Pontifical Missions: Sons and daughters of Spain still leaders in global mission field

Pontifical Missions Society of Spain Father José María Calderón (left) is Spain's national director of the Pontifical Missions Society. Serafín Suárez (right) is a missionary in Zimbabwe. | Credit: PMS Spain

The Spanish section of the Pontifical Missions Societies (PMS Spain) has presented its annual report for the year 2023, which shows that the Catholic Church in the increasingly secularized country still maintains a prominent place in the Church’s global evangelization efforts. 

The report reveals that in 2023 Spain fielded more than 6,000 active missionaries in 1,123 mission territories spread across 139 countries. By the numbers, Peru, Venezuela, and Italy have the largest number of Spanish missionaries. Of the total, 53% are women with an average age of 75. 

In addition to prelates, priests, and religious, 643 Spanish laypeople participate in this evangelization effort. Together, they belong to nearly 400 ecclesial institutions, from dioceses to religious institutes and congregations, or associations of the faithful.

Moreover, the report reveals that following the United States, the Church in Spain continues to provide the most financial support to the overall Pontifical Missions effort, ascending to nearly 17 million euros (about $18.2 million). In 2023, PMS Spain distributed more than 13 million euros (almost $14 million) to nearly 900 missionary projects. 

The national director of PMS Spain, Father José María Calderón, explained the importance of “making all Christians aware of the fact that evangelization is not only the task of missionaries but of all the baptized.” To do so, in 2023 PMS Spain held more than 80 conferences and roundtables along with dozens of missionary exhibitions, contests, music festivals, and diocesan meetings.

Serafín Suárez, missionary of the Spanish Institute of Foreign Missions who has been evangelizing in the Diocese of Hwange, Zimbabwe, for 30 years, expressed his desire to humanize and put faces and names to all the numbers contained in the report.

Suárez conjured the image of “a tapestry in which colors, landscapes, and people appear that everyone praises for their beauty: Turn the tapestry over. And we are going to find that there are only ropes and knots,” he pointed out. “Missions are that. What appears is the beautiful tapestry, but it would be impossible if the knots and ropes were not behind it.”

“Missionaries are the fruit of those ropes and those knots,” Suárez continued. “We are bearers and spokespersons for what we have behind us,” which is many people who “without going outside, live and help the mission.”

Suárez said the missions are characterized by two hands. In one hand is “the bread of the Word” because that is the commission the missionaries have received: “Try to transform the world in which you live from the word of Jesus.”

This becomes difficult, he pointed out, when most missions are carried out in disadvantaged countries, making it necessary to extend another hand “with another bread, our daily bread.” Both, he added, “are complementary.” 

This story was first published by ACI Prensa, CNA’s Spanish-language news partner. It has been translated and adapted by CNA.

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