“Then Jesus approached and said to them, ‘All power in heaven and on earth has been given to me. Go, therefore, and make disciples of all nations, baptizing them in the name of the Father, and of the Son, and of the Holy Spirit, teaching them to observe all that I have commanded you. And behold, I am with you always, until the end of the age.’” Matthew 28: 18-20
Early September, forty members of our Religious Family, composed of SSVM and IVE novices, seminarians, deacons, and one priest, were invited to the Diocese of Brooklyn, New York to host a two-week popular mission at the Co-Cathedral of St. Joseph and St. Teresa of Avila’s Parish. Msgr. Harrington, rector of the parish and friend of our Religious Family, had invited us previously in 2013 to host a popular mission at the same parish because he saw the great need for evangelization and the presence of religious in an area comprised of young professionals and young families. When we arrived at the parish, many parishioners, who had participated in the 2013 popular mission, approached us asking when the mission events began and were looking forward to attending.
Msgr. Harrington expressed that the main intention of this mission was the same as it was six years ago: to be a presence of Christ in the city that others can see and to sow seeds that will reap fruits in the future. In addition to being a presence in the streets, we hosted a children’s oratory, rosary processions, formation talks for adults, and “fogones” (festive outdoor songs) to close each night. Msgr. Harrington warned us that we would face a great amount of indifference and some hostility in the city, but that not all of the people are that way.
We went off in small groups to different streets, parks, and apartments to meet the people in the city. We approached people to start conversations which led to talking about the mission and to invite them to the parishes. The missionaries played instruments along the streets, made balloon animals for kids, played soccer in the parks, and many others things to bring smiles to the people’s faces. Though we encountered people along the way who were not interested in what we had to say or what we were doing, there was still a great number who took the time to stop and talk with us. The people who stopped were not all practicing Catholics. Most of the people we encountered had fallen away from the Church, did not believe in God, or practiced another religion such as Buddhism, Judaism, or Islamic religions. Yet, those who were not practicing were still interested in speaking to us because they saw the joy which the missionaries radiated, the joy which only comes from Christ.
Most of the day was spent on the streets meeting people in Brooklyn, but the afternoon concluded at the parish for the mission. The mission began at the parish with the children’s oratory. A few of the missionaries led the oratory which consisted in Catechetical talks, games, crafts and sports. Then members of the community gathered at the parish for a rosary procession. We processed around downtown Brooklyn carrying a crucifix, a statue of Our Lady of Guadalupe, a banner for the parish, singing Marian hymns, and praying the Rosary. Many people stopped us to ask what was going on and when we explained what we were doing, most of the people thanked us for bringing something good to the area. We noticed that while we were processing down the streets, people would stop on the sidewalk, take out their headphones, and make the sign of the Cross. Following the rosary procession, there were formation talks given by the missionaries on the main elements of the Catholic faith. After the talk, the children’s oratory processed to offer flowers to Our Lady while the congregation sang Marian hymns.
We were in New York on the eighteenth anniversary of the 9/11 attacks in the city.. Our Religious Family attended a prayer service on the anniversary of the attacks at one of the local fire stations that lost six men during the attacks and three more years later due to lung cancer from the attacks. One of our deacons was able to go with a few seminarians and sisters to read the Gospel, give a short homily, and sing patriotic hymns for the people. When deacon began to speak, the entire crowd made the sign of the Cross. After the service, we greeted the families and many of them were weeping and thanking us for being present with them that day. Then we gathered at the parish for a memorial Mass. Firefighters processed over an hour and a half from Ground Zone of the World Trade Center to the parish, to join the memorial Mass. They processed down the same path they took from the fire station on the day of the attacks carrying memorial flags for each firefighter who died in the area.
May our Blessed Mother, Queen of Missions guide and protect all of the souls we encountered on this mission. We invite each of you to join in prayer for this intention.
¡Viva la Misión!
– Sr. Mary of Calvary