2010-10-20 17:30:06

One Family for World Mission Sunday

As Catholics, we have a wonderful responsibility, by reason of our baptism, to bring about change for the good in our world. But in order to do that, we need to become aware of the necessity to bring about change, first of all in ourselves, and then in our local parish communities. This is what we are asked to do this Sunday by the Holy Father, because people today, either consciously or unconsciously wish for change and they also want “to see Jesus”.
October is the month for missions and Pope Benedict has asked people to reflect on “Building Ecclesial Communion as a Key to Mission”. On the last Sunday of the month in parishes throughout the world, people will be offering prayers and small monetary donations for the work of the Church in the Missions.

Fr. Timothy Lehan S.V.D is secretary general of the Secretary General of the Propagation of the Faith under whose guidencethe Pontifical Missions Societies (PMS) operate. He told Emer McCarthy the story of how the prayers and donations of Catholics worldwide have helped one young priest – a former child soldier – become a source of hope for the many children still trapped by war in his native Uganda.

“I do not know Fr. Stefano personally but .. when he was 16, he was abducted by the Lord's Resistance Army (LRA) in 2003 in an attack on the minor seminary in the diocese of Gulu in northern Uganda. He was kidnapped with 40 other seminarians as the rebel group wanted the seminarians to fight as soldiers in its ranks. They were forced to leave the peace and quiet repose that the seminary offered them for their studies for the horror and pain of the killing fields”.

“For two months, he says, the killing, raping and torture was part of daily life. The rebels wanted to teach the boys how to kill”. He even saw some of his friends beaten and kicked to death in front of him; others he saw slaughtered with machetes when they stopped walking because they could go no further on the long marches. “I saw things I never imagined I would see. A man cannot escape all this, but God works miracles. Prayer was my only hope. During the long marches I prayed the Rosary using my fingers because I had no beads”

“Two months after their abduction, government troops attacked the rebels. In the confusion and fighting Stefano managed to escape and after walking for many days not knowing where he was going, he was found by an army patrol. However in this misfortune he was more fortunate, he managed to escape before being forced to kill anyone”.

“Stefano remembers that his parents and brothers did not want him to return to the seminary, but he knew that the seminary was his place. Most of the seminarians taken that night, he says, “were eventually killed and 12 are still missing”. Today after his long and traumatic ordeal Stefano has become a priest. Like the disciples of the New Testament, he too found Jesus persuasive. Despite all that he had suffered, he was prepared to go back on the road that the Jesus offered him”.

“Through your collaboration on World Mission Sunday, you help Stefano to continue his journey in helping others. For example the Diocesan Radio station in Lira has a special programme on which family members send loving messages to kidnapped children convincing them to come home. Messages are also sent by abducted children who have returned and want to tell their companions not to be afraid, and to come home. The rebels are against these initiatives for peace and they set fire to the radio station. But the aerial did not burn and, with the help of missionary aid groups, this radio continues to broadcast programmes helping to restore peace and reconciliation in Uganda. Every year your donation helps heroes like Fr. Stefano and his Bishop John Baptist Odama of Gulu or Bishops Franzelli of Lira or Hiiboro of Tambura Yambio in Sudan and their missionary priests, religious and laity to continue to bring hope to the people of their troubled region”.

“So lets partake actively as a family in the Church in the celebration of this World Mission Sunday on Sunday the 24th of October by reading and studying the Holy Father’s Message and by giving your donation to your local parish, so that missionaries like Fr Stefano may continue to offer their lives and work in the service of others on our behalf”. Listen: RealAudioMP3

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