Homily of Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly for World Mission Sunday

20 Oct 2019

Mass celebrated at 12.00pm in the Cathedral of the Assumption, Thurles, Co Tipperary

· “Please pray for a colleague of mine – Father Pier Luigi Maccalli SMA – from Italy, who was kidnapped in Niger on 17 September 2018. Father Pier is still in the hands of his captors” – Archbishop O’Reilly

I welcome you to today’s celebration of Mission Sunday. A day in which the Church throughout the world, whether it is in a fine cathedral like this one here in Thurles or the most remote Mass centre in one of the many missionary dioceses of the world, gathers to pray with a single purpose: To recall that mission has been entrusted to each baptised member of the Church to bring the Good News of salvation of Jesus Christ.

Our thoughts and prayers at this celebration are with our missionaries from our own Diocese and from our country, especially those who may be in situations of difficulty and civil unrest.

Mission Month this year has been named, by Pope Francis, as an Extraordinary Month of Mission. Pope Francis calls for a renewed commitment to bring the Gospel to all peoples.

This year, 2019, marks the one hundredth anniversary since the publication by Pope Benedict XV of the first mission document of the twentieth century with his mission document titled Maximum Illud – ‘that momentous call’. The Holy Father signalled the beginning of a new journey to understand more fully that ‘Momentous call’ of the Lord to ‘Go into the whole world and preach the Gospel to all creation’ (Mk 16:15).

The Holy Father acknowledges the great strides undertaken by missionaries over the past one hundred years. It is not over, the call to go and bring the Good News of salvation to all peoples remains valid.

In that year, 1919, in the wake of the tragic global conflict of World War I, Pope Benedict XV called it a “useless slaughter,” he recognised the need for a more evangelical approach to missionary work in the world, so that it would be purified of any colonial overtones and kept far away from the nationalistic and expansionistic aims that had proved so disastrous. “The Church of God is universal; she is not alien to any people,” he wrote.

Ireland has a great tradition of involvement in the modern missionary outreach of the Church. From every parish in Ireland women and men travelled literally to the ends of the earth as missionaries. Through their lives of witness and the work of their missionary institutes they contributed enormously to the mission entrusted to the Church by the Lord. It is an involvement that we can all be rightly proud of.

In our own diocese of Cashel & Emly we still have many women and men on mission in different parts of the world. Many of you here will recall missionaries, perhaps family members or neighbours, returning home and recounting their stories of how they lived and worked on mission.

You have supported them with your prayers and financial resources over the years and I thank you for that as I know how important it is in terms of sustaining mission.

Pope Francis wishes in our time, to re-awaken the commitment of the entire Church to what is ‘Mission to the Nations’ or Missio ad Gentes – a commitment to evangelization that will bring the Gospel to all peoples and, also, to “taking up again with renewed fervour the missionary transformation of the Church’s life and pastoral activity”. This task, he says, is an “essential task” as Vatican II stressed – the Church is missionary by her very nature.

To do this the Church in mission countries needs our prayers and our financial support. That is why today every community throughout the world is praying for the success of the Church’s mission and also sharing their resources – however small, in helping to contribute to the task of preaching the Gospel to the ends of earth.” I ask you to please give your support to today’s collection at Mass which is dedicated to the missions.

Pope Francis, in his Mission Sunday letter this year, called for the Extraordinary Month of Mission to be celebrated throughout the Church. The Holy Father said, “that missionary activity ‘renews the Church, revitalizes faith and Christian identity, and offers fresh enthusiasm and new incentive. Faith is strengthened when it is given to others! It is in commitment to the Church’s universal mission that the new evangelization of Christian peoples will find inspiration and support.”

As we recall and celebrate our missionaries throughout the world Pope Francis also calls on us not to be afraid to undertake, with trust in God and great courage, “a missionary option capable of transforming everything, so that the Church’s customs, ways of doing things, times and schedules, language and structures can be suitably channelled for the evangelization of today’s world rather than for her self-preservation”.

As we recall with joy the work of our missionaries, it is good at this moment of prayer to remember the missionaries who may be in difficult situations because of war and civil unrest.

At this time, I particularly ask that you remember a colleague of mine – Father Pier Luigi Maccalli SMA – from Italy, who was kidnapped in Niger, on 17 September 2018. Father Pier is still in the hands of his captors and I commend him to your thoughts and prayers. We remember the small missionary communities that Father Pier served as pastor in Niger and pray for his safe return.

We commend all our missionaries to the care and love of Mary, Queen of Apostles. Please join me in prayer for this Extraordinary Month of Mission:

Prayer for the Extraordinary Month of Mission
Heavenly Father
When your only begotten Son
Jesus Christ rose from the dead,
He commissioned his followers to
“go and make disciples of all nations”
And you remind us that through
our Baptism we are made sharers
in the mission of the Church.

Help us make it possible
for all peoples to experience the saving
love and mercy of Jesus Christ,
who lives and reigns with you
in the unity of the Holy Spirit,
One God, forever and ever.


Notes for Editors

· Archbishop Kieran O’Reilly SMA is Archbishop of Cashel & Emly, and chair of the Council for Missions of the Irish Catholic Bishops’ Conference.

· Mission Sunday was instituted by Pope Pius XI in 1926 as an annual day to encourage prayer, cooperation and help for missions as well as reminding Christians about the fundamental missionary character of the Church and of every baptized person. As announced by Pope Francis, this month of October is an Extraordinary Month of Mission to mark the 100th anniversary of Pope Benedict XV’s Apostolic Letter Maximum Illud (The Momentus Call) on overseas mission. Accordingly, Mission Month is a special month of prayer and action to help the faithful embrace the meaning and importance of mission in the modern world. Schools, religious orders and congregations, dioceses, parishes, communities and individuals are all invited by Pope Francis to get behind this worldwide Church initiative. In Ireland, World Mission Sunday is coordinated by World Missions Ireland, the Irish Church’s official charity for overseas missions. WMI’s main event is the papal collection on World Mission Sunday and this takes place in parishes over this weekend. WMI helps to support the 40% of the Universal Church that is too new, young or poor to support itself. WMI is part of a network of 120 offices under the coordination of the Pontifical Mission Societies in Rome. See www.wmi.ie for parish resources and events associated with Mission Month.

For media contact: Catholic Communications Office Maynooth: Martin Long +353 (0) 86 172 7678.