Anne Marie Amacher
The Catholic Messenger
Nine-year-old Sophia Garcia sits on the floor of her home helping her mom, Esmeralda Guerrero, go through applications for missionaries hoping to speak in the Diocese of Davenport.
Sophia, an incoming fifth-grade student at All Saints Catholic School in Davenport, enjoys learning about where different countries are located and how these missions help Catholics and others throughout the world — especially when a mission benefits children.
The diocese participates in a Mission Cooperative Plan (MCP) to promote awareness of missions worldwide in the parishes throughout the diocese, the diocesan website states.
“These groups are heavily dependent on U.S. Catholics to support their missions,” said Kent Ferris, diocesan director of Social Action and Catholic Charities.
Guerrero is the administrative assistant in the diocesan Social Action Office and “handles the logistics” of gathering the more than 200 applications each year, Ferris said.
Groups applying to the Missionary Cooperative Plan serve in foreign countries or in U.S. dioceses designated as “missionary” by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The applicants must provide letters of good standing from their bishop to participate.
The Social Action Office sorts through the applications and runs the final list by Bishop Thomas Zinkula to approve. From there, letters are sent to the approved missions — this year 13 groups. Then, Guerrero assigns the mission speakers to parishes in the diocese.
All parishes participate in MCP, Ferris said. About half of the parishes will have speakers this year and the other half the following year. Although some speakers may be approved for more than one year, those speakers will not be assigned to the same parish(es) where they previously spoke.
Following the talks, collected donations are sent to the Diocese of Davenport, which forwards them to the organizations.
Each mission group is responsible for their expenses to get to the Diocese of Davenport, including housing and other expenses. Some parishes offer a place for the speaker to stay if there is room at a former rectory or other site, he noted. Some of the mission groups have representatives in the United States. “We try to extend invitations to a variety of groups from across the world.”
Ferris said Catholics in the diocese “have been very generous — even during the pandemic.” During 2020 some missions submitted videos or photographs and statistics since in-person visits were not possible.
In addition to donations, mission groups seek prayers. “These groups have strong projects,” Ferris said.
One mission group — the Polish Redemptorists — will speak at St. Peter Parish in Buffalo and at Holy Family and St. Alphonsus parishes in Davenport July 16-17. This group has worked in the former Soviet Union for more than 30 years. More than 80% of its priests who minister there are foreigners. Russian parishes are not large, but there are many. Currently there are five pastoral centers in Russia, one in Kazakhstan, five in Belarus and two in Ukraine, Guerrero said.
The Diocese of Same and the Diocese of Rulenge-Ngare, both in Tanzania, rotate their visits. The Diocese of Davenport has housed priests of both dioceses while they attend St. Ambrose University in Davenport.
To view a listing and learn more about this year’s mission groups, visit https://www.davenportdiocese.org/missions-selected