Alixandra Holden, director of the Missionary Childhood Association, speaks at the Diocesan Mission Awareness Day on Dec. 9, 2023 at Holy Family Church in Fort Worth. (NTC/Juan Guajardo)
FORT WORTH — By virtue of our baptism, we are all called to be missionary disciples, Missionary Childhood Association Director Alixandra Holden reminded attendees of Dec. 9's Mission Awareness Day event at Fort Worth's Holy Family Church.
Father Anto Carloose of Bridgeport's St. John the Baptizer Church agreed. “The Church by its nature is missionary,” Fr. Carloose said.
Whether through works local or far flung, the event highlighted Pope Francis' urging of Catholics to engage in mission and the theme of “Heart on fire, feet on the move.”
“Today is about mission awareness,” Diocese of Fort Worth Mission Council member Tom Snodgrass said. “We invited people from each parish — people on their parish mission councils — and ministry leaders. Today's meant to give overviews and opportunities for mission they can take back to their different parishes.”
Deacon Mike Mocek of Holy Family Parish in Fort Worth spoke of mission's broad reach.
“An important part of mission is to get to know each other and learn about others,” Dcn. Mocek said. “We can do that on our own soil as well as we can [by traveling elsewhere].”
Father Hoa Nguyen of Holy Family cited Jesus, in the Gospel of Matthew, instructing the disciples to go forth and proclaim the Gospel, adding that the same call applies to all of us.
“It is because of this mission that the Church was formed,” Fr. Nguyen said. “Every one of us has received that gift of faith freely and we are called to share and give it freely.”
Holden, who works for Pontifical Mission Societies, joked that addressing adults incites trepidation as she usually interacts with children and teenagers.
“When I speak to children, my message is simple,” Holden said. “Have a love for Christ and a love for others.”
That same message, Holden added, also provides adults the “perfect opportunity” to recall childlike wonder and to contemplate what it means to be missionaries.
“Think of what brought you here today, brought you closer to Christ, and to have a love for others,” Holden said. “Most of us have an aha! moment where it became not just a part of our lives but a center of it.”
Holden spoke not of burden but rather the joy, privilege, and gratitude of God's call to mission.
“By our baptism, we become part of this amazing tradition that the first Apostles were a part of,” Holden said.
Heeding that call can involve mission trips to faraway lands, or simply working within your own community, Holden said.
It's a privilege to say yes to God's mission call, Fr. Carloose said.
“When He calls us, He walks along with us,” Fr. Carloose said. “It is not our work; it is God's work.”
Frustration can set in, causing some to question whether mission work is worth the time or makes a difference, Fr. Carloose said, before concluding that it is and does.
“With technology and social media, society is growing so fast that we feel sometimes we are running backward to stay up with Jesus,” Fr. Carloose said. “The message of mission is not very well received by many in society today. They consider it outdated and it goes against the current of modern society to tell people about Jesus.”
Fr. Carloose cited reliance on the Eucharist and reassurance of God's presence as counters to such arguments.
“The power of Christ and the grace God gives you to go on mission is powerful,” Fr. Carloose said.
It's important also, Fr. Carloose said, to take word of the Gospel beyond the church walls and to meet those in need where they are.
Kaitlin Cowan, project manager of reception and placement, talked of her work with refugees through Catholic Charities Fort Worth and the difference that's made in her, and she hopes, her clients' lives.
During a break in the day's program activities, St. Catherine of Siena Church in Carrollton parishioner Eddie Cash, a member of his parish's mission council, spoke of the ways his parish relays the call to mission into concrete action. Those include work with area homeless residents, abuse victims, veterans, food pantries, and other endeavors.
“I got the spiritual aspect of missionary work,” Cash said after the Mission Awareness Day event wrapped. “But I liked that they also discussed missionary work in action, where the rubber meets the road. Things we can all take back to our parishes through the entire diocese. I hope this awakens everybody here today to look around in our own backyards to find things in our own neighborhoods to put into practice.”
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