More than two dozen flags representing countries all across the globe were carried in a dignified procession into St. Mary of the Assumption Cathedral in Trenton on a recent Sunday morning.
The procession of flags led the way for Bishop David M. O’Connell as he celebrated a Mass that honored not only the unity among those gathered in God’s name in the cathedral, or even throughout the diocese, but all across the world.
“The Church is much larger than Trenton, much larger than New Jersey, much larger than the United States,” Bishop O’Connell said during his homily celebrating World Mission Sunday, Oct. 23.
Created in 1926 by Pope Pius XI, the annual celebration aims to recognize the unified bond shared by Catholics in all corners of the globe, as well as to renew the call for support for those in a perpetual state of need.
“From the very beginning, our Church has been a missionary Church,” the bishop said to the faithful gathered. He reminded them of the final message of Jesus to his disciples, when he called for them to “go and teach” his word around the world. The call to service and action remains to this day, Bishop O’Connell said.
The Gospel message from Matthew for World Mission Sunday, Jesus tells critics of the most basic and essential commandment: to love one another.
As Catholics, Bishop O’Connell said, the message is repeated often, and for good reason.
Supporting missionary work has continued to be a core component of the faith, and the annual October weekend celebration is but one of a number of ways through which the Church reminds parishioners of the great needs – both material and spiritual -- of their brothers and sisters around the globe.
“To be a true believer is to love God and to love those created in his image and likeness,” he said, referring to an enduring and strong love. “We have been at it for a long time. And yet, we still need to work at it.”
Bishop O’Connell spoke of the words and actions required to live out the commandment, and spoke of fellow Catholics in areas of the world where their needs are great, and resources are few.
The flags ushered into the cathedral represented just a handful of the seemingly countless nations and regions where the Roman Catholic faith is embraced, he said, and it is the global community of faith that makes the Church such a strong and unified presence.
Jovin Fernandez, who was visiting the cathedral for the first time, said that the message behind World Mission Sunday resonated with her.
“We take the littlest things for granted,” she said, reaffirming how important it is as Catholics to support those in need.
Beth Ann Keys, a cathedral parishioner, said that she will celebrate the annual occasion by offering prayers for Catholics across the world when she takes time to pray with her family before meals and each night.
There was also a special collection for diocesan missionary activities, which Bishop O’Connell said is a vital way to support fellow Catholics. Few in the diocese will have the opportunity to physically participate in a missionary trip, he said during his homily, but every single member of the diocese can participate through their individual contributions and prayers.