.
- In the Kasai Region of the DRC, there is a welcome center called Mponkolo Wa Moyo for orphaned and abandoned children under the care Fr. Ivo Van Volsem, victims of poverty, war and civil unrests. This center in the city of Kananga has the goal to care of the well-being of these children and their reinsertion into family life. The care consists of providing food, medicines, education, counseling and shelter.
- In Zambia, CICM has an orphanage, The Sunflowers Family Children Center led by Fr. Pierre Ruquoy. This center takes care of the needs of Zambian orphaned and abandoned children who lost their parents to poverty, AIDS or death. Those of children who grew up in this orphanage and have received a human and professional formation, are more likely to help the others after they have moved out.
- In Guatemala, one of our missionaries, Fr. Charitable Derisseau started a nutritional ministry to help the needs of many children through the Centro Betania in the city of Cobán. In addition to nutritional programs, Centro Betania supports the education of many Guatemalan children as part of its missionary service.
- In Haiti, our parishes are committed to helping school children through scholarships and direct financial aid for school fees and supplies. CICM Missionaries support the KIRO (youth movement) in Haiti to ensure the Christian education of children and young adults as leaders of the future. Fr. Justin Tshimbambila is the currently the National Director of the KIRO Movement in Haiti. Many of those who graduated from the KIRO in Haiti are serving their country and the Church in different positions today.
- In Mongolia, the CICM Erdenet Community takes care of “My Home Kindergarten Erdenet” as an outreach to the Mongolian community.
Christ Calls Us to the Least of the World
There are many other small initiatives that are taken on by CICM Missionaries to help with the basic needs of children to give them hope throughout the world. In today’s context, Missionhurst remains the advocate of the safety of children around the world. It is committed to supporting projects that protect, care and restore dignity to children. Missionhurst helps bring awareness to the plight of children of the world.
For years, Missionhurst has relied not only on its missionaries to help relieve the suffering of children in the mission countries, but also it has called on and relies on the financial generosity of its friends in the United States to sustain its ministry to children.
Our main motivation for having the service to children as a priority is rooted in the gospel and in our charism, which call us to be at the service of the most vulnerable of the world. "Whoever welcomes one of these little children in my name welcomes me; and whoever welcomes me does not welcome me but the one who sent me." (Mark 9:37).
In coming years, we remain committed to helping and uplifting one suffering child at the time. We continue to invite all those who believe in the cause of children to join us.