just another existential crisis…

Martha or Mary?

Martha or Mary?

Who am I?

What am I doing here? Should I be working here, or somewhere else – or not at all? Have I understood God correctly? Is this His will for me?

They’re questions asked by many. (Not just bloggers with writer’s block who are debating if they should have just stayed in bed this morning rather than get paid to stare blankly at a keyboard all day, and then proceed to write run-on sentences. But I digress.)

No, all thinking folks want to know what in the world they should be doing with their lives. Believers have the added obligation of considering what God wants for them. Is the way we are living pleasing to him – or is he calling us to something else?

Men and women considering the priesthood or religious life call this process “discernment.” It’s not as if the ordained simply wake up one morning and decide to make the leap. It might take months or perhaps years of praying over the possibilities, evaluating options, and considering their gifts and talents. And even then an act of faith is required – a decision must be made. God really isn’t in the habit of sending down lightning bolts or setting bushes on fire for our benefit.

Those of us who choose marriage should remember that such a life is a vocation, too. Few of us think about being “called” to married life – even though this is certainly the most common state in life. And once we’ve entered married life, and settled into its patterns, are we done asking God what he wants from us?

Hardly.

So where does that leave us? Just sitting here waiting on God to tell us what to do with our lives?

While we’re waiting for that message from above, we’ll need to make at least one choice on our own: will we do something or not? Will we move or sit still?

Many of us are “do-ers”, and we’ll be eager to get started even if we’re not sure where we’re headed. We’re Marthas, if you will, always eager to serve God by bustling around. We figure God will let us know what he wants from us in time, and if we keep busy while we’re waiting, we’ll have lots of options he can pick from. If we’re always moving, God can shove us in the right direction, right?

On the other side we have the contemplative types, the Marys. Marys tend to tackle discernment from another angle – a more spiritual one. They sit at the Lord’s feet rather than running back and forth to the kitchen. They know that he will provide the answers they need if they wait on him in a different sense.

Is one approach superior?

Truthfully, they go hand in hand.

If you’re wondering what God is calling you to do, you need to do both: work and pray. “Ora et labora” is a motto we could all live by. Search out information. Try lots of activities. Explore your options. But keep it all real with a healthy dose of contemplation and prayer.

We’re pretty excited here at the PIME HQ to announce that we have a new staff member on board who will be involved in vocations, outreach, and mission trip planning. Have a question about vocations with the PIME Missionaries? Email Giovanni at outreach@pimeusa.org.

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hot off the presses!

pimeworld0809If you’re already a subscriber, you should be receiving your copy of the August edition of PIME World Magazine in the next week or so.

You can look forward to articles focusing on our mission work in the Phillipines, including the latest on the EUNTES Asian Center and their summer programs of preparation for missionaries.

You’ll also find out what led one young man to choose a missionary priesthood as his vocation, and you’ll get a sneak peek at some photos of our recently renovated building here in Detroit.

If you look closely, you’ll even find a picture of me, PIME World’s new editor!

Not a subcriber yet? Click here to sign up for one free year!

the power of a thank you

ThankYou_01My job requires me to do lots of research.

When I’m not writing, I’m reading. When I’m not surfing the internet for info, my nose in usually in a book. (Yes, people still read books!)

And since I’m one of those people who ends up reading the dictionary or encyclopedia for an extended period when I go to look something up, I often spend a good deal of my day learning lots of interesting things I didn’t set out to learn.

Today’s research led me to an anecdote that reminded me that our mothers were right – it is important to say thank you.

Back in 1956, the PIME Missionaries were blessed with a generous donation that allowed them to build a minor seminary, Sts. Peter and Paul, in Newark, Ohio. As is often the custom, the missionaries honored the donor by including his name on a bronze plaque near the entrance.

Many saw the plaque, and one gentleman was so impressed by it that he asked for a photo of it to share with his uncle. He thought perhaps the uncle might like to make a donation as well.

Sure enough, that kind gentleman was inspired to give too. In fact, he decided to pay for the entire cost for the land for the seminary the PIME Missionaries were planning to build in the Detroit area.

Their thank you did more than honor the giver – it started a positive chain of events that led to more good things happening.

Gratitude is like that.

“So,” you’re probably asking yourself. “If I do something nice, will I get a plaque too?!?”

Hmmmm, not likely.

Sometimes we see the direct result of our good deeds, but often we have to be patient and trust God with the results.

But to tell the truth, if we could we’d put every one of our benefactors’ names on a plaque. Obviously that’s not practical, but we can do this –

Say “thank you.”

