Over the Christmas holidays, I often hear from missionaries via text, email, or post. One letter that told a beautiful story of how your prayers and sacrifices affect people's daily lives came from Brazil.
Father Pat McGillicuddy, a Redemptorist missionary priest, is a native of Killarney, Ireland. His family emigrated to the States when he was a boy. He grew up in the parish of Saint Theresa of Avila in West Roxbury, Mass. In my mind, Father Pat has much in common with Saint Mother Teresa, though in humility he would deny it. He sees Christ in every person and works to help the one in front of him at that very minute.
Father Pat ministers to street boys of southern Brazil; he calls them the "throw-aways" of society because they are not hungry children or needy elderly -- those who normally get the attention of donors. As a matter of fact, many of his students are boys that some may cross a street to avoid. Passed through the Brazilian school system with barely a second-grade education, they find themselves with no job, and no way to support themselves. The street becomes their home. Often enough, drugs are the only thing that stops the feeling of constant hunger pains.
Father's program is a simple one -- not easy, but simple. First, comes detox, then a commitment to live a clean and sober life. Next comes admittance to school, an intense program that earns the young man the equivalent of a high school diploma.
Some choose to attend a local Catholic university where Father Pat runs a student residence. The year 2020 saw a young man enter dentistry school and another continue studies for civil engineering. In 2021, two more passed the university's entrance exams, one for law, the other for dentistry; the highlight of the year was a student's reception of a scholarship that will allow him to study for his Master and Doctorate degrees. The list goes on.
Father Pat says, "What's interesting about our students is that they all arrive as functional illiterates. They eventually realize their potential and grow in their comprehension of themselves and the world around them to become citizens who can make a difference." He continues, "That is the hope that shines forth from the liberating and creative love of God that sustains them in their pilgrimage of faith."
With your help, 2022 will be a year of hope for missionaries like Father Pat who accompany people on their 'pilgrimages of faith.' Join them on their path to Christ -- give generously at propfaithboston.org.
- Maureen Crowley Heil is Director of Programs and Development for the Pontifical Mission Societies, Boston.