My First Memories of Missionaries

07-26-2020From Fr. Antony's DeskFr. John Barbella

Last week I told that our parish would participate in the Annual Mission Co–op Appeal the weekend of August 1–2 (next weekend). Today I want to share a story about how I learned about the missions when I was just a boy.

My first memory of missionaries is of a man I never met, but with whom my father corresponded for many years. His name was Fr. Michael Reen and he was a missionary serving in Kenya. If memory serves me well, he was a priest from the New York area serving in the missions. When my dad was in the seventh grade, his religion teacher–a Dominican Sister –had him write a letter to a missionary as an assignment. When Fr. Reen answered the letter, my future dad wrote back. Thus, began a correspondence that lasted for many years.

I remember my father sharing some of those letters with me – perhaps when I was 7 or 8 years old. I was probably just learning about the missions and my father thought the letters would expand my understanding of them. At that age, all I really knew about missionaries is that they taught people in far off places about Jesus and helped them if they were poor.

Those letters taught me a great deal more, even at that young age. I remember Fr. Reen explaining some of the challenges that missionaries face living in places that did not have the conveniences and services that we often take for granted. Those letters also taught me–by the time I was 12 years old–that political factors can affect missionary work a great deal. A government that does not respect human rights and religious freedom can make life very difficult for missionaries–as we are well aware!

I also learned about our obligations to support the missions when our parish took up a collection for Fr. Reen’s mission–much the way we take the Mission Co–op Appeal each year–and have our monthly Adopt a Mission collections. Supporting the missions is one of those things that truly connects Catholics around the world. The way our parish supports the missions speaks well of our faith. As I said last week, those who wish to contribute to the Mission Co–op Appeal can place their donation in an envelope and mark it: Mission Co–op. You can either place it in the basket when you come into the Church–or mail it to the parish office. I believe you can also make a donation on line thru the parish website–as many of you do for your regular offering.

The parish website also has a banner headline about the Mission Co–op Appeal. It has photos and more information about the Salvatorian Missions– whose work this appeal will support. Thanks, in advance, for your generosity to the Mission Co–op Appeal, and to the missions in general.

On another topic, many of you remember Timothy Eck–a seminarian who spent last summer in our parish. He will be ordained a deacon this weekend (He probably has been ordained by the time you read this!) Tim grew up in St. Jude’s parish in Blairstown. But he was Baptized here as baby–by Deacon John Flynn–before his parents moved the family to Blairstown.

I can’t help noting that this is the second year in a row that a young man Baptized by Deacon Flynn is being ordained. Deacon John Flynn also Baptized Fr. Matt Marinelli. I also can’t help noting how happy I am for Deacon Tim Eck–who did a great job with us last summer. His easy personality, goodness to people, intelligence, and prayerfulness are traits that will make him a great priest. Please keep him in your prayers as he spends this next year as a deacon and completes his seminary studies in preparation for priestly ordination next summer.

Please also remember to say a prayer for me–at least a Hail Mary each day if you can. I pray for all of you each day–especially in my daily Rosaries. Let’s continue to pray for the sick, for all our emergency and essential workers, and, of course, for peace.

Have a great week! Fr. John