Whether you’ve helped us build a seminary or a chapel, or simply helped us pay the electric bill, we appreciate it more than we can say.

We are also grateful for your prayers. Prayers can’t be quantified, but they can be felt. Our missionaries couldn’t possibly achieve what they do without some powerful prayer support.

So please accept our heartfelt thanks. And consider this a prompt to say thank you to someone who’s been generous with you.

Plaque optional. 🙂

success or failure? you decide

Papua-New-Guinea-NativeJohn stood on the deck of the small merchant ship and looked out across the waters. From this vantage point, he had a clear view of the coast of the tiny island. He squinted, shielding his eyes from the bright September sun. He strained to see some sign of the friends he had left behind here, for this was not his first visit.

He was only 29, but he had traveled extensively throughout the Pacific Seas. He had spent months here on this remote island, living and working, praying and suffering. He was so anxious to return, saying that his very heart had been left behind there.

That morning in 1855 John thought he had nothing – yet everything -to lose by returning to Woodlark. When he saw the grass roofs of the natives’ huts, he prayed for a glimpse of his brother priests. Instead he saw only a group of men paddling toward the Gazelle in canoes.

In moments they were onboard. Avicoar, their leader, pushed aside the crew, moving swiftly toward John. He looked intently into the young priest’s eyes, and for a moment John hoped for the grace of reconcilation.

Instead, he was met with a blow. The sharp blade of Avicoar’s ax split open John’s head, and he was dead.

It was over. Fr. John Mazzucconi, PIME’s first martyr, had come to the islands with hope – hope that he could offer the gift of the Gospel, and that that gift would be received. Instead, he was met with sickness, suffering, and violence. He died at the hands of those he had given his life to serve.

Stories like this are hard to take – even for people of faith. Blessed John Mazzucconi died for his faith. He died for his missionary calling. And how many souls were saved as a direct result of his sacrifice?

At first glance, we’d have to say none.

That’s right, none. Zero. According to Fr. Nicholas Maestrini’s biography of Mazzucconi (Mazzucconi of Woodlark: Priest and Martyr) Fr. John and his companions saw no real change in the people of the island. The did not seem to even hear the message that he was willing to die for.

So was his life a failure? Was his mission work a waste of time?

This morning I came across a book about the islands of Papua New Guinea, where the island of Woodlark is located. As I glanced at the vivid photographs, snug in my safe midwestern office, far from the wild lands of mission fields, I was shocked. The images showed a land and people who looked nothing like my own. I know they are God’s children, as I am, but in my ignorance of their culture and customs I felt frightened by them.

I imagined the courage it took for young John to travel to those islands so many years ago. He couldn’t imagine the culture he was about to confront. He had no idea how strange their customs would be, how bizarre their beliefs compared to his own.

He had no book of photographs to prepare him like I did. He couldn’t just google “remote island in the Pacific” and find out what was in store for him.

When I saw these photographs this morning, I thought about the absolutely amazing qualities missionaries – in John’s day and today – must possess.

Today’s missionaries might know more about the lands they’ll visit and the people they serve. (In fact, the PIME Missionaries spend a great deal of time preparing their missionaries to adapt to the places they’ll visit.) However, they still need courage, and passion, and a sense of adventure to set out for those lands.

They also need a tremendous sense of trust. They must trust that God is the one at work in the hearts of all people. They must trust that even if they don’t see the results of their labors immediately, or even in their lifetime, God is using them powerfully.

John knew that. He knew his life had meaning and purpose.

He trusted God for the success of his mission. And God is in the business of providing for those who trust in him.

The PIME Missionaries left Woodlark, with no visible success, in 1855. They did not return until 1981; they maintain a presence there today. On the Trobriand Islands of Papua New Guinea, there are about 40.000 people. The majority of them are Christians.

IRA info: Charitable Rollover option to expire

IRALots of folks have IRA funds – so we figured you might be interested in some info about some legislation that will be affecting the Charitable Rollover Option currenting in place.

As you may know, an IRA Charitable Rollover has been available to donors who are interested in rolling over funds directly to charities such as the PIME Missionaries. This plan has allowed many donors to roll over funds from their IRA accounts directly to eligible charities, allowing them to plan their giving and experience tax benefits.

However, the IRA Charitable Rollover option will expire at the end of 2009.

