How to make the church’s mission a personal one

Sebastien Lepoutre holds a sculpture that was handcrafted by artisans in Cumbayá, Ecuador. The Bishop England High School graduate founded Hands on Earth, a fair-trade company that sells Ecuadorian goods to aid poor communities.

Sebastien Lepoutre holds a sculpture that was handcrafted by artisans in Cumbayá, Ecuador. The Bishop England High School graduate founded Hands on Earth, a fair-trade company that sells Ecuadorian goods to aid poor communities.Oct. 24 is World Mission Sunday, a day for all Catholics to remember that Jesus reminded us not to shield our hearts or our eyes from the poor.

Someone with a clear vision of the Lord’s call to mission is Sebastien Lepoutre, a 1986 graduate of Bishop England High School.

Lepoutre lives in Cumbayá, a suburb of Quito, Ecuador, and witnesses abject poverty every day. He chose to make a difference in the lives of the poor in that country by using one of their greatest skills, wood carving.

In 2009, the Lepoutre family established Hands on Earth. By cultivating relationships with small, in-home workshops in Cumbayá, the organization is able to purchase carved religious and nonreligious goods at fair trade prices and sell them in the United States.

The funds then help poor communities in their struggle for a better quality of life.

“With opening worldwide markets such as the United States we protect micro business and ensure on-going relationships with our artisans,” Lepoutre said.

Hands on Earth is also involved with “Pastoral Social San Pedro de Cumbayá,” a program in a local Catholic parish that helps feed, clothe and educate approximately 72 families.

A website for Hands on Earth is currently under construction and will contain a catalogue of goods available for sale. Lepoutre and his family plan to return to the U.S. before Christmas to sell the crafts.

Msgr. Edward D. Lofton, diocesan director of Propagation of the Faith and pastor of St. Theresa the Little Flower Church in Summerville, taught Lepoutre when he was at Bishop England.

The panels for the new chapel door at St. Theresa the Little Flower Church in Summerville are being carved by craftsmen in Ecuador.He has visited his former student in Ecuador to encourage the missionary efforts. Msgr. Lofton also has arranged to display the work of the artisans in Cumbayá at St. Theresa. The doors of the church’s new chapel are even being carved by their craftsman.

People who cannot purchase the carvings can make a difference by participating in the World Mission Sunday collection. Another way to help build mission includes supporting the construction of a new church in an impoverished country.

A parish on the island of Taveuni in Fiji is working toward this goal currently.

“This is an excellent example of how we can all become missionaries for Christ,” Msgr. Lofton said.

To see photos of the Cumbayá crafts and the work in Fiji, or for information on how to help, contact the Propagation of the Faith Office at

World Mission Sunday

In my missionary journeys, I find the most unique and rewarding experience is to join people in the celebration of the Eucharist. There is no fuller expression of our identity as believers, and no better way to draw closer to Christ and to one another.

The celebration of World Mission Sunday at the eucharistic table of the Lord makes very good sense. Each year, we accept the invitation of the Holy Father to join him and all the faithful of the world at the altar on this important day.

Rather than presenting World Mission Sunday as just another second collection, we instead see it as the high point in the affirmation of our missionary vocation for the year.

I invite you to make this a very special opportunity to see World Mission Sunday as part of our continuing response to the mandate of Pentecost, as we cherish the abiding presence of the Holy Spirit in the missionary activities of the church … we all share in the mission “ad gentes” (“to the nations”) through our own baptism.

All of us actively participate in this mission outreach in prayer and in our sacrificial offerings, and for some, by actually giving of themselves as missionaries present in faraway lands.

What better solidarity can we experience as missionaries than in knowing that in every parish, in every diocese and in every country, believers will gather at the altar on World Mission Sunday and pray that Christ be known throughout the world.

Msgr. John E. Kozar is the national director of the Society for the Propagation of the Faith.

Highlights from Pope Benedict’s message for World Mission Sunday

During October, we are reminded that the commitment and task of proclaiming the Gospel belongs to the entire church. Christians should offer signs of hope and build a world that is home for all peoples. Christians are to “make Jesus visible,” to make the Redeemer’s face shine in every corner of the earth.

The awareness of the call to announce the Gospel not only inspires every individual believer, but all diocesan and parish communities, leading to ever greater missionary cooperation among the churches. Missionary zeal has always been the mark of vitality among our churches.

The Eucharist is the source and summit not only of the Church’s life, but also of her mission. The church becomes “communion” starting from the Eucharist in which Christ, present in the bread and wine, with His sacrifice of love establishes the church as His body, uniting us to the one Triune God and with one another.

I renew my invitation to prayer and, in spite of the economic difficulties, to concrete aid in support of the younger churches. I express gratitude for the invaluable service of the Pontifical Mission Societies in the distribution of such support for priests, seminarians and catechists — assistance that is a source of encouragement for the young mission churches.

I express also my affectionate acknowledgment of all missionaries who are at the forefront in announcing the Gospel. It is to them that every believer lends friendship, closeness and support.

To read the full text of the Holy Father’s message for World Mission Sunday, visit

Connecting what we hear with the mission

These mission moments are matched to the readings of the 30th Sunday of Ordinary Time on Oct. 24:

“When the just cry out, the Lord hears and rescues them …” Psalm 34:18

“We have not lost faith, hope and love,” wrote a missionary priest in Haiti immediately after the earthquake this past January. “We know God, though in a mysterious way, is walking at our side,” he added. Indeed, the Lord remains with the poor of the missions in a very real way through the presence of missionaries. In the days that followed the earthquake, the missionaries continued their unwavering witness to our Lord’s compassion among the poor and suffering. As our own response to the cry of the poor, may we pray daily for missionaries and for those they serve.

“I have kept the faith.” 2 Timothy 4:7

Religious medals. That’s what Sister Guadalupe left behind 60 years ago, burying them in the soil of Nagaland in northeast India. Missionaries were told there could be no direct evangelization. So Sister Guadalupe buried the medals as she visited villages. Eventually, more missionaries were invited in to Nagaland and allowed to openly proclaim the Good News of Jesus. Today, the church there — with 34 parishes, 80 local religious sisters and 26 local priests — continues to build on the faith planted years ago. May we always treasure the precious gift of our faith, nurturing it with prayer and the Eucharist.

“O God, be merciful to me …” Luke 18:13

The biblical Moses would relate well to his modern-day namesake who lives on the open plains of Tanzania in Africa. As a catechist, today’s Moses also passes God’s law along to his people, reminding them always of His unending mercy. As a caring father, both to his family and the larger faith community he serves, he offers guidance, example and never-failing love. At all times, may our own words and witness reflect to others God’s compassion and His boundless love.

For more reflections and commentary on World Mission Sunday readings, visit