In 1926, the Society for the Propagation of the Faith, at the proposal of the Missionary Circle of the Seminary of Sassari, proposed to Pope Pius XI to celebrate an annual day in favor of the evangelizing mission of the universal Church. The request was accepted and that same year the first "World Missionary Day of the Propagation of the Faith" was celebrated, with the intention of proposing it again every penultimate Sunday of October, a missionary month par excellence.
On Sunday the 23rd, therefore, the faithful of all continents are called to open their hearts to the spiritual demands of the mission and to commit themselves with concrete gestures to respond to the primary needs of evangelization, without neglecting human promotion and social development. The Pontifical Mission Societies ensure that all communities, especially the smallest, poorest and most peripheral ones, can receive the help they need.
Destination of funds
Because of the universal dimension, which is the main characteristic of the Church, the offerings go to the so-called Universal Solidarity Fund and are then distributed among the young missionary Churches. The commitments include: supporting the studies of seminarians, priests, religious, nuns and lay catechists; building and maintaining seminaries, chapels and classrooms for catechesis and pastoral activities; guaranteeing health care, school education and the Christian formation of children; subsidizing radio, television and the local Catholic press; providing means of locomotion for missionaries, priests, religious, nuns and local catechists.
The Fund is made up of all the offerings received during the year from the faithful of the various countries of the world, destined for new or recently established Churches (to facilitate their initial development) and for those that lack financial autonomy or are in emergency situations due to war, famine or natural disasters.
On the feast of the Epiphany of the Lord, January 6, the Pope Francis' message for World Mission Sunday 2022. The Holy Father writes that "many Christians are forced to flee their homeland" and that, with the help of the Spirit, "the Church must always go beyond her frontiers to bear witness to the love of Christ".
Under the motto "You will be witnesses of me" it is emphasized that the Church is missionary by nature and cannot do without evangelization, otherwise she would dilute her own identity. Jesus, before ascending to heaven, leaves his disciples a mandate that is an essential call for all Christians: "You will receive power when the Holy Spirit has come upon you; and you will be witnesses to me in Jerusalem, and in all Judea and Samaria, and to the ends of the earth.
You will be my witnesses: these words, writes the Pope, "are the central point": Jesus says that all disciples will be his witnesses and that "they will be constituted as such by grace" and "the Church, a community of Christ's disciples, has no other mission than to evangelize the world, bearing witness to Christ". The use of the plural "you will be witnesses" indicates "the communitarian-ecclesial character of the call". He continues: "Every baptized person is called to the mission in the Church and by mandate of the Church: the mission is therefore carried out jointly, not individually, in communion with the ecclesial community and not on one's own initiative. And even if there is someone who in some very particular situation carries out the evangelizing mission alone, he carries it out and must always carry it out in communion with the Church that has sent him".
The light of St. Paul VI
Francis recalls St. Paul VI when he warned that "contemporary man listens more willingly to witnesses than to teachers", and therefore affirms that for the transmission of the faith "the witness of the evangelical life of Christians" is fundamental, but that "the proclamation of the person and message of Christ remains equally necessary".
He writes in the message: "In evangelization, therefore, the example of Christian life and the proclamation of Christ go hand in hand. This complete, consistent and joyful witness to Christ will certainly be the force of attraction for the growth of the Church also in the third millennium. I therefore exhort everyone to recover the courage, the frankness, the 'parresia' of the first Christians, to bear witness to Christ in word and deed, in all areas of life".
"The Church of Christ has been, is and will always be going out to new geographical, social and existential horizons, to places and human situations on the 'edge', in order to bear witness to Christ and his love for all men and women of every people, culture and social condition. In this sense, mission will always be also 'missio ad gentes', as the Second Vatican Council taught us, because the Church will always have to go beyond, beyond her own frontiers, in order to witness to the love of Christ to all".
The Pope invites us to read, in the light of the action of the Holy Spirit, also the anniversaries that, in the field of mission, fall this year: that of the Congregation of Propaganda Fide, founded in 1622, and that of three missionary works recognized as "pontifical" one hundred years ago. These are the Work of the Holy Childhood, initiated by Bishop Charles de Forbin-Janson; the Work of St. Peter the Apostle, founded by Mrs. Jeanne Bigard to support seminarians and priests in mission lands; and the Association for the Propagation of the Faith, founded 200 years ago by the French Pauline Jaricot, whose beatification is being celebrated in this Jubilee year.
Thanks to the generosity of Catholics in 120 countries around the world, the amount distributed in 2021 was 91,671,762 euros. Thousands of missionary projects can be supported with this year's funds.
Some, by way of example for the Italian Church, are presented on the Missio Foundation website. Among them, the renovation of the General House of the Sisters of the Immaculate Conception in Inongo, in the diocese of the same name, in the Democratic Republic of Congo.
The building where the 150 nuns currently reside was built more than 50 years ago and is now in need of major renovation. When it rains, water leaks through the roof. In addition, the windows do not close, which favors thieves and burglars. The project involves restoring the roof, window frames and ceilings, which have deteriorated in the meantime, at a cost of 30,000 euros. "Being an integral part of the Congolese nation," reads the report that the Superior General prepared for the project application, "our Congregation suffers from the misery that grips the Congo due to the political instability of this country, despite the numerous riches we have in the subsoil and forests."
Most of the sisters of the Immaculate Conception of Inongo are employed in education and public health, but the salary they receive is not even enough to cover their daily needs. Thanks to self-financing activities (such as the sale of honey, salted fish, etc.) and agricultural products from the fields they cultivate, the nuns manage to meet their basic needs. Now, however, there is an urgent need to meet the extraordinary expenses of renovating the house: one of many projects supported through the Universal Solidarity Fund, financed by the 96th World Mission Sunday.