An extension of the IRA Charitable Rollover will be considered by Congress when the next session begins. Of course we cannot predict the outcome, but we do know at this time that the current option for tax-free giving will expire on December 31, 2009. We recommend contacting a financial advisor to learn up-to-date information on these options, and to be educated about the best plan for you.

There is still an opportunity to benefit from the current rollover option.

Please let us know if you’re considering taking advantage of the current IRA Charitable Rollover as part of your planned giving with the PIME Missionaries. Know that we are extremely grateful for your continued financial support and prayers – both essential elements to the continued good works of the PIME Missionaries in their worldwide ministries.

thou shalt not label thy neighbor

I had a conversation today with an associate, a new friend who also happens to be a priest.

We covered many topics: politics, sports, religion, the separation of Church and State. We touched on everything from the behavior of bishops to the existence of absolute truth.

Wow.

Amazingly, I think our friendship still has a chance!

I’m struck by how often we find ourselves in situations in which we want to label ourselves, and to apply labels to others. Conservative or liberal? Republican or Democrat? Dispenser of truth or fear-monger? We want to know where the other stands, and in contemplating our differences we seem eager to calculate the distance that divides us.

Our conversation was lively and well-intentioned, thought-provoking and sincere. It was also kind, and when we were finished we discovered the interesting fact that mostly, we agreed.

We agreed, most importantly, that Christians are called to know, love and serve God, although these words were never spoken. The truth is written on our hearts, and grace is freely given if we seek to understand it.

If I know anything about the PIME Missionaries, it’s that they’re not about labels at all. The only one they proudly proclaim is this: missionary. They are missionaries. Always missionaries and only missionaries. They set out to do the work God has called them to do (preach the Gospel in word and deed.) And they do it humbly, without fanfare, and without judgment for those they serve.

I label myself many things: wife, mother, friend, Catholic, writer. If I am honest I might sometimes add other labels: gossip, coward, critic, loudmouth. I learned today that labels aren’t as important as what lies beneath them. And I was reminded that God is supremely interested in – and passionately in love with – that which lies beneath.

Cathy

wholehearted thanks

Fr. Reddimansu  of India.

Fr. Reddimansu of India.

Imagine getting a letter like this:
“You are an unforgettable person in my life because of your love your have shown me both spiritually and materially. I thank you so much for your love and support for so many years (as) I reach the state of priesthood of Christ…I give you a big thanks from the bottom of my heart for your love, support and prayers.

Or this:
Dear “Mom,”
Myself and my entire family thank you whole heartedly for all the help that you are (giving) to me. I assure you my special prayers…that the Good Lord shower His blessings on all the good works that you and your family are doing.”

Our native seminarians, who are helped to attend seminary in their homelands and fulfill their priestly vocations, are so thankful to their benefactors.

Without their help, they might not have been able to answer that call.

We need priests, desperately.

And these young men need us.

If you’d like to find out more about PIME’s native seminarian program, visit this site, or leave a comment here.

whatever it takes

pencilsWhen one hears “missionary work” one thinks of the priests and brothers serving the poor in remote regions – and that would be accurate.

But it might surprise you to learn the many ways PIME Missionaries “get the job done.”

The PIME Missionaries sponsor a variety of programs that help the poor in developing countries. But we’re not just about “programs.” If a need doesn’t fall into a specific category, we don’t ignore it. We find a way.

The “General Works” of PIME involve caring for the missions in every aspect. Just like families can’t anticipate every need that might come along, we can’t always plan for all our missions need. Transportation fails. Natural disasters destroy. Homes need to be built. Wells must be dug. Structures must be maintained.

Each issue of PIME World Magazine features opportunities for our friends to assist our work by aiding with specific projects.

For example, our August issue includes info on school children in the remote region of Guntur, India. (When you receive your copy, make sure you look up the “Mission Partnership” section. Not receiving PIME World yet? Click here.) They need basic school supplies. Yep, paper, pencils, that kind of thing. And we plan to help them.

Often, our view of missionary work is narrow. We might imagine priests saying Mass (which they of course do) or brothers teaching religion classes (check there as well.) We might think of folks preparing meals for hungry children (yes) or giving health care to those who suffer (that’s a done deal.)

But missionaries are neither proselytizers or social workers. They are sent to live the Gospel, and in doing so to do more good than any mere program or social reform.

Sometimes, they’ll provide sacraments. Often, they’ll fill physical needs.

And sometimes, they’ll just bring pencils.

It’s all Good.

missionary life: live it, support it

Fr. Robert enjoying a recent issue of PIMEWorld Magazine.

Fr. Robert enjoying a recent issue of PIMEWorld Magazine.

Every year, a missionary priest visits our parish.

He tells stories from the missions, and the faithful listen patiently.

We know what he’s here for. He wants us to feel guilty for living such prosperous lives. He wants us to empty our pockets for the poor people in some foreign country that we maybe haven’t even heard of.

We make a donation, and then promptly forget about the missions until the following year.

That’s not how it should be.

I chatted yesterday with a missionary priest, Fr. Robert Pallichankudy, who serves in the mission of Manaus in the Amazon. He reminded me of two truths about our lives as Catholics and the missionary calling.

One, all the baptized are called to be missionaries.

Most of us won’t travel to foreign lands, but that shouldn’t stop us from allowing a missionary spirit to form our lives. Our day-to-day existence, whatever it may involve, gives each of us real opportunites to share Jesus and His message with others.

Two, we are all called to support the work of missionaries who proclaim the Gospel around the world.

Giving support to our missionaries in developing countries is not an option; it’s a mandate.

I like to say that our missionaries are the very hands and feet of Christ. They are serving the poor and proclaming the Gospel. And from my understanding, the Scriptures and Church teaching are pretty clear on this. Those two tasks are pretty much the essence of Christian living.

Since I started here at PIME Missionaries as their Communications Director, I’ve begun looking at missions and missionaries in a fresh way. No longer will I think of them once a year when a visiting priest comes to town. Of course, I have the advantage of working with them every day. But I now feel a clear calling to share their stories in a broad way, and to remind my brothers and sisters that the missions need our thoughts, prayers and support year-round.

Want to do something for the missions TODAY? You can.

1. Right now, thank God for the missionary priests and brothers who do His work.
2. Offer a prayer or some small suffering for a missionary.
3. Visit our website at pimeusa.org to find out more about our programs.
4. Don’t forget that you, too, are called to be a missionary in your daily life. Set an example. Do good and avoid evil. Walk the walk.

Make a difference.

Cathy Adamkiewicz, Communications Director and editor of PIMEWorld Magazine.

charity in truth

“People of good will” – wake up. Our Holy Father has words for you.

The long-awaited papal encyclical “Caritas in Veritate” – Charity in Truth – has been presented to us as a guide for interpreting the virtue of charity and its role in forming Catholic social teaching.

Acknowledging the “great challenge for the Church in a world that is becoming progressively and pervasively globalized,” Benedict XVI exhorts the faithful to turn always to God’s Love and to be “illumined by the light of reason and faith.”

For those of us with a “missionary spirit,” there is much food for thought in this letter.

Some points to ponder taken from the text:

Charity is at the heart of the Church’s social doctrine.

Only in truth does charity shine forth, only in truth can charity be authentically lived. Truth is the light that gives meaning and value to charity.

Without truth, charity degenerates into sentimentality. Love becomes an empty shell, to be filled in an arbitrary way. In a culture without truth, this is the fatal risk facing love.

Charity goes beyond justice.

To desire the common good and strive towards it is a requirement of justice and charity.

The sharing of goods and resources, from which authentic development proceeds, is not guaranteed by merely technical progress and relationships of utility, but by the potential of love that overcomes evil with good (cf. Rom 12:21).

Man does not develop through his own powers, nor can development simply be handed to him.

The world’s wealth is growing in absolute terms, but inequalities are on the increase.

Feed the hungry (cf. Mt 25: 35, 37, 42) is an ethical imperative for the universal Church.

One of the most striking aspects of development in the present day is the important question of respect for life, which cannot in any way be detached from questions concerning the development of peoples.

This is what gives rise to the duty of believers to unite their efforts with those of all men and women of good will, with the followers of other religions and with non-believers, so that this world of ours may effectively correspond to the divine plan: living as a family under the Creator’s watchful eye.

Development aid for poor countries must be considered a valid means of creating wealth for all.

Development needs Christians with their arms raised towards God in prayer.

The PIME Missionaries are keenly interested in the development of poor nations, in feeding the hungry, and, most importantly, in bringing the Truth of the Gospel to all. These words of the Holy Father bring to life the very soul of a PIME missionary:

Thus adherence to the law etched on human hearts is the precondition for all constructive social cooperation. Every culture has burdens from which it must be freed and shadows from which it must emerge. The Christian faith, by becoming incarnate in cultures and at the same time transcending them, can help them grow in universal brotherhood and solidarity, for the advancement of global and community development.

Read the entire encyclical here.