Missions abroad need our support, prayers

By Enedelia J. Obregón
Senior Correspondent

Imagine being able to attend Mass only a few times a year because there are not enough priests. That’s what Father Paul Hudson, pastor at St. Mary, Church of the Assumption in West, found on his week-long summer mission trip to rural Honduras. 
On the trip he did what he normally does: administered sacraments, celebrated Mass, anointed the sick and heard confessions. But for the people around the town of El Progreso to whom he ministered, having him do so was extraordinary.
El Progreso is the home of Friends of Los Niños, one of the missions supported by the diocesan Missions Office, which was established three years ago by Bishop Joe Vásquez. Christina Krueger is the diocesan Missions coordinator.
As Father Hudson celebrated Mass with orphans and blessed many houses in Monte Olivo, a tiny rural village, which is also ministered to by Friends of Los Niños, word got out and he ended up going from town to town doing the same.
“My understanding is that Monte de Los Olivos had not seen a priest in years,” said Father Hudson, whose mom is from Mexico and who is bilingual and bicultural. “Another priest comes once a month to the mountain communities.”
When the church bell rang for daily Mass, villagers were shocked at first but quickly filled the chapel.
“It was very touching and moving to see their faith and how appreciative they were to have a priest,” Father Hudson said. “I saw God working in these people.”
As Jesus would
Father Hudson went on his last mission trip while he was in seminary. He went to Mexico City with the Missionaries of Charity and helped staff clean rooms and take care of residents, who were mentally challenged or had psychological problems. Then last February he was invited to attend an awareness gathering on missions. During the gathering, Krueger extended an invitation to Father Hudson to make mission trip to one of the missions the diocese supports. 
“I am delighted that Father Hudson got to work with Friends of Los Niños and serve the people of Progreso,” she said. Krueger also serves as the chair of the diocesan Mission Council, as diocesan director for the U.S. Pontifical Mission Societies and as executive board member for the U.S. Missionary Childhood Association, a Pontifical Society.
The pontifical societies are the official arm of the church tasked with supporting the world’s mission dioceses and doing charitable works throughout the world. They also raise funds for the poorest mission churches of the Catholic Church. They are under the canonical jurisdiction of the pope.
Supporting missions
Catholics world-wide support missions through on-going prayer and a special collection on World Mission Sunday, which is the second to the last Sunday of October. This year it falls on Oct. 18. 
Since 1989, parishioners in the Diocese of Austin also support the missions through the Ashes to Easter Lenten campaign. This year more than $131,000 was collected via the purple cardboard boxes, Krueger said. 
Missionaries submit applications to the diocesan Missions Office in order to receive funds from the Ashes to Easter campaign. Aside from Friends of Los Niños, the campaign also supports:
● New Hope for Cambodian Children founded by John and Kathy Tucker from the Diocese of Austin. Since 2006, they have been ministering to abandoned children with HIV/AIDS.
● St. Francis Medical Mission started by Tino Hernández, a parishioner from St. William Parish in Round Rock. This year’s mission will travel to Guatemala in October. Doctors, pharmacists, dentists, triage nurses and supporters volunteer their time and pay their own way. This year Father Pedro García will accompany the mission.
● Hope for Rio Dulce in Guatemala started by Ryan Eckert from St. Helen Parish in Georgetown. This mission works with the Q’eqchi’ indigenous community. Projects focus on community development through education, catechesis and retreats. This year’s project is to equip a dormitory for girls.
● Holy Cross Mission Center of Notre Dame run by Father John Herman, a Holy Cross priest. He helps the poor at Nuestra Madre Santísima de la Luz in the Archdiocese of Monterrey, Mexico. The parish consists of one church and four chapels; Father Herman celebrates 15 Masses each weekend.
Krueger said the Mission Office gets about 250 requests for the Diocesan Missionary Cooperative Plan from missionary groups world-wide every year. All applicants, which must submit letters of suitability, are notified whether their request is accepted or declined. The diocesan Mission Council reviews and selects 34 mission organizations. Before a mission is undertaken, Krueger notifies the pastors and bishops of the group requesting aid and of those receiving it so everyone knows what everyone is doing.
Baptismal call
Pope Francis continues to remind all Catholics that we are all called to be missionaries by virtue of our baptism. The church is growing in unexpected places and the Propagation of the Faith seeks to help Catholics support missionaries in the Asia, Africa, Latin America, the Pacific Islands and Eastern Europe. Last year, the Propagation of the Faith focused on Mongolia –– the youngest church –– during World Mission Month.
“When we come together at the Eucharistic table, we need to be mindful of the universal church and our brothers and sisters in parts of the world who are in extreme poverty and of the very young churches,” Krueger said. “Through these funds to the Propagation of the Faith not only are we strengthening our local church, but those funds are going to the poorest of the church.”
People experience the loving heart of Jesus through the presence of the local churches and through the missionaries serving them, she said.
“My hope is that on World Mission Sunday all parishes will support the Propagation of the Faith collection and honor all missionaries and the sacrifices they make to minister abroad,” she said.