On 23rd October, the entire Catholic Church will be unified in prayer and support of mission. Each year, World Mission Sunday is coordinated by Missio and celebrated in every Catholic community in the world. It is a moment of grace to express solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are living in situations of poverty, violence and oppression. This is Maria’s story …
Ethiopia is a country perhaps most well-known for the suffering it has experienced through intense famine and desperate poverty. Amongst these ongoing challenges, missionaries are bringing communities together to build hope for a better future.
Maria – a Spanish lay missionary from the Community of St Paul – is the Director of the Kidist Mariam Centre (meaning ‘Blessed Mary Centre’) in Meki. This very large population is situated in a rural area, and the people survive by working the land and rearing cattle.
As a result, many women are forced to look overseas for work. But often, this leaves them in vulnerable situations where they are exploited and suffer abuse far away from home.
Maria works with an amazing local team to provide a safe, supportive, and educational environment for vulnerable women, so they no longer have to leave their families and communities to find work.
Watch this short film and hear from Maria and Girma in Ethiopia. Their witness is providing hope for vulnerable woman and empowering them through education:
Maria’s faith, perseverance and dedication to the local people are inspired by her love of Mary: ‘Being a woman, a very humble woman, being the mother of God, and also being a very good inspiration for the disciples… she inspires me. I hope she also will inspire all the women and all the staff, everybody who comes to the Centre to see her as an example of a woman able to transform her life… She’s the best inspiration we can have in the Centre’.
Beth* has seen her life dramatically change through her involvement with the Centre. Living with her mother, brother and sister in Meki, Beth had needed to support her family and became a domestic worker in another country.
Unfortunately, when she went overseas her employers abused and mistreated her. Beth shares that she became ‘mentally unwell’ and returned to her homeland. There, a local Catholic Priest encouraged her to seek assistance through the Kidist Mariam Centre.
Maria remembers when she first met Beth: ‘She came to our Centre to get advice. We started employing her as a cleaner because she needed some help to support her family. And little by little she developed an interest. She wanted to become a food preparation student.
‘Now she’s so happy… we have a project in the rural area with women raising goats to produce milk. And she’s the one in charge of preparing goat’s cheese. She has become the goat cheese expert in our Centre. It’s most impressive that she’s so happy, she’s so self-confident. And she’s even taught many other people’.
Beth’s faith has been a beacon through some of her darkest moments. And in sharing her faith, witnessing to her experiences of Christ’s mercy and healing, Beth is helping other women at the Centre. She says: ‘I believe that God is always before you and behind you in all your troubles… He is prominent for a person like me, who has fallen in life. He is my life. God is my life and my everything’.
Supported by the international Missio network, the Kidist Mariam Centre has seen nearly 3,000 women complete training courses and build brighter futures for themselves and their families.
World Mission Sunday is vital to the growth of the Church and the spread of the Gospel in predominantly impoverished and remote areas overseas where people like Maria live.
The theme the Holy Father has chosen for Mission Sunday this year is: ‘You shall be my witnesses (Acts 1:8). In his message he says: ‘The same Spirit which guides the universal Church also inspires ordinary men and women to undertake extraordinary missions.
“And so it was that 200 years ago, a young French woman – Blessed Pauline Jaricot – founded the Association for the Propagation of the Faith (Missio’s APF). She established a network of prayer and fundraising for missionaries, so that the faithful could actively participate in God’s mission “to the ends of the earth”. This brilliant idea gave rise to the annual celebration of World Mission Sunday.”
In response to the Holy Father, Fr Anthony Chantry, Missio’s National Director in England and Wales, said: ‘The Holy Father reminds us that the words “to the ends of the earth” challenge and urge us to go beyond familiar places in bearing witness to Jesus.
“For all the benefits of modern travel, there are still geographical areas in which missionary witnesses of Christ have not arrived to bring the Good News of his love”.
“Supporting World Mission Sunday with prayer and charitable giving are two vital ways of supporting the Church’s missionary witnesses to the ends of the earth’.”
This World Mission Sunday you have the chance to partner with Maria, and missionaries like her, to support vulnerable women in Ethiopia and around the world. Please lend your invaluable support to ensure this work continues to make a difference for many more women and their communities.
*Beth’s name has been changed to protect her identity.