We give thanks to God for our Religious Family’s first popular mission in Baltimore, Maryland, which is in the first diocese of the United States. With our missionary charism, we did our best to witness the joy of the Gospel during this week-long outreach at Our Lady of Fatima Parish. The Lenten mission included house visits and house blessings in the neighborhoods, activities for children and youth, bingo games with the elderly, visits to the homebound, and meals with various parish groups and families. Each evening culminated with the missionary act, which began with a sunset rosary procession led by religious carrying a statue of Our Lady of Fatima. After the procession there were activities for the children and formation talks for the adults, which were offered in both Spanish and English on essential topics of our faith such as salvation, sin, and grace. As the sunlight faded, we all gathered together on the steps of the church for a festive moment of songs, skits, conversations, and a final song to our Blessed Mother.
The first day we arrived, the missionaries received the mandate and blessing of their missionary crosses during the Saturday evening mass in the parish. The pastor, Fr. Mariano Varela, IVE, and his assistant Fr. Miguel Zavala, IVE, welcomed us to their parish, which they have been serving since September 2019. We were thirty missionaries with about fifteen from the SSVM Novitiate and fifteen from IVE Novitiate. During the days, the brothers and sisters encountered many people in East Baltimore, inviting them to consider the most important task in life: the salvation of their soul. While many people we met were familiar with the location of the church, some were not aware of the church activities especially the Sunday Spanish mass; it was wonderful to see some of the families we met join us in the evenings. In the afternoons, there were activities for children and youth in the park, which is located right next to Our Lady of Fatima.
Certainly, soccer was a favorite! The children would play hard, but they would also join in the prayer. Notably, many of the children encouraged and brought their parents to evening missionary activities, telling them that this was a most important way to spend our time: giving it to God.
After the final Rosary Procession, a young mother stood next to her two daughters and smiled with gratitude, exclaiming: “This mission was a taste of Heaven for our family. We are so happy!” The mission is joy because it is simply the message of the Gospel—Christ’s coming always brings profound joy. From the Incarnation, the angel’s first message to
Mary was rejoice, to the joy of the Risen Christ. The mission removes souls from the emptiness of the spirit of the world and brings them to the joy that will be found eternally in Heaven.
The week of missionary activities reached an unforgettable peak with a Eucharistic Procession. Jesus present in the Blessed Sacrament traveled the streets of Baltimore, the priests that followed sprinkled the neighborhood with Holy Water, then the parishioners and religious took turns carrying the statue of Our Lady of Fatima, this was followed by the children holding Saint Joseph and a banner of the Holy Name of Jesus Society. The procession brought families out of their houses as some spontaneously joined in; others watched from their porches; some listened and prayed from their windows. When the procession returned to the church, the blessing was given with the Blessed Sacrament which passed over a traditional “floral carpet” used in Corpus Christi processions. This beautiful display on the ground showed Christ, the Lamb of God along with the mission theme “Save your Soul.” On the final Sunday of the mission, there was the blessing of the large missionary cross, which was made by brothers and painted by the sisters. It is placed at the entrance of the church to remind everyone of the parish mission and especially the most important mission in life: save your soul. May we each care for our own soul, and we pray that the souls in East Baltimore will seek God to be with Him forever—face to face in Heaven. We pray for our new foundation that will be opening at this parish during 2020.
M. Maria Aeiparthenos Berry