“Missionaries announce to the world a God who loves and cares for humanity and creation,” says Catholic Bishops’ Overseas Mission Committee

The Overseas Mission Committee of the Catholic Bishops Conference of England and Wales (CBCEW) has released a statement explaining the importance of mission to the Church.

The Overseas Mission Committee, chaired by Bishop Paul Swarbrick and made up of Catholic agencies Missio, Mill Hill, CAFOD and Catholic Missionary Union, said “for just as Jesus was sent by the Faith (Jn 20:21), so the universal community of missionary disciples is sent to reach out to Humankind with the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ”.

Explaining how the committee works, the statement added: “In fulfilment of the call to proclaim the Gospel to all nations, the following organisations function together in solidarity and complementarity in the service of missio ad gentes.

The statement in full is below.

Together we are mission

After his Resurrection, Jesus Christ commissioned his disciples to proclaim the Gospel to the whole of creation (Mk 16:15); to make disciples of all nations (Mt 28:18-20); and to witness to the repentance for the forgiveness of sins (Lk 24:47-48).

The Second Vatican Council lent continuity to this Mission for, ‘having been sent by God to the nations to be “the universal sacrament,” the Church, in obedience to the command of her founder, strives to preach the Gospel to all.’

Thus, the Church has continued to respond to the call of God to embrace His mission in the world, for just as Jesus was sent by the Father (Jn 20:21), so the universal community of his missionary disciples is sent to reach out to Humankind with the Good News of salvation in Jesus Christ who draws all people to the Father by the working of the Holy Spirit. ‘Everyone has the right to hear the Gospel.’

In fulfilment of the call to proclaim the Gospel to all nations, the following organisations function together in solidarity and complementarity in the service of missio ad gentes. Each organisation has a representative on the Overseas Mission Committee of the Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales (CBCEW).

The Catholic Missionary Union consists of Missionary Congregations and Societies residing in England and Wales. It acts as a supportive network for missionaries and facilitates mission awareness and mission education. They also coordinate mission appeals in parishes throughout the country.

The parish mission appeal is a well-liked and theologically relevant part of the Church’s year. Rather than being simply an appeal, it is an opportunity to hear directly from missionaries themselves about the work of the Church in the mission field and contributes to nurturing a missionary spirit in the Local Church.

From four participating societies at its origin in the 1950s, 36 missionary groups now take part in the Appeals’ Programme, raising funds annually in support of their projects overseas.

The annual National Course, designed to help those Priests and Religious from overseas who are beginning their ministry in this country, is organised, and run jointly between CMU and Missio.

Founded 200 years ago, Missio (Pontifical Mission Societies) is a worldwide network directed by the Holy Father for missionary support of young Churches through prayer, charity, and missionary formation. Wherever the Catholic Church exists, so too does Missio, with more than 120 offices across the world.

The four Societies are the Association for the Propagation for the faith, the Society of St Peter the Apostle, The Pontifical Missionary Union, and Mission Together.

Missio has ‘a common purpose of fostering a universal missionary spirit among the People of God.’

‘The PMS charism has two branches, one, the promotion of a missionary spirit and a desire for the Gospel to reach the ends of the earth, and two, providing support for the Church’s missionary outreach.’iv

The four constituent Societies of Missio ‘are instruments for promoting responsibility for the missions on the part of all the baptized and for the support of new particular Churches.’

Missio’s ‘special commitment is to keep alive the missionary vocation of all Christ’s disciples, so that all can take part in the universal mission given by the Risen Lord to his Church. The work of animation and missionary formation is the soul of pastoral care, because missio ad gentes is the paradigm of all the Church’s apostolic action.’

Missio enjoys a long-standing and unique relationship with Britain’s own Missionary Society, the Mill Hill Missionaries. Since 1936 Missio has been working with them through the Red Box programme, which includes an authorised appeal in every parish every five years. We strive to work closely together in mutual support of mission and missionaries.

The Mill Hill Missionaries are an international fellowship of missionaries from different continents, cultures and races, united in their common commitment to announcing the Good News of Jesus Christ to people throughout the world.

Moved to great compassion for the plight of peoples in the world of his time who had not yet received the light of faith, and who lived in darkness, misery and fear, Herbert Cardinal Vaughan founded the Mill Hill Missionaries in 1866 to send missionaries where the need was greatest, to the people ‘most abandoned and poorest in the means of grace’.

This core charism was passed on to every generation of missionaries unto today. Over three hundred Mill Hill Missionaries now minister in eleven countries across Asia and Africa. In recent years they have taken on commitments to parishes in Sunderland and Maidenhead as centres of missionary outreach.

CAFOD was born when a team led by Jacquie Stuyt, and including Evelyn White, Nora Warmington and Elspeth Orchard, came together with others from the National Board of Catholic Women, the Catholic Women’s League and the Union of Catholic Mothers to organise the first Family Fast Day in 1960. Two years later, the Bishops’ Conference of England and Wales registered CAFOD as an official charity.

CAFOD is the official aid agency for the Catholic Church in England and Wales and an integral part of the Catholic Church. Its supporters are mainly from the Catholic community and it welcomes support from people of all faiths and none. CAFOD has offices in each diocese of England and Wales, which work directly with the parish communities in their area.

CAFOD reaches out to people living in hard-to-reach places, in war zones and those who are discriminated against. CAFOD believes that ‘if one of us is hurt, hungry or abandoned, we all are hurt, hungry and abandoned. No one should be beyond the love and support they need to live a dignified life’.

CAFOD funds such things as: disaster risk reduction work mitigating against natural disasters, food security programmes, and advocacy work both in the United Kingdom and supporting local communities to lobby on their own behalf.

As part of Caritas Internationalis – a global Church network with a presence in 165 countries, CAFOD has the potential to reach many people in need. The value of partnership, present throughout Catholic Social Teaching, is central to CAFOD’s work overseas. CAFOD relies on and empowers local people who have technical expertise because they are part of their communities and are therefore best placed to respond to needs. The Church often reaches the poorest people, in areas where social care and government structures are not strong.

In collaboration with and on behalf of the Catholic Bishops’ Conference of England & Wales, CMU, Missio, MHM and CAFOD fulfil complementary dimensions of the Mission God has entrusted to the Church.

Humanity is served both spiritually and materially through all these agencies of the Church. Missionaries announce to the world a God who loves and cares for humanity and creation. Missionary disciples reach out to those in greatest need. Humanitarian relief is often channelled through Church infrastructure. Church infrastructure is built and strengthened. Justice, peace and Integrity of Creation is promoted to all by all these agents of mission as a core response to God’s call ‘to make all things new’ (Rev. 21:5).

With Pope Francis, we ‘dream of a “missionary option”, that is, a missionary impulse capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelisation of today’s world rather than her self-preservation.’

‘Challenges exist to be overcome! Let us be realists, but without losing our joy, our boldness, and our hope-filled commitment. Let us not allow ourselves to be robbed of missionary vigour!’v

Bishop Paul Swarbrick
Bishop of Lancaster
Chair, Overseas Mission Committee

Bishop Declan Lang
Bishop of Clifton
Chair, Department for International Affairs