I often identify myself as a lay missionary, since I have left my homeland and try to serve the people of God in western Honduras, in the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán.
But, soon after arriving here, I was gently put in my place. I introduced myself as a missionary to the people assembled at Mass in the church of San Martín de Porres. The priest presiding at the Mass, Padre Fausto Milla, reminded me that we are all called to be missionaries.
I soon learned that many of the people of the diocese of Santa Rosa de Copán do identify their role as missionaries, which was reaffirmed strongly at the 2007 Latin American Bishops’Conference in Aparecida, Brazil, where the bishops called on all of us to be “disciples and missionaries.”
In my work in the parish of Dulce Nombre de María I find that many people see their role as missionaries, spreading the faith to other members of their villages, inviting them to join their base communities. Also, once a month the pastoral teams from some villages visit other nearby villages to lead the Celebration of the Word.
The people do have a missionary spirit, though I sometimes think it is too confined to church work. I thus often urge them to see their role as missionaries in their homes, where they work, and to the larger world.
On October 13, 1964, Madeleine Delbrêl, a French Catholic lay woman died. She had founded équipes (small core groups) of women living simply in community and was an advocate of peace and of dialogue with the Communists.
She saw her world of missionary activity in the streets of Ivry, France, where she lived.
She once wrote:
We, the ordinary people of the streets, believe that this street, this world, where God has placed us, is our place of holiness.
God is not encountered only in foreign lands; God is encountered in our daily lives and work. There we are called to show forth the marvelous beauty of God’s presence – in the joys and sorrows of the people we encounter, in the little things of daily life.
As Thomas Merton once wrote:
A saint preaches sermons by the way he walks and talks; the way he picks up things and holds them in his hands.
Today is a good day to reaffirm my sense of being a missionary – wherever I am. Today, in Ames, Iowa, where I am visiting and in two weeks back in Dulce Nombre de Copán, Honduras.