We were happy to host Brother Paul O’Keeffe this past weekend and to hear him speak on the Franciscan Mission Union and its important work. Paul is based out of Boston and much of his work is about promoting opportunities for mission throughout our province. “Mission” is something that is very much part of our lives as Christians. We “go out” just as Jesus and the apostles did. Francis of Assisi, as he began to listen more closely to the words of Jesus through his daily prayer, was drawn to move outside the walls of Assisi, to the outlying areas, where he had a series of encounters with people who lived outside the margins of the protective walls of Assisi. It was through those encounters – with a leper, with a Muslim during the Crusades – that his life began to change, that he began to see the living Christ at work in his own life.
One of the important things that Paul spoke about last week was that “mission” does not necessarily mean we leave everything behind and go off to an exotic foreign land. Mission might mean simply “going out” from a way of thinking that is comfortable for us, finding ways of encounter with people who may be different from us. It’s always out of a sense of being “sent” by Jesus, who in the midst of the conflicted culture of first century Palestine, preached a countercultural message: love one another; be men and women who find a way to bring peace even when that might not seem possible; find ways to forgive; be reconcilers. That message continues to be countercultural today and remains our call as baptized Christians.
Brother Paul has led several mission trips to places such as Turkey, South Africa, Kenya, and Cuba. In January he leaves on another trip to India. He will be leading a St. Francis trip to Cuba in September 2016. As you saw last weekend, our parish is also offering a Habitat for Humanity trip to Honduras next June and a trip to visit our sister parish in Guatemala in July. Watch, as well, for upcoming trips to a place that remains dear to my heart, St. Francis Inn in Philadelphia. We are excited about these opportunities at St. Francis.
There was another big truck in our parking lot last weekend collecting donations for the food pantry at Our Lady of the Rosary parish in Louisburg. From what I heard, their pantry has been low, and from what I saw last weekend, the truck was filling up quickly with donations. As always, thank you for your generosity. And high praise and congratulations to the 80 or so students from our Franciscan School who rehearsed for weeks for a brilliant production of “Seussical”.
Blessings on your week!