World Mission Sunday 2018
Dear brothers and sisters,
The average age of people in the world today is about 28. It follows that most of the one and a quarter billion members of the Catholic Church are young. That is even more striking when we look at the Church in Africa where the average age of Catholics is 19 and in Asia it is 24.
It is no accident then that on this World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis wishes us to focus upon the young people in our Church and the part they play in our mission to bring the Good News of God’s love to all of humanity. Young people are often quick to be enthusiastic, joyful and generous and our Holy Father points out that these are the perfect qualities of a follower of Christ. I saw this several years ago when I returned for 12 months to the parish in Cameroon where I had previously worked for many years. At Mass one Sunday, I asked if some of the young people could volunteer to help organise a day for the youth of the parish. 80 turned up at my door offering to help and 600 came to the event.
As the old traditions in Africa are dying—as countries across the continent are blighted by corruption and a collapse of the old moral standards and deepening insecurity—young people in Africa are increasingly turning to the Church to guide them in their lives. What has come about is remarkable: the churches are full of young people who have a refreshing confidence about their faith and who convey a joy about being connected to a family that is spread throughout the world. Vocations to the priesthood and religious life have also increased dramatically in Africa and Asia and there is a real sense of vitality and hope in the Church.
In his message for this year’s World Mission Sunday, Pope Francis urges young people not to be afraid of Christ and his Church, because, he says, “it is where we find the treasure that fills life with joy.” Speaking from his own experience, he says that it is through faith he found the sure foundation of his dreams and the strength to realise them. “The heart of the Church’s mission,” the Pope continues, “is the infectiousness of love, where joy and enthusiasm become the expression of a newfound meaning and fulfilment in life. The spread of the faith ‘by attraction,”’ he says, “calls for hearts that are open and expanded by love.”
This could be seen clearly in June when Missio Scotland brought young people from Scotland and Zambia together. Ten pupils from St Mungo’s Academy in Glasgow and Taylor High School in Motherwell spent two weeks sharing the life of young Catholics in Zambia. The two young girls on our Mission Sunday poster are Heaven from Lusaka in Zambia and Niamh from Motherwell. When they were asked what being part of the Church meant for them Niamh said: “I’ve really enjoyed seeing how we are all drawn together by our faith and the Church. It’s something that we all have in common.” And Heaven commented: “Belonging to the Church is great, not just for me but for everyone, because the Catholic Church is worldwide. We are one. It doesn’t mean that because we are black and they are white we are separate. Being part of a global Church means that we all have to be together as one.”
One nice example of how our young people here in Scotland have helped their brothers and sisters in other parts of the world has been the money raised by the children in our Catholic primary schools. Our sister organisation, SCIAF, is responding to the immediate needs of the people in Kerala in India whose lives have been devastated by the recent terrible floods. Just before the disaster struck Missio Scotland sent £29,000 raised by our Catholic school children for the ongoing care of the children of Kerala. The generosity of our pupils really demonstrates what lies at the heart of the Church—that we are all children in one family.
Pope Francis sees today as an opportunity for all the parishes of the world to pray for one another and for the wealthier parishes to share financially with the parishes in other parts of the world where people are poor.
The young Catholics in Africa, Asia and Central and Southern America need our help to complete the building of their churches, to run clinics and hospitals where they look after the sick and dying, to provide education and food to schoolchildren and care for mothers and children in centres run by parishes and religious communities.
We ask you to please be generous because what you give today will improve the lives of our brothers and sisters.
Yours sincerely in Christ,
Fr Vincent Lockhart
National Director, Missio Scotland