By Sr. Madge Karecki
Director of Office for Mission Education and Animation
Archdiocese of Chicago
When I accepted an offer to travel to Rome as part of a teaching team, I had no idea that the week would become one of the most historic weeks in the contemporary history of the Catholic Church.
I traveled to Rome with the National Office of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States, which sponsored the Missionary Animation Course from February 24 to March 2.
Twenty-five directors attended the week's course, with topics including the world Church and Pontifical Mission Societies, theology of mission, new evangelization (my teaching topic), growth of the Church and new initiatives, social communications and mission, role of the Eastern Rite Churches, work of the Pontifical Oriental Institute and how the Eastern Rites give expression to mission, and the role of the four Pontifical Mission Societies.
We had an opportunity to dialogue with the head of the Congregation for the Evangelization of Peoples, Cardinal Filoni, and Archbishop Protase Rugambwa, International President of the Pontifical Mission Societies. Classes were taught by Fr. Vito Del Prete, the General Secretary of the Pontifical Missionary Union of Priests and Religious, Fr. Paul Tighe, Fr. Jim McCann, SJ, and me.
We travelled to the Propagation of the Faith offices and celebrated Mass in the Cardinal Newman Chapel where the habit, veil, scapular, belt and rosary of St. Thérèse of Lisieux, Patroness of the Missions, are displayed. We also toured the missionary museum housed in the same building. Seeing all these places truly increased our appreciation for the Church in mission.
In the midst of our week of classes we had a concrete experience of the universal Church when we gathered for the final audience of Pope Benedict XVI. He looked weary, but joyful. People from various countries waved native flags and banners and shouted greetings in their home languages. I enjoyed meeting people from India, Tanzania, the Congo, Germany, Poland, Spain, Ireland and Australia. News reporters from nearly every country were among the throngs of people.
The next evening we gathered on the roof of the International Center for Missionary Animation to witness the pope's departure. We watched as the helicopter buzzed around the dome of St. Peter's, circled the piazza and flew off to Castel Gandolfo.
I left a day after the course ended, filled with a deeper sense of our unity in the Church. Sometimes we think that the whole Church is shrinking and it is, but not everywhere in the world. Africa and Asia in particular are growing. The Pontifical Mission Societies supports 1,150 new local churches throughout the world!
It was amazing to learn of these ongoing projects and remember our union with so many people because of our common faith, while witnessing it first-hand.
Sr. Madge Karecki has shared some wonderful photos from her trip. Click here to view her photos.