We now have fifteen new missionaries from St. Paul Parish in East Harlem, New York: the fruit of quarantine boredom, newly-acquired expertise in online communication, the intercession of some great saints (especially the “Teresas”), and, most importantly, the action of the Holy Spirit.
Thanks to the circumstances surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic, our Province decided to offer the annual “Girls’ Summer Days” event on a virtual platform this year. We had the desire to share our love for the missions with the girls in our parish, and to teach them how they too can be missionaries, winning souls for Christ in far-off places, even if they’re not allowed to leave their apartments.
We prepared packets of the materials the girls would need for some simple craft projects to accompany the talks and activities of the “camp.” As the girls began signing up, they came to the Church or parish office to pick up their packet. Of course we even had a couple of girls picking up their packets just an hour before we started the camp (and some even after it began!). We prepared an introductory video to present the theme to the girls: “Duc in Altum: The Missionary Adventure”, which they were to watch before our first meeting…and then we were ready!
We started on Thursday afternoon with two 40-minute Zoom sessions. A lay volunteer with Lamp ministries (an organization for missionaries who work with the poor in NYC) spoke to the girls about being “local missionaries.” She shared with them some simple but beautiful stories about ways they can show Jesus to those they encounter every day through small acts of love. In the second session, I had a conversation with the girls. It went something like this:
Me: “Girls, how do you think you can be missionaries now?”
Them: “We could tell our families and our friends and the people we see every day about Jesus.”
Me: “Good! But what about the people that live in countries far away? Can you be a missionary for them, too?”
Them: “Yes! We could make a video about Jesus and send it to them!” (These are young ladies of the 21st century!)
Me: “Well you’re right! But what if they don’t have internet? How can we tell those people about Jesus?”
Them: “We could write them letters!”
Me: “Okay, good! But what about this: what about someone who isn’t even born yet? God knows all of them, because He has him or her in His heart and mind. What can we do for that person that they also will come to know Jesus?”
There was silence. The girls were really stumped! So I told them, “We can be missionaries by praying for them.”
I then shared with them a video, made several years ago by some of the IVE seminarians, about praying for the missions. We prayed a decade of the Rosary together, with a world map open on the screen; I asked the girls to choose one country that they particularly wanted to pray for during our Rosary.
It was beautiful to see the way the girls assimilated this truth in our next two sessions. We taught them about the great patrons of the missions, St. Francis Xavier and St. Therese of Lisieux, the latter meriting her title without leaving her monastery walls, but transcending all space and time with her zeal for souls and her perfect confidence in God’s answer to her prayers. We taught them how to make sacrifice beads (with an instructional video prepared by Sister. Consolation), and later each girl made a “triptych”, choosing from an assortment of missionary saints to be their particular companion in praying for the missions. As can be seen from the pictures, many of the girls chose St. Mother Teresa as their model; in this way, she gently showed herself a patroness of our little “camp.”
Each girl also chose a specific country to offer her prayers and sacrifices for: the missions in the United States, Mexico, the Dominican Republic, Germany, China, Chile, and Tanzania can now count on some extra help from these children!
Perhaps the highlight of the camp was Saturday morning, when Mother Protectrice de la Foi, missionary in Tanzania, connected with us on Zoom to share pictures and stories about her missionary life in Africa. During a brief moment of internet connection issues, one of the girls asked me, “Is that really Africa that she’s showing us?”
We give thanks to Our Lord and to Mary, Queen of the Missions, for opening up the doors for this apostolate, and we beg that the seeds planted may find fertile soil in the girls’ souls – that each may grow in faithfulness to the mission to which God calls her!
İViva la misión!
Sister Mary Star of Evangelization, SSVM
Missionary at St. Paul Parish
New York City