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World Mission Sunday is October 23.
Father John Hynes got the message a long time ago—the World Mission message, that is. Back in the 1960s, when he was still a seminarian, the Delaware priest was focused on a life of prayer. And then, slowly, something else came to light.
"I began to realize there was something terribly missing if Matthew 25 wasn't part of my life—'I was hungry and you fed me,'" he said. Some 50 years later, Father Hynes, now 71 and the pastor of St. Catherine of Siena parish in Wilmington, still feels the same way. The Wilmington Diocese honored him last year for his response to that Gospel call—his lifelong interest in Latin American mission work, his devotion to the needs of immigrants from Central America, the teamwork he's fostered between the people of Wilmington and those from the Guatemalan Diocese of San Marcos.
"It's hard for us folks, North Americans living in an affluent society, to realize who we are fully as Catholics," he told Joseph Ryan of The Dialog, Wilmington's diocesan newspaper. "There's a missing part of ourselves that you find when you visit San Marcos or involve yourself with others," he continued. "Especially the disadvantaged."
That's precisely the message behind World Mission Sunday, which this year is being observed on Oct. 23. It's a day set aside each year for people the world over to recommit themselves to the Church's missionary activity. Pope John Paul II described it as an important day in the life of the Church "because it teaches how to give."
Giving is exactly what Father Hynes has been doing for all his priestly life, and it's one reason he was such a popular choice when he was named as the 2010 recipient of Wilmington's social justice award. Many in the city know him through his work with Wilmington's sister diocese in Guatemala, which he has visited frequently and for which he's been a steadfast promoter. He also encourages others to go to San Marcos: "I think the thing that affects visitors the most is the hospitality. There's the sense that people who have little or nothing are offering you everything they have. That has quite an impact."
Father Hynes recognizes that not everyone has the wherewithal to travel to Central America, however, and that helps to explain the popularity of the "transforming encounters"—in which visiting
Guatemalans or those who work here share their experiences with the people of Delaware. That's an approach that would have been seconded by Maryknoll Father James Keller, founder of The Christophers. Expecting a lifetime of service in the foreign missions, instead he promoted mission work in this country by making the Maryknoll community better known and recruiting those who would serve in it. That helped give him the background for launching The Christophers, in which everyone could "be a missioner" by changing the world for the better.
And that's just the thought behind World Mission Sunday—the sharing of knowledge, the understanding that it's not just "us" and "them," the realization that we have brothers and sisters all over the world. Father Hynes might have reflected that when he provided a loving description of the people of San Marcos—people, he said, "who by our standards have little if anything to thank God for." Still, he added, "They seem to be much more God-centered by instinct. That's all very edifying."
For a free copy of the Christopher News Note, Living the Golden Rule, write: The Christophers, 5 Hanover Square, New York, NY 10004; or e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org.