By David Kilby | Correspondent
Our Lady Queen of Peace Church, Hainesport, was the site for the diocesan celebration of World Mission Sunday Oct. 19, a day when Catholics around the globe recall and celebrate the rich missionary life of the Church.
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Moved this year from its customary location of St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral, Trenton, the Mass was celebrated by Father Peter James Alindogan, diocesan director of the Pontifical Mission Society, in the Hainesport location, which was the last parish to which Father Alindogan’s predecessor, the late Msgr. Richard Tofani, was assigned. Msgr. Tofani served as diocesan mission director from 1986 until his death in 2013, and was a priest in the Diocese for 34 years.
Parishioners had the opportunity to hear Missionary Sister of the Most Sacred Heart Lisa Valentini speak about her calling as a religious sister and her experiences as a missionary in Latin America.
In his homily, Father Alindogan joked about how in the beginning he didn’t think he was cut out for being the leader of missions in the Diocese.
“What do I know about missions? My degree is in canon law,” he said, but then added, “To be part of a mission is a great thing,” and goes deeper than supporting missions abroad.
Some can’t go to other countries, he told the congregation that filled the small church. But, he added, “We can still be missionaries in our own homes, in our own lands.”
“When we were baptized, when we come to Mass, when we go home, we have the calling to the missionary life,” Father Alindogan reminded the parishioners.
Answering the Call
Sister Lisa Valentini recalled the beginning of her calling to religious life. She said a religious sister came up to her and asked, “’How about you? Have you ever thought about being a sister?’” And she responded, “no.”
But the question stuck in her head. “I kept thinking, I don’t want to let God down,” she recalled. “And if it’s something God wants, I thought it’s got to be pretty cool.”
She decided to say yes to the calling, and began teaching second grade in Philadelphia, later moving on to missionary work in Peru and Hispaniola.
“There are over one billion people in the world who have not heard the name Jesus. We have all this technology and in the middle of all this there still are those who don’t know Jesus.”
As she stood before the congregation, she was a witness to the “amazing” and “awesome” mission life of the Church.
“All of the mission work done across the world, you’re a part of it,” she said to them.
When she was on mission in Hispaniola, she departed just a few days before the earthquake a few years ago. Upon hearing of the earthquake, she immediately asked her order if she could return.
She wound up working with a group of 300 children, and recalled one day when she waited with them for a delivery of rice, the only food available to them. They waited for hours and the rice never arrived.
“I had to leave 300 children with empty bellies. I don’t want to have to do that ever again,” she said.
Her order was able to build a school in the area of Dominican Republic where she recently served. Food is still scarce, though, and she noticed that after school the parents of the children have nothing to offer except “cookies of mud” that they bake on their rooftops.
Through the support of the missions, they are able to offer the children bananas and even popsicles as snacks after school, she said.
She said there’s a song that conveys what she means, “What the World Needs Now is Love,” and as she began singing the main verse the congregation sang along.
Sister Lisa looks forward to returning to the Dominican Republic in December. “Every hug I give ... every song I sing, I’ll be doing in the name of the people from Our Lady Queen of Peace Parish.”
Casting of Seeds
Our Lady Queen of Peace parishioners shared that the day’s observance was inspirational.
Ruth Kaferle said that Sister Lisa reminded her of the Immaculate Heart Sisters she knew growing up in Catholic school.
“It’s very obvious by her mission that she loves children. That’s why she’s there, and for God,” she added.
Christopher Ruggiano said he was moved by Sister Lisa’s dedication, service and willingness not to worry about disasters, and to look past the situation to promote Christ in Hispaniola.
Father Joe Noche, pastor, also shared Msgr. Tofani’s legacy after Mass. “Msgr. Tofani was here for 24 years. The Propagation of Faith office was in the rectory. He lived his life really for the missions.
“I’ll always support the missions, especially outside this country,” he added. “That’s what we’re called for, not only to spread the Gospel but to spread Christ’s mission.”