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 | By Mary Gates

‘Priests Around the World and the People of God Need to Be Served’

Anne’s Work Coordinating Mission Appeals Changes Lives

Anne’s position as coordinator of missions tasks her with connecting the faithful of the Diocese of Lansing with the worldwide Church by facilitating spiritual and financial support for missionaries around the globe.

Anne has come to understand her role at the diocese as more than just a job, but rather a ministry serving the global Church. She explains: “I was hired at the diocese more than 10 years ago to be an administrative assistant. When departments changed and grew and split, one of the directors recognized that my international experience might make me a good fit for this role.

“My husband was an exchange student when he was in high school; he firmly believes in the original goal of student exchange programs, which was to help people learn about other cultures and see people around the world as more alike than different. When our own children were in high school, we started having students from other countries come into our home. Those experiences with international students were a huge part of our lives, so when this position came to be, one of the directors thought I could handle the cultural issues, language barriers and various facets of this job.

“At first I thought I had two things going for me: my background in global culture, and that I am organized. I have a map of all of the parishes in the diocese and the main part of my job is to assign every parish a mission appeal speaker each year. I balance a lot of factors – the size and location of parishes, previous appeals, what stories and experiences might suit people best, etc.” Parishioners throughout the diocese hear missionaries’ firsthand experiences from around the world, and then have the chance to give to missions to help evangelize.

After first viewing her job as primarily managing schedules and matching speakers with parishes, God used a mission group to provide Anne a bigger vision of her call to ministry.

She continues: “A married couple who had founded a mission, with the help of a parish in Chicago, were visiting from India.  Our diocesan program helped them, but really they helped me understand that my job was truly a ministry. They were able to show me and explain to me how the funds we provide support real people. I had been looking at my job as an organization thing – month by month I would do tasks without understanding the impact. I started then to see the interactions I was having with the missionaries as more – as a real ministry. That changed my communication with priests and pastors, too. Now, my ministry is fueled by my desire to help everyone in the diocese understand what mission co-op appeals are and how they change lives.”

Support from diocesan staff and leadership helped Anne as she established relationships with missionaries and the pastors who welcome them into local parishes. She recalls, “I remember talking to the bishop one particular time and asking him his vision for what I should be doing – he told me that the appeals are one time a year when we really connect with the universal Church – when we can clearly see all people as our brothers and sisters in Christ. So the goal of my ministry is to help others see people around the world as Catholics in the Church with us, and to understand how extraordinary that is.”

If she could personally speak to Catholics around the diocese, Anne says she’d emphasize the impact of their giving. She explains, “The Mission Cooperative Appeal (MCA) was started by the Vatican as a means of support for fledgling dioceses in developing countries. Most of us can’t, or aren’t, called to go around the world serving – but missionaries live it. We assume that around the world, if you’re a priest, you live a certain way. In many areas, the priests do not get a salary or room and board – they depend on the collection, which may sometimes only be enough to eat. They have no retirement, no health care and no benefits – and this is not the fault of the people in their church. In sub-Saharan Africa, some priests are assigned to one church and several outlying areas. They bike or walk to get to a location to celebrate Mass under a tree. And the faithful who are being ministered to have walked in the heat for three hours just to get there – they are grateful for the one weekend that there is a priest there for Mass and the Eucharist. Most of these people just can’t financially contribute to the needs of the priests. A portion of donations from MCA goes to taking care of them and of churches, rectories and schools. Another portion goes to the people whom they serve. And finally, a portion goes to those who have yet to hear that they are sons and daughters of God.”

Much more than just a job, Anne’s own ministry allows for ministry to take place around the world. She says: “What we collect money for is really the ability to evangelize and to respond to the command of Jesus to go and make disciples of all nations. Priests around the world and the people of God need to be served. And we are responsible for our brothers and sisters. People are hungry for the Eucharist, people are hungry for God. We can help.”