“Go into all the world and preach the gospel to the whole creation. He who believes and is baptized will be saved; but he who does not believe will be condemned…” And they went forth and preached everywhere… (Mk 16:15-20)
Every year, the novices of the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) and the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará (SSVM) go door to door to invite people to a popular mission. A mission, contrary to the commonly understood idea, is not only a work of evangelization in a faraway land with an often rigorous climate and sometimes uncivilized indigenous people — that is what the Church calls a foreign mission. Rather, a popular mission is held at an already established parish and is a special time of evangelization, faith, and repentance for all the people of the community.
Many things take place during a mission. Some people are shocked to find out that Catholics also go door to door, some are receptive and open to conversation, and still others open the door only to slam it shut again. Kids are invited off the street to play and learn that there is more than only this world, teens are shown the unfading glory of the cross of Christ, and adults are reminded of God’s infinite mercy and love. People are baptized, First Communions made, confessions heard, and the Eucharist is celebrated and received with renewed faith and love, all to the greater glory of God.
This year’s popular mission in Philadelphia was hosted at the parishes of St. Veronica and St. Hugh of Cluny. We the missionaries went out in pairs for an hour or two twice each day to go door to door, inviting people to encounter God in the Catholic Church. On a few of the days from February 17–28, it was raining and cold with a wind chill, but most of the time, thankfully, it was just plain cold…
We would walk together from the church through the neighborhood to a specific street and visit each of the houses. Every time someone answered, we introduced ourselves and (if people listened to us past that point) invited them to the Catholic Church, explaining a point or two of the faith. We took joy in meeting fellow Christians who were zealous for Christ and the truth. When we got back to the parish afterwards, we ate, rested, chatted about our frequently comic experiences, and shared some inspiring stories. At seven o’clock, we began Eucharistic Adoration and prayed the Rosary; then, we listened to a sermon from Fr. Javier concerning God, Christ, and Christian life before heading downstairs for some music and games with the kids and people.
The mission, thanks be to God, had many fruits with many people receiving the sacraments (some for the first time) and even more ready to receive them later around Easter. For ourselves, however, we can only make our own the hopes that the pastors and faithful of St. Veronica addressed to us: “You recognized the face of Christ hidden here beneath the veil of ignorance and poverty in our streets, and brought knowledge of His love to so many homes and families in need of such a grace. We can only pray that the fruit of your labor may help to keep the Catholic presence alive in an area that seems to many to be lost to all that is holy.” We will always pray for those we have touched and will touch in our apostolate, and we ask that the reader would kindly remember us in his prayers.
To the Greater Glory of God and the Salvation of Souls