‘Take into our hearts the meaning of mission’

group with a cross

The theme of Mission Sunday this year, “You shall be my witnesses” (Acts of the Apostle 1:8) is meant to emphasise God’s call for us to be missionaries and that we are not just witnesses but we are God’s witnesses. 

Pontifical Mission Societies national director for New Zealand Fr Bernard Espiritu, SVD told NZ Catholic it is important to take into our hearts the meaning of mission. Mission Sunday this year was celebrated on October 23. 

“Mission Sunday is not just a day for collecting money. It is a day to celebrate our being missionary-disciples,” he said. 

Fr Espiritu added Catholics do not donate for the sake of donating, they are giving because they are participating in the mission of God. 

Last year, the New Zealand Catholic Church through Missio Aotearoa was able to raise $594,619 for the Pope’s charity. 

The lion’s share of the fund or $270,658 went to the projects of missionaries who work with children in Lebanon, Syria, the Philippines and Sri Lanka. About 15,600 children were helped through scholarships, health clinics, daily nutrition and faith formation. 

“We care for the carers. There are missionaries who really need support so they could work as good missionaries,” he said. 

The dioceses of Mount Hagen and Wabag in Papua New Guinea received $155,672 to assist in their catechetical programmes and the building of two churches and a presbytery. 

Fr Espiritu added that a large portion of the funds went to nine seminaries around the world supporting over 400 seminarians. 

“Unlike Caritas which helps Kiwis and those overseas affected by calamities, the Pontifical Mission  primarily supports vocations. We think that priesthood or religious life is dying, but in developing countries, there are vocations,” he said.  

“The Pontifical Mission helps so we could really sustain vocation. We are providing for the future of the Church,” he added. 

Around $23,000 was given to Missio Friends for Masses to be celebrated for particular intentions while $3,000 was collected in response to Pope Francis’ appeal to help the Covid-19 victims of Sri Lanka. 

“The Pontifical Mission does work that no other charitable institutes do,” he said. 

He assured people that the money gathered from here goes directly to the beneficiaries.  

“Rome approves the projects, but the funds go directly to the projects being supported,” he stressed. 

However, he said the phasing out of the use of cheques by the banks had really affected Missio Aotearoa’s fundraising. 

“A lot of our older people do not know how to do electronic banking and going to the bank just to deposit a donation of $10 or $20 is too much to ask,” he said. 

Fr Espiritu said he is looking for new donors but acknowledged that a lot of people are still recovering from the economic impact of Covid-19. 

He also said he had to basically let go his secretary to cut down on overhead and so that the money will go to the mission. The secretary now works one day from home making sure the paperwork is done properly. 

“I now do everything, but I often remind God that this is his work,” he said with a laugh. 

He said this is what he wants to emphasise. 

“You do not help just because you are a human being and you want to help the destitute. You have a deeper reason for helping. You are giving because you have faith. It’s not only your work. You are working together with God. His mission is our mission.” 



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Rowena Orejana