“Go into the whole world and proclaim the Gospel to every creature” (Mk. 16:15-16). This is the missionary command that our Lord Jesus Christ gives us, something that the Institute of the Incarnate Word (IVE) assumes as part of its charism as a missionary order. From June 6th-16th, IVE seminarians and male religious joined with postulants of the Servants of the Lord and the Virgin of Matará (SSVM) to help conduct a popular mission at Saints Peter and Paul Parish in Mankato, Minnesota. The exercise of the popular mission (also known as holy mission, sacred mission or parish mission) according to the saints is the restoration of the Christian faith, the strengthening of the faithful, and the encouragement of conversion for those of the faith to a more intimate relationship with God.
On Tuesday afternoon, June 6th, Fr. Brian Dinkel, IVE, two deacons, about 25 IVE seminarians and 12 SSVM postulants came all the way from the East Coast to arrive in Mankato just in time to witness the opening Mass for the popular mission at Ss. Peter and Paul. The Mass was presided by the pastor, Fr. Mariano Varela, IVE; the IVE male religious and SSVM postulants were accompanied by the IVE minor seminarians of Blessed José Sanchez del Rio High School Seminary as well as volunteer lay missionaries from the parish.
The typical mission day started at 6:15 AM with a rosary procession during which a statue of Our Lady would be carried all around the streets of Mankato. Morning Prayer and Mass immediately followed the procession. In the morning and afternoon, some missioners went on door-to-door visits, sick visits and nursing home visits, while others hosted a mission oratory for children and teenagers. Some of the difficulties that the missioners going door-to-door included confusion regarding Catholicism and Lutheranism, lack of fervor in faith among Catholics, and simple contentment with “a good life,” bereft of any sense of transcendence. Our role as missionaries was to remind those we visited that God calls us to a deeper relationship with Christ by acknowledging our sinfulness and seeking His mercy.
In the afternoon there was Adoration before the Blessed Sacrament and Benediction. After Benediction was a short doctrinal point presented either by a seminarian or a sister on one of the beatitudes. Following the doctrinal point, Fr. Brian Dinkel, IVE, gave the missionary sermon on a particular topic. After the mission sermon came the entertainment, which consisted of songs and skits performed by the seminarians. The day concluded with the final blessing.
On Wednesday, June 8th, Bishop John Quinn of Winona visited the missioners, taking the time to give them words of encouragement and fervor, getting to know them and listening to some of their experiences. It was truly a pleasure for everyone to have Bishop Quinn come and visit.
On the last day of the mission, many came forward and shared their on-the-ground experiences, many of which were quite moving. All in all, despite the many challenges, the mission – at least on a human level – could be judged a success. Many houses were blessed, countless rosaries, holy cards, and other Catholic-themed articles were distributed, many sick people received the sacraments, and many others were shown the path to sacramental rehabilitation.
Many of the outstanding fruits of the mission however may never be known, because ultimately it is by God’s grace that sinners are moved to conversion, the missioner’s efforts notwithstanding. We thank Our Lord for having had the opportunity to serve as instruments of His mercy (especially in this year of mercy), and may His mercy reign from the hills of Mankato to the ends of the earth.