The give and take of mission work

Editor’s Note: Barb Fraze, CNS international editor, and Nancy Wiechec, CNS visual media manager, are visiting Kenya with 10 members of U.S. diocesan mission offices. Their trip is being funded by the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States.

Michele Meiers of the Archdiocese of  Philadelphia sings with Kenyan sisters during Mass following the meeting between Kenyan and U.S. mission directors at Resurrection Garden retreat center in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 15.  (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Michele Meiers of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia sings with Kenyan sisters during Mass following the meeting between Kenyan and U.S. mission directors at Resurrection Garden retreat center in Nairobi. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

NAIROBI, Kenya — When Americans think of missions, many think of what they can provide to others in developing countries. What they don’t often realize is that they can learn much from Catholics in those countries.

Diocesan directors of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the United States and Kenya met yesterday at the Archdiocese of Nairobi’s Resurrection Gardens to share problems, exchange ideas and get to know each other.

The Americans discovered that their Kenyan counterparts are really using the societies as a means of evangelization.

Michele Meiers of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia said the way Kenya’s Pontifical Missionary Childhood — or Holy Childhood Association in the U.S. –  is organized is almost like a parish religious education program. The national director gives weekly lessons that tie a Bible reading to a mission theme. Those themes are given to diocesan coordinators to distribute to parish animators, or coordinators.

Dominican Sister Suzanne Brauer of New Orleans and Elizabeth Howayeck of Milwaukee join Kenyan church workers following the meeting between Kenyan and U.S. mission directors at Resurrection Garden retreat center in Nairobi, Kenya, Feb. 15, 2011.  (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Dominican Sister Suzanne Brauer of New Orleans and Elizabeth Howayeck of Milwaukee join Kenyan church workers following the meeting between Kenyan and U.S. mission directors at Resurrection Garden retreat center in Nairobi. (CNS photo/Nancy Wiechec)

Father Donald LaPointe of Springfield, Mass., called the day “pretty awesome. I was impressed.” He said he asked one Kenyan national staffer if he could take her back to the United States — and if he could use her materials.

Sister Ursula Fotovich, a member of the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet from Wichita, Kan., called it an excellent exchange.

“We found out we share a lot of the same issues even though we are from different countries,” she said.

The Kenyans, too, were happy.

“You’ve really touched us,” said Father Peter Muvea of the Kitui Diocese. “It was an experience that we have really become a family. We are really tied by Jesus. That’s the common denominator — Jesus.”

Sister Lucy Mwangi, a member of the Sisters of Mary Immaculate from the Diocese of Muranga, said she had just been working with children in parishes, and she was encouraged to try working with children in schools.

She said she also received encouragement to keep going when she gets discouraged. “Christ also had sufferings,” she said.

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