The Missionary Spirit of Franciscans

This weekend, August 5th and 6th, will bring a very special guest to Sacred Heart. Br. John Aherne, OFM, who interned with us during the summer of 2014 will be visiting us and sharing his experiences with the Franciscan Missionary Union.

What is the Franciscan Missionary Union?
The Franciscan Missionary Union’s philosophy of mission is influenced by the life and works of St. Francis of Assisi. The goal of the Holy Name Province Franciscan Missionary Union is to offer lay Catholics an encounter with diverse cultures — from the street children and orphans of Nairobi to the chronically homeless inhabitants of Washington D.C. — so that everyone involved can experience the grace of Christ more fully. Mission represents an opportunity for the people of non-Christian cultures to encounter the Church in its concrete form, and for individual Catholics to be transformed by the holiness contained in the traditions of those cultures. At the heart of FMU programs is the idea of “reverse mission,” which refers to the gifts that local churches receive from their missionary activities abroad. By extending missionary opportunities to lay Catholics, we believe the Church will reap the rewards of a new generation of Catholics, capable of responding with a missionary spirit to changing times.

After his summer at Sacred Heart, Br. John left to finish his seminary studies, and the next summer saw him embark on a mission trip to Kenya. Here are Br. John’s own words about the experience.

“I’m so happy to be returning to Sacred Heart to share my experiences with the Franciscan Missionary Union! I never wanted to have anything to do with the missions. Whenever people came to my parish to raise money for missionary groups like the FMU, I was happy to give, especially since I had absolutely no desire to be a missionary. I had lived in New York City for all of my life and that was enough of an adventure for me. God, of course, had other plans. My time with the FMU working in an orphanage in Kenya and leading a mission trip to South Africa are among the most intense religious experiences of my life. Like the disciples in this week’s Gospel reading (MT 17:1-9), I found myself standing on holy ground, seeing and hearing Christ in a way that I never had before, and inspired to share the Good News of His Gospel with greater passion and vision. All of this is thanks to the good work of the FMU.”

And how has the Franciscan Missionary Union played a role in our every day parish life? This past April, five Sacred Heart parishioners, Marguerite Brennan, Loretta Callahan, Angie Ducker, Maria Ortega, and Avril Wick, traveled with our Holy Name Province, Franciscan Missionary Union, on a mission trip of presence and relationship building to Cuba. Our parishioners were led by Maggie Kibler, on behalf of FMU, and they stayed in Havana, Remedios, and Trinidad. By sharing daily life with the Franciscan Friars in Havana and visiting the homes of local families in Cuba, the group witnessed the complexities of Cuban life and the peoples’ determination, struggles, successes, and ingenuity. This memorable experience was transformative for many of the group as they saw the immense beauty of the country and its people, and their perseverance in light of political, social, and economic hardships.

So how can you help?
This weekend, August 5th and 6th, we are taking up a special collection for the Franciscan Missionary Union. There will be envelopes in the pews in case you wish to give. We hope you prayerfully consider giving to this worthy cause.