A Reflection on the Mission Helpers As We Begin Our 123rd Year
By Sister Jane Geiger, MHSH
At this time of year, I am drawn back into the rich history of the Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart. It was in August of 1890 that Mary Frances Cunningham and several other women went on Retreat, which they hoped would help them to discern what God wanted them to do. At the end of the Retreat, the women felt that God willed that they form an institute devoted to the religious instruction of poor black people. And James Cardinal Gibbons, the first American Cardinal, accepted and approved the plan over the objections of Mary Frances Cunningham’s parish priest.
“Let her go,” the Cardinal said, “something may come of it.”
Five years later, the ministry was expanded to “incarnate God’s love for all who are spiritually and temporally in need.” Fifty-four years later, on July 11, 1949, the Community received its final approbation by the Holy See.
Today, 122 years after that first Retreat, the Mission Helpers continue to carry on the mission outlined in their constitutions, which were approved by Rome, with the same conviction and determination:
“Our mission calls us to respond to the signs of the times out of our lived experience in light of our congregation’s tradition, ministry and place in the Church. Through our ministry of evangelization and catechesis we reach out to persons in spiritual need, especially those oppressed by injustice.” (Constitutions, Art.3)
By not maintaining schools, hospitals and other institutions, the Mission Helpers are free to work in parishes and/or relate to a variety of services and occupations with the goal of responding to the spiritual and material needs of those they encounter.
“Called by God to be Missioners”
By Church approbation, we become the visible, diligent representatives to those on the highways and byways of our society. In determining their needs, the Mission Helper always asks: “What would Jesus Do?” and prayerfully discerns the response.
“We, Mission Helpers of the Sacred Heart, are called by God to be missioners. We are women religious sent by the Church to proclaim God’s word and love as revealed in the heart of Christ.” (Constitutions, Art. 1)
Who do the Mission Helpers meet today, waiting for this proclamation?
- The asylees seeking refuge and a new life in our country
- The victims of tornado and hurricane
- Abused women and men
- Those facing terminal illness
- Those in search of spirituality and inner-connectedness with God and community
- And all others that the Mission Helpers meet in daily ministry
Yes, God has called us to be Church.
A few personal experiences come to mind as I write this reflection:
I visited a man who had been away from the Church for a long time. He was ill and despondent. I spent some time with him listening to his story and offering reassurance. After a while he admitted that he was saving his sleeping pills for an attempt to end his life, but now he had changed his mind.
A grandmother believed that the tragic things that had happened to her during her life were signs that she was a bad person and that God hated her. After months of involvement in a process for inactive Catholics and reflection on what the scripture teaches us about a God who loves us, one day she finally said, “Well, God’s a lot nicer now than he used to be.”
Please join with all the Mission Helpers during this anniversary time thanking God for the mission we have received and praying that, together, all of us can demonstrate to the world how NICE God really is.