What would you like to search for?

Homilies - Bishop Brendan Leahy

Mission Sunday. 24 October 2021. Newcastle West

Mission Sunday. 24 October 2021. Newcastle West

Sr. Ethel Normoyle from Clare entered the Little Company of Mary in Limerick and spent much of her life helping thousands in South Africa. When she died a few months ago, RTE showed a very inspiring documentary of her life. It showed how she had set up the Missionvale Care Centre, starting with a school and clinic under a tree to become a major integrated community centre for the purpose of combating poverty, HIV and AIDS.

Her outreach was to very, very poor people, caring for orphans, people who were hungry and/or unemployed in an area that’s famous for unemployment, Port Elizabeth”. What another Irish missionary working in South Africa, Archbishop Slattery said of her was striking: “She has been a life and death figure for thousands of people over the last 50 years”. The RTE documentary also showed Queen Elizabeth visiting the Centre and then, in her Christmas message one year the Queen mentioned Sr Ethel by name and the work she was doing in Port Elizabeth as a modern example of great care for the poor. 

Today is World Mission Day. The theme of this year’s World Mission Day – “We cannot but speak about what we have seen and heard” (Acts 4:20). Sr. Ethel certainly lived that in her action and in her words. It was clear in the documentary that her faith has what inspired her to go out. Obviously, she worked really hard but her commitment also meant taking courage in her hand and go looking for big sponsors to speak to them about her project, looking for help.

Sr. Ethel is one missionary. But there are still so many Irish missionaries in Asia, Africa and Latin America doing incredibly good work. They are an inspiration to us. Around here in Newcastle West we have many sisters of St. Joseph of the Sacred Heart who had gone to Australia when they were young.  We cannot but admire and be grateful for all those who set out when they were young, leaving home and family behind, to bring the Gospel to all those places and people thirsting for message of the Gospel. Today we can remember them practically by praying for them and by offering financial support that helps in thousands of small and big ways, building a parish hall, supporting seminaries, contributing to the establishment of convents of sisters.

Pope Paul VI wrote that the Church “exists to evangelize”. Pope Francis often repeats this. In other words, the Church and that means all of us who are baptised, not just the priests or sisters “away” on the missions are called do our part to bring the good news of the Gospel to others.

There can be people on the peripheries all around us, people who are lonely, going astray, confused, feeling down, looking for meaning. The pandemic has hit some people and shaken their confidence. This Mission Sunday is a call to us to go outside our own normal “circle of friends” or “circle of interests” and reach out to them. Yesterday, I listened to a man tell of how his daughter was beginning to make life options that were very different to how she would have been brought up. He felt it was important to chat with her and explain to her his vision of life, the one in which he and his wife has brought her up. Naturally, it cost him to do that but he felt he couldn’t but speak to her about his own life story and what he had seen and heard, the difference faith and values made in his life.

In today’s Gospel Bartimaeus comes to Jesus and is given new sight. He sees things. The Gospel and our faith have brought a new light into our lives. They are not just for our private enjoyment or consolation. We too, each one of us, is called to be a missionary where we are – in our family, neighbourhood and workplace. As Pope Francis puts it in one of his writings: we are called to keep the music of the Gospel alive in our hearts throughout the day, letting this music influence our hearts, mind and outreach to others.