Bishop Protase Rugambwa, secretary of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, recalled the theme of Pope Francis’ message for the 2020 Mission Sunday: “Here I am, send me.”
“The heart of this message refers to how the mission challenges each of us, personally, in our vocation and in our belonging to the Church in today’s world,” he said.
“The celebration of this day is a source of joy for the universal Church,” Rugambwa noted, “even if in the local Churches it will be celebrated in a different way this year, due to the particular circumstances we are experiencing due to the COVID-19 pandemic.”
Bishop Giampietro Dal Toso, adjunct secretary of the same congregation, spoke about the special fund established by Pope Francis to help local churches during the pandemic. According to Dal Toso, the fund has so far given $1,299,700 and 473,410 euros to 250 projects around the world.
When many churches were not able to -- or are not able to -- celebrate Mass publically during the pandemic, they also did not have a Sunday collection, which many relied on to pay their basic bills, he said.
The subsidies of the Pontifical Mission Societies, he explained, “went strongly in favor of dioceses for the survival of priests and the payment of current costs, but also to religious communities, or Catholic schools, as well as to particularly challenged families.”
“I realize that it is often a drop in the ocean of needs,” he said, “but it is a concrete way to indicate a communion in the Church, which makes us partakers of the joys and sorrows of the other baptized.”
Nowak also spoke at length about the example of holiness and reliance on the providence of God provided by the soon-to-be Blessed Pauline-Marie Jaricot, a 19th-century French laywoman who founded a worldwide network of prayer and charity for the Church's mission.
Jaricot's network, the Society of the Propagation of the Faith, became the first of the Church’s four pontifical mission societies.
In May, Pope Francis approved a miracle attributed to the intercession of Venerable Pauline-Marie Jaricot, who may now be beatified.
Nowak said that the miracle received through Jaricot’s intercession “involved a very young girl who experienced acute suffocation, which resulted in her losing consciousness.”
“Her condition was so grim that she had to be kept alive by artificial life support. From a medical standpoint, there was no hope of recovery for the girl and the doctors suggested detaching her from life support systems,” Nowak explained.
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“The parents refused to give up and began a novena of prayers through Pauline’s intercession. Spontaneously, and without any medical explanation, the girl revived and was restored to perfect health.”
Though the miracle is dramatic, Pauline’s life had a quality of holiness “that she radiated throughout her life,” he said.
Jaricot was born to a middle-class family after the French Revolution. She was the youngest of seven children. After losing her mother when she was 17, she took a vow of perpetual virginity and devoted herself to prayer.
“She became devoted to Eucharistic Adoration, helping the poor and had a deep desire to have the Gospel of Christ reach the ends of the earth,” Nowak said.
Her Pontifical Mission Society for the Propagation of the Faith “was a simple concept that had far-reaching consequences,” he noted. She invited friends, who were employees of her father’s silk factory, to pray for the missions and to offer one penny a week for the Church’s mission.
Each of these people were invited to find and form a group of another 10 people, and so on.