WASHINGTON (October 21, 2004) — Those who contribute to the collection on World Mission Sunday, October 24, may gain as many benefits as the recipients of their generosity, according to Sister Marie de la Trinité Siopongco, SSVM, Assistant Secretary for World Missions in the Department of Education, United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB).
"The main idea of World Mission Sunday is not only the collection, but also catechesis, to remind people about world mission," Sister Siopongco said. "For some people it will be the first time they have heard about it."
"It is to remind Catholics we are all missionaries by virtue of our baptism," she continued. "We can offer our sufferings and our sacrifices. We know our faith is a treasure and we want others to have it. Without knowing Christ, nothing is enough. That's more important than material things."
In her part-time post at the USCCB, Sister Siopongco assists the Bishops' Committee on World Missions in the implementation of the Church's commitment to the worldwide missionary efforts, as expressed in documents of the Magisterium, from the Second Vatican Council to the present. She also serves as Mission Coordinator for the Archdiocese of Washington and the Holy Childhood Association.
Bishop Gregory M. Aymond of Austin is Chairman of the Bishops' Committee on World Mission. The role of the committee is to coordinate Catholic U.S. oversees mission efforts, based on the 1986 bishops' pastoral statement To the Ends of the Earth and subsequent papal encyclicals. The committee works closely with the Pontifical Missionary Societies, the mission-sending societies of men and women, organizations of lay missioners, and other organizations promoting, encouraging, supporting and fostering mission efforts in the United States.
So that all nations might hear the Gospel (2 Timothy 4:17) is the theme for the 2004 World Mission Sunday observance, organized by the Propagation of the Faith. As described by Pope John Paul II in his message for the day, World Mission Sunday is "an important day in the life of the Church because it teaches how to give: as an offering made to God, in the Eucharistic celebration and for all the missions of the world."
The Holy Father has said that "The offerings that will be collected on World Mission Sunday are destined for a common fund of solidarity, distributed in the Pope's name, by the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, among missions and missionaries of the entire world."
Pope John Paul II has long stressed that the Church's missionary activity is one of its most important endeavors. In his 1990 encyclical Redemptoris Missio, he spoke of the permanent validity of the Church's missionary mandate and invited the entire Church to renew its missionary commitment.
"The mission of Christ the Redeemer, which is entrusted to the Church, is still very far from completion," the Pope said. "My direct contact with peoples who do not know Christ has convinced me even more of the urgency of missionary activity."
While noting many wonderful things that had happened in the Church following the Second Vatican Council, Pope John Paul II expressed sorrow that "Missionary activity specifically directed 'to the nations' (ad gentes) appears to be waning," a tendency not in line with the directives of the Council and the subsequent statements of the Magisterium, he said. "Difficulties both external and internal have weakened the Church's missionary thrust toward non-Christians, a fact which must arouse concern among all who believe in Christ. For in the Church's history, missionary drive has always been a sign of vitality, just as its lessening is a sign of a crisis of faith," the Pope said.
Sister Siopongco has spent much of her apostolate helping to implement the Holy Father's vision for the central place of missionary work in the life of the Church. She is a native of the Philippines who, prior to entering religious life, worked for 26 years as Comptroller with a firm in New York City. In 2000 she entered the religious community of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matara, a community founded in Argentina in 1988.
As Mission Education in the Washington archdiocese, her responsibilities have included fostering the programs of the Holy Childhood Association to archdiocesan principals, students and clergy, and the planning of missionary activities such as coordinating a mission plan for mission coordinators and Directors of Religious Education, making presentations to Catholic schools and CCD programs, motivating students and fostering the work of vocations.
The Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States are the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, headquarted in New York City, the Holy Childhood Association, Society of St. Peter Apostle, and the Missionary Union of Priests and Religious.
Other consultant organizations to the Committee on World Missions include the Catholic Network of Volunteer Service (CNVS), a resource for people who are involved in or discerning a call to volunteer service, and the United States Catholic Mission Association. The USCMA promotes global mission. Its primary emphasis is on cross cultural evangelization and the promotion of justice by networking with missioners and mission-sending organizations.