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Children praised at Missions Mass
November 30, 2017
METUCHEN — Eager to understand the challenges people in disadvantaged countries experience on a daily basis, faithful from the diocese participated in the “Going the Extra Mile for Kids in Need of Jesus” walkathon Oct. 22 during the annual World Mission Sunday Family Celebration. Police officers stopped vehicle traffic and onlookers watched as a group of children and adults strode down Main Street and circled the Cathedral of St. Francis of Assisi, then filled the church plaza for words of encour- agement from Bishop James F. Checchio.
Earlier that morning, families, groups of school children and individuals had assembled in the parish’s CYO Hall as Father Timothy A. Christy, episcopal vicar for Evangelization and Communication, charged them with a mission: to show enthusiasm and “be more deeply in love with Jesus… return home to him” as they walked.
Father John G. Hillier, the new diocesan director of the Pontifical Mission Society, urged the walkers to support the missions by prayer, sacrifice and solidarity. “Remember to pray the Rosary,” he said. "Mary was the first and most perfect disciple.” Giving them a mnemonic for the Blessed Virgin’s reply to God’s will, he led them in the chant, “Mary Always Responded ‘Yes’!”
Divine Word Father Emeka Okwuosa defined a missionary as “one who finds bread, finds Jesus, and can’t eat it alone, but invites others to share it.” Explaining the difference between need and want, he told the spellbound youth his morning routine as a boy in Nigeria: rising at 5 a.m., washing up in a nearby river, then going house to house, selling wares to raise money for his family before he walked to school.
“While you walk this morning, think of someone who has walked three or four miles because he wants to eat,” Father Okwuosa said. “Think, ‘I want to walk with you.’ Offer every step for them. They don’t want anything, but they need everything.”
The priest led the walkers through the streets of Metuchen, many of them holding crosses bearing the name of a mission continent or signs bearing pictures of children benefitted by the missions. The group prayed the rosary as they walked, and were thanked by Father Christy and Bishop Checchio before the noon Mass.
World Mission Sunday was instituted in 1926 by Pope Pius XI as the day of prayer for missions. Celebrated on the penultimate Sunday of October each year, the Mass and annual collection is intended for the support of churches, missions, orphanages, schools, hospitals, and the seminarians and staff who support them. In this year’s message on World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis called the Pontifical Mission Societies "a precious means of awakening in every Christian community a desire to reach beyond its own confines and security in order to proclaim the Gospel to all… a good opportunity for enabling the missionary heart of Christian communities to join in prayer, testimony of life and communion of goods, in responding to the vast and pressing needs of evangelization.”
In his homily, the bishop noted the Gospel reading from Matthew about rendering unto Caesar’s what is Caesar’s and to God what is God’s (Mt 22:15-21) tied in so well to the goal of World Mission Sunday.
“What is imprinted with God’s image? Nothing less than our very selves,” Bishop Checchio declared. “Everything we are, and all that we do, are made in the image and likeness of God. We are asked to treat them with respect and love them.
“World Mission Sunday reminds us that every human being is made in the image and likeness of God to serve and to serve with love,” he continued. “We reach out if there is a need and we do it with love. If we don’t do it with love, we shouldn’t do it at all.”
The bishop thanked the youth who had participated in the walkathon and added, “I am inspired by the missionary work of this diocese. We are near the top of the list in our country in donations. I am grateful for your embrace of discipleship.”
The Bishop introduced Father Hillier to the congregation, noting he had been newly appointed to fill the role after the death of longtime director, Msgr. Richard A. Behl. Father Hillier addressed the children seated before him, “You are heralds of the Gospel in your own right. You are not the Church of tomorrow, but because of your Baptism, you are the Church of today.”
Representatives of schools and religious education programs received certificates of appreciation for their commitment to the missions. Schoolchildren from St. Helena, Edison; St. Francis,
Metuchen, and St. Stanislaus Kostka, Sayreville, received recognition, as well as members of the Our Lady of Fatima, Piscataway; St. Elizabeth Ann Seton, Three Bridges, and St. Helena religious education programs.
St. Joseph School, Carteret, students Cassidy Bollaci (first grade) and Ohemaa Asare (fifth grade) were selected as winners in the 2016-2017 Missionary Childhood Association Christmas Artwork Contest. Their artwork will be on display throughout the 2017 Advent and Christmas seasons in the Basilica of the National Shrine of the Immaculate Conception in Washington. Bollaci’s drawing will be one of two reproduced as the official Christmas cards sent out by the National Director of the Pontifical Misison Societies in the United States.
During a symbolic mission lunch in the community room following Mass, the faithful shared their reasons for their mission efforts.
Fifth-grader Karolina Jedruchnewicz, a member of St. Stanislaus Kostka School’s religion club, revealed how she raised funds and contributed toward the school’s mission award. “Instead of buying snack, I put the money in the jar for the missions,” she said. “This is how to have kids donate year round.”
Kara and Mike Milan, members of the Cathedral parish, participated in the activities with their 12-year-old daughter, Kylie. In addition to gaining empathy for the poor worldwide, “this helped her earn community service towards her Confirma- tion,” Kara Milan noted. Fellow Cathedral parishioner, 13-year-old Sarah Knoll, had carried a cross labeled “Europe” during the morning walkathon. “While I was walking, it made me think
of how privileged we are and how everything is handed to us,” she said.
By Christina Leslie, Correspondent at The Catholic Spirit