This year World Mission Sunday takes place on 22 October 2023. This global celebration of our Church and mission is coordinated by Missio, the Pope’s official charity for world mission, and every Catholic community throughout the world is encouraged to take part. For 2023, Pope Francis has chosen the theme ‘Hearts on fire, feet on the move’- cf. Luke 24:13-35.
To highlight the work of missionaries around the world, Missio is sharing the story of Sister Mary in Kibera, as she walks alongside her community, and sets hearts ablaze with God’s love.
Kibera is the biggest ‘slum’ in Kenya. In fact, it is the biggest in Africa. Rife with all the problems poverty brings – malnourishment, addiction, abuse – it is easy to see Kibera as a place of despair and misery.
Sr Mary and her fellow Little Sisters of Jesus choose to live in the heart of Kibera, alongside the people they serve. That way, they can better understand the daily challenges and reach all who are in need.
Sr Mary meets the challenges of life in Kibera with faith and friendship. She says: ‘If I am tired or down-hearted I find strength in the heart of Jesus… Our charism is “be one with the people”, “go where people are”. It’s from Saint Paul, but our foundress, Sister Magdalene, also took it from Saint Charles de Foucauld: to be there with them from the grassroots, discover what is happening, and together learn what to do.
‘My mission is befriending. I began with Christians I met in the church. Slowly I gained their confidence, and they welcomed me to their houses. They share their problems. When the stories are painful, even if I have nothing to offer, it’s possible to find someone who can help. That makes me create friendships with other people who are able to help. So, it’s friendship, but a friendship that means you can’t just sit and watch; that something has to be done.'
Among the many people Sr Mary works alongside is Linet, who courageously lives out her faith by rescuing and fostering children who are at risk from harm. Linet sometimes faces real danger to rescue the children who have been abandoned, orphaned, or trafficked. Linet shares: ‘We have so many challenges… It’s a challenge to find all of it. I need clothes. I need to pay for school. It’s difficult.’
Nonetheless, Linet doesn’t give up or lose heart – her faith and community keep her strong. She explains:
‘First of all let me say it’s a passion. I have it at heart. And again, when you wake up in the morning, and you stand by the roadside, you will see kids some have not eaten for days. They have nothing. Some are barefoot. So, I keep asking myself: what will I ever do in this world if I cannot help others?’
Thankfully, Linet has people like Sr Mary who support her mission. She says: ‘Sister Mary has done so much. Sister is always there for me with support – mental, physical, everything. She has always been there for me.’
World Mission Sunday is vital to the growth of the Church and the spread of the Gospel in predominately impoverished and remote areas overseas. It is a moment of grace to express solidarity with our brothers and sisters in Christ who are living in situations of poverty, violence, and oppression.
The funds raised build much-needed infrastructure, from chapels and schools to orphanages, clinics and dispensaries. Requested by the local community, the support from Missio transforms lives and creates a hub from which the young Church can flourish and grow.
Every parish, school and community is invited to join this special event, and every penny, pound, and prayer you contribute to Missio helps missionaries everywhere continue their work and supports faith and outreach projects.
World Mission Sunday is a lifeline for missionaries like Sr Mary, who give their whole lives to bring the love and hope of Jesus to situations of extreme poverty and injustice.
This year, Sr Mary needs your support to ensure her work continues to make a difference for many more vulnerable children and communities.
We all have a part to play in igniting God’s love. This World Mission Sunday join us so that together we can set hearts ablaze with Christ’s love through missionaries, like Sr Mary, and the inspiring people they walk alongside.