Friday, June 16, 2017

Come Into the Fields

This morning, the St. Louis Jesuits’ tune “Come with Me into the Fields” was swirling around in my head. The Church of my youth filled its sacred space with music from this famed group of guitar-plucking, Jesuit composers from the 70’s and 80’s.  Check it out It’s a very inspirational song.  

It was in my head as I was reflecting on a weekend I spent in Elk Grove, Calif., giving a mission appeal.  After the masses, several people came up to me and said that they are really interested in doing overseas mission work, but it just wasn’t the right time:  they hadn’t finished their degree yet, just started new jobs, not quite ready to retire, children and grandchildren were on the way, etc.  All are extremely valid reasons not to go overseas at this moment.  

But then, who will go to labor in the fields of the Lord?  There are excuses, and then there are excuses.  In my own life, there are times when I know God is genuinely calling me to do something; and times when God is calling me not to do something.  And I also know my fearful self is pretty good at talking me out of God’s will.  

So vocation to overseas mission life involves discernment, careful discernment.  My wife and I spent a couple of years talking and praying about it before we finally left for Brazil.  And there were plenty of excuses we gave before going, some legitimate, others fear-driven.  But only we could do the work of deciding which were which.

There is no doubt Jesus is calling you into “the fields.”  We all have a mission in life, and it may very well be right where you are, right now.  It also very well may be to a field thousands of miles from where you are right now.  

My advice:  get in touch with your passions and your fears, for God speaks through both.

Chad Ribordy
Executive Director
Lay Mission-Helpers Association

Friday, December 16, 2016

Christmas Message of Hope

I’m as much of a sentimental Christmas slush as the next guy.  However, I agree with the Book of Ecclesiastes:  there is a time and season for everything.  Since mid-November, one of my favorite radio stations has been playing non-stop Christmas music.  Now, after six weeks, I’m going to scream if I hear one more time “All I want for Christmas Is You.”  Bah, humbug! 

But there is one song I do not grow tired of:  “I Heard the Bells on Christmas Day.”  The song is based on the poem “Christmas Bells,” written by Henry Wadsworth Longfellow during the time of the US Civil War. 

The fifth and sixth stanzas, in which Longfellow laments the war’s destruction, were not included in the song, but it does include the final two stanzas:

And in despair I bowed my head;
    "There is no peace on earth," I said;
        "For hate is strong,
        And mocks the song
    Of peace on earth, good-will to men!"

    Then pealed the bells more loud and deep:
    "God is not dead, nor doth He sleep;
        The Wrong shall fail,
        The Right prevail,
    With peace on earth, good-will to men."

If we look back on 2016, we may very much feel the sentiments of the seventh stanza, seeing so much hate in the world.  Certainly, our Lay Mission-Helpers very much live in seventh stanza situations around the world.  They witness heart-breaking events and circumstances which certainly would make any one of us repeat the words, “There is no peace on earth.” 

But the final stanza calls us to profound belief and hope:  God is alive.  God’s justice is done.  God’s love and mercy bring peace, right here, right now in this Christmas season.  Amid the cacophony of the hate and violence, the bells ring “loud and deep” for us here and abroad.  They sound out, beaconing us to live out the same love, mercy, and tenderness found in that manger scene over 2,000 years ago.  Let us pause this season and listen to their message, and then act out that message in the lives of those around us.

Thank you for your support of Lay Mission-Helpers in 2016, and let us continue to keep each other in our prayers!

Chad Ribordy
Executive Director
Lay Mission-Helpers Association

Wednesday, July 6, 2016

There Is Still Work To Be Done

Dear Msgr. Anthony Brouwers,

They told you it couldn’t be done.  Overseas mission: that is the work of priests, brothers and sisters.  That is not for lay people! Even the great Bishop Fulton Sheen opposed you when you asked for his support. Yet here we are, more than 60 years later, continuing the legacy you left behind.

We live in a different world than yours. You set out the work of Lay Mission-Helpers at a time when we were witnessing the destructive powers of the human intellect on a global scale. While we continue to live in these shadows, the scale is much smaller, relatively speaking.  Terrorist attacks and mass shootings are not the same as atomic bombs, but instill just as much fear.
However, as St. John’s Gospel says, love casts aside fear. I have had the privilege of talking to some of the first missionaries that you sent out. They were plenty nervous — just as ours are today — yet they went.  And still they go. They respond to that mantra you heard over and over again from the mission bishops you visited in 1954: “We need help!” 

They continue to swab the wounded Body of Christ in the farthest corners of the globe; and they continue to be transformed by the experience, receiving as much, usually more, than they give. God’s world has become a better place because of your vision. 

But some things do not change: there is still work to be done. Requests for Lay Mission-Helpers continue to come in, and the words of Jesus still ring true, “the harvest is plentiful, but the laborers are few.” 

My prayer as I write is this: may the missionary heart you instilled in so many people continue to be implanted whenever and wherever the story of Lay Mission-Helpers is told. May God continue to call forth faith-filled women and men to serve in the missions, and may our efforts bring greater love and compassion to God’s world.

Until we meet one day, Msgr. Brouwers, we remain faithfully in Christ,

Chad Ribordy
On behalf of Lay Mission-Helpers