Last month we were privileged to join our volunteers and supporters in Lancaster Diocese for two special Mission Masses. As always, it was wonderful to get out and about and meet the people who do so much to support mission.

On Saturday 18 November we joined supporters at Sacred Heart Church, in the Parish of St John Paul II, Preston. As ever, the welcome was wonderfully warm, and we were joined by Bishop Paul Swarbrick, Missio’s Chair of Trustees, who celebrated Mass.

Our Universal family of faith

During Mass, Bishop Paul noted that there are parts of the world which are very far away, but which are close to us in faith. In his homily, he reminded us that the universal Church is a gift to us, and that our fellow Christians journey with us, sharing the same prayers and listening to the same Gospels. He explained:

‘The Church overseas contributes to us: many people from overseas come to work here. They rejuvenate our Catholic communities. They bring a special gift of joy. There is an exchange of gifts within the Church.’

Please join us to pray for the intentions of young churches around the world and thank God for the blessing they are.

A physical sign of your support

The truth of Bishop Paul’s words was clear to all of us, particularly because we were joined by Fr Sam, Missio’s Diocesan Director for Lancaster, who is originally from Nigeria; Fr Oliver, originally from Zambia; and Fr Francisco, also from Nigeria – all of whom are now based in the UK. How wonderful to be joined by them and hear the witness they bring!

After Mass we shared a wonderful meal, and had the chance to get to know one another. Fr Oliver gave a presentation after Mass, thanking supporters and explaining Missio’s vital role:

‘Thanks for the wonderful work you are doing for Missio. The people benefitting are truly grateful. I stand as a sign, a physical sign, of this support.

‘I am a product of the Red Box. Seminarians in Zambia receive about a 50-60% subsidy from Missio. The money is needed to feed the priests for their 8 years of training and to provide clothing, housing, medical care and transport. The costs add up. We are very grateful for the support.’

Mission at home and around the world

Missio representative, Claire, also spoke about Fr Thomas Jackson MHM, who established the Red Box in England and Wales as a way of supporting the missions. Born in Preston, Fr Jackson wished to support young men who wanted to be priests but didn’t have the means.

Claire also mentioned that Missio supported churches in England during restoration of the Catholic Church in the middle of the 19th century (the restoration of the Roman Catholic hierarchy in England was in 1850). When we say Missio is there for the Church wherever it is young or poor, we really mean it!

It’s not all ‘one-way traffic’

Our second Mission Mass took place in Carlisle on 25 November at Blessed Christopher Robinson House in the Parish of Our Lady of Perpetual Help. Mass was concelebrated by Bishop Paul Swarbrick and Canon Luiz Ruscillo.

In his homily, Bishop Paul impressed on us the lessons we can learn from the young churches we support overseas. He explained:

‘… it is not all one-way traffic. We need humility and joy to learn the lessons the young churches would want to teach us in these times.’

After Mass we shared lunch, and then invited the Missio volunteers and Red Box holders present to introduce themselves, and give a bit of background as to how they became involved with the Red Boxes.

There every step of the way

Both Bishop Paul and Fr Sam Ofia addressed parishioners. Bishop Paul shared memories of his time as a missionary in Zambia, and Fr Sam shared his experiences of seminarian and priestly life in Africa, where Missio had often provided a helping hand. He shared:

‘During my seminary training we learned that funding from Missio had equipped the seminary library.

‘After I was ordained, I was the Bishop’s Secretary for a few months and the Bishop was provided with a means of transport from Missio.’

He added that when he was  working in Liberia in 2003, priests obtained Mass stipends from Missio, which helped them to survive as the local community couldn’t provide a sufficient salary.

He continued:

‘I first wish to say “thank you” for sending missionaries to Africa. Then I wish to thank you for contributing financially and by your prayers. Don’t give up – I am a product of your support!’

Thank you!

A huge thank you to all of our friends and supporters in Lancaster Diocese, and to everyone who made our Mission Masses such a wonderful celebration of our faith and missionary